Bethany Dodson is running away from her past. Her wealthy parents have all but arranged a marriage for her that's nothing more than a business deal, rather than a love match. She needs to get far away from them and change her last name, so they and her fiancé can't find her. To that end, she accompanies a few of her girlfriends to Las Vegas under the guise of attending a bachelorette party for one of them, but her real intention is to find a suitable man and get married quickly. She only plans to stay married for a few months, just long enough to take his name, find a job, and establish herself in a new place. Love definitely isn't in the cards - or so she thinks.
Jack Johnson also went to Vegas to find a bride for a quickie wedding. He needs to get married in order to collect his inheritance, so that he and his siblings can stop working for other ranchers and begin the work of restoring their own family ranch to its former glory. Always a charmer with the ladies, when Jack meets Bethany in the hotel bar, he thinks that maybe he'll take a break from bride hunting long enough to sample the goods before getting back to the task at hand. But one thing leads to another, and soon they find themselves in the hotel chapel in front of a minister. Much like Bethany, Jack only intended the arrangement to be temporary, but the sex is off the charts hot, not to mention, he quickly discovers that Bethany has quite the head for business, proving to be a big help around the ranch. Before long, he's head over heels for his new wife and isn't about give her up anytime soon.
Every reader's experience with any book they read is going to be unique, because each individual is unique and will most likely take something different away from it. I'd say that most often, however, my opinion of the books I read aligns with the majority of other reviewers in one way or another. Less frequently, but often enough, there are times when I think a book is generally underrated. I felt it was very well-written and enjoyable, deserving at least 4-5 stars, while it has middling ratings overall from other readers. Then there are those very rare occasions, when I find a book that has high ratings overall, but it didn't even come close to hitting that mark for me. Such was the case with Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off. I honestly cannot figure out why it's so highly rated. (At the time I'm writing this review, it currently has a 3.87 average at GoodReads and a whopping 4.3 average on Amazon.) Personally I couldn't get through more than a paragraph or two, at most, without rolling my eyes at finding yet another mistake that never should have made it out of the editing phase, much less into full publication. And that doesn't even count the deficiencies in character, relationship, and plot development. I'm not a particularly difficult reader to please. As long as a book is reasonably well-constructed and has a decent plot and relatable characters, I'm usually pretty happy. I also consider myself to be a generous rater, which is why you won't find many books on my shelves that I rated less than 3 stars. But I'm afraid 2.5 stars is as generous a rating as I could muster for the hot mess that this book was. If you'll bear with me, I'll explain why, but be warned, this is going to get long-winded.:-)
For starters, the basic premise of the story is a little out there. Both the hero and the heroine go to Las Vegas with the intention of entering into a quickie and temporary marriage, each for their own reasons. They end up getting married within probably less than an hour of meeting one another, after doing little more than sharing a few drinks and a couple of dances. This was already pushing the bounds of credibility for me, because even though they have reasons for doing so, they can't possibly trust one another within mere minutes. How do they know that the other person isn't a serial killer or have some other equally disturbing vice or even if they are a decent person, that they would be willing to part ways when they've each reached their goals? This is romance fantasy land, though, so I decided to brush aside these concerns and just go with the flow. Unfortunately things didn't flow very well for me.
Bethany went to Las Vegas with a group of girlfriends, allegedly for a bachelorette party, but she's really trying to escape her wealthy controlling parents. All her life, she's been little more than a trophy daughter to them. They never really showed her any love or affection, leaving all the care and raising of her to a nanny. Apparently her nanny was a good person, who did love her, but she's the only one. After her parents basically "sell her off" in an engagement that's little more than a business arrangement, Bethany decides to take matters into her own hands. She ditches her friends in Vegas, looking for a guy she can marry quickly, so that she can change her name, disappear, and never have to see her family again. Bethany has a sympathetic backstory that's ripe for a deep exploration of her feelings and issues surrounding the way her parents treated her. She even mentioned that her fiancé had once hit her, so after the way she was treated by him and her father, I couldn't understand how she could be so trusting of a man she didn't even know. Also if her parents were as controlling as they seemed, she should have been fearful of them finding her, resentful and loathing of them and her former fiancé over their actions, hurt by their lack of care and concern for her and for treating her like nothing more than a business asset, and many other emotions, too. But none of this really materialized in any meaningful way. Instead her feelings are mostly just skimmed over or ignored altogether, so while I liked her OK, I never got that deep character perspective that I wanted.
I liked Jack a little bit better than Bethany, but his character is also similarly underdeveloped. His reasons for the quickie wedding were murky at best. He says he needs to get married to collect the inheritance left to him by his grandfather, but that he wanted the money to reinvigorate the family ranch into the dude ranch it once was doesn't become clear until much later. He has two older brothers, who also live on the ranch and help with its upkeep, as well as a married younger sister who's invested in the ranch, too, so why he's the one who had to sacrifice to make this dream happen was never clear. Not to mention, the way things played out with the will in the end, made this seem like nothing more than a weak, convenient plot device. Jack looks to his grandparents as a measure of what a good relationship looks like, but with his parents having a rough marriage and watching his brother get married only to have his bride leave on their wedding night, it seems like he might have a few issues surrounding women and might be more cautious when it comes to giving his trust. Jack was something of a playboy before embarking on this adventure, never lacking for female companionship, but he turns into the perfect husband pretty much overnight. However, I will admit that the strength of Jack's character is in his kind nature. He's what I would call a gamma hero, a nice mix of rugged, protective alpha, and easy-going, loving beta, who doesn't mind doing things that many men wouldn't do. He's also a sexy and generous lover. I very much liked Jack for as well as I got to know him, but it wasn't as well as I would have liked.
Both Jack and Bethany have very inconsistent emotions and thought processes that could be frustrating to read at times. They can both get upset over something in an instant and then two pages later be OK with it. For example, the morning after they're married Jack mentions to Bethany that he was originally intending to marry his high-school girlfriend in Vegas, which sends Bethany into a jealous fit. She jumps to wild conclusions without ever giving him the chance to explain further. Not to mention she just met the guy and barely even knows him, so how can she be jealous? Then she simply gets over it with little explanation. A number of similar instances exactly like this happened all throughout the story. As as aside here, Jack and Bethany's communication was terrible, because when these moment occur and the one person jumps to conclusions, the other one does little to try to dispel their incorrect notions. Another example of inconsistency is Jack's feelings for Bethany. The day after they're married, he thinks he might be in love with her already, which is very much stretching the bounds of credibility. But then a day or so later, he verbally insists that he's not in love with her. Then a short time later, he is again, then not, and so on. I think he changed his mind back and forth about a half dozen times, which was giving me whiplash. Another thing that bothered me with regards to this is that their emotions in general were underdeveloped, which is probably why their characters seemed so underdeveloped as well. Every once in a while a poignantly revealing moment would occur, which easily could have been very emotional for the reader, too, but the poignancy was dampened by the fact that there hadn't been much, if any introspective thought processes to get them there. It's like the journey from point A to point B was just skipped over, which is frustrating to me as a reader. I want to see how they got there and the difficulties they had to go through.
This is an erotic romance, so typically, if nothing else, I can console myself with some hot sexy times. I will give the author credit for writing some fairly creative love scenes, laced with variety that didn't get stale. However, even they were far from perfect for me. For probably about half the book, the sex scenes were little more than just sex, with little to no emotional connection. At first it's merely this crazy business arrangement, then right after they get to Jack's ranch, Bethany goes through a "no touching" phase that I didn't really understand. She was OK with having sex, but she didn't want Jack to touch her in a loving or intimate way outside of sex. It seemed to perhaps be rooted in the lack of affection in her family, but if so, this would have been a great character-building moment that didn't happen. Then she simply gets over it without any explanation like everything else. Even once the emotional connection of the love scenes improved for me, the general awkward wording present throughout the entire book, not to mention the clinical wording of certain body parts, lessened their impact on me and at times, made parts of these scenes unappealing. I want to read a sexy romance novel, not a medical textbook.
Lastly, and the biggest thing that made this book such chore to read was that the mechanics of the author's writing needed to go back to square one for a massive overhaul. For starters, there are grammatical and punctuation errors galore, numerous incorrectly conjugated verbs, and not nearly enough contractions, making both the dialogue and prose very stilted. I couldn't seem to read more than a few pages at a time without encountering an awkward or downright confusingly worded passage. Here are a few examples: When Jack and Bethany go out to a restaurant for dinner, we get this line: "Fried foods and fresh vegetables filled the air, making her mouth water." Um... maybe the scent of fried foods and vegetables filled the air, but the way this is worded makes it sound like fried chicken and veggies are floating all over the place. Not to mention, the greasy odor of fried foods is definitely going to overpower the much milder scent of vegetables. Or how about these couple of gems from the same love scene, two paragraphs apart from one another: "... he liked this position, deep, her womb tight around his cock..." and "She groaned as he hit her uterus with the head of his cock." First of all, ouch! And second of all, no... heaven help me, just NO! Both these sentences exhibit a lack of basic knowledge of human anatomy. Ugh! Then there's this sentence, where Jack explains the stipulation in his grandfather's will regarding when he and his siblings can collect their inheritance: "We have to be over twenty-five, married, or wait until our sixtieth birthday." This made absolutely no sense. Jack is already 33, and his sister, though only 19, is married and they still don't have their inheritance. Not to mention how can someone be over 25 and still have to wait until they're 60. I suspect the author meant over 25 AND married OR wait until 60 (which is a pretty silly stipulation in the first place, though I won't waste any more time on that), but that's not what it said, which made it incredibly confusing. More awkwardness and confusion of the same sort abounds throughout the entire book.
In addition to the plethora of errors and strange wording, the POVs frequently switch back and forth, and one time, it even changed in the middle of a paragraph. This made it extremely difficult to tell whose perspective I was reading. This problem isn't helped by the fact that one character's dialogue is constantly being run together with the other character's introspection, which should have been separated by a paragraph break. Incorrectly placed dialogue tags only added to the issue, because I often had to scan ahead several lines to figure out who was speaking. The author sometimes throws out names with no explanation of who they are until after the fact. There are also passages that needed a whole lot more details to clarify what's going on and to be able to visualize it in my mind's eye, while in other places there were unnecessary excess words that if edited out would have tightened up the prose. In short, the construction of the story is simply one big hot mess that added up to me reading the entire story with my metaphorical red editor's pen poised over the page, which is never a good thing.
I place some responsibility for this on the author, because any writer worth their salt should be able to self-edit a book far better than this. However, the ultimate responsibility for releasing the book to readers in this sorry state rests squarely on the publisher's shoulders. Either they didn't edit it at all, which is my guess, or the editor they used was completely incompetent. I hate to use such a harsh word in my review, but it really is that bad. This book reads more like a first draft that was hurriedly written than a complete and polished manuscript. Readers - or at least this reader - have every expectation of getting a quality product when they pick up a book, but this is the most sub-standard book I can ever recall reading that was actually vetted by a publisher first. The publisher should hang their head in shame for putting out such a shoddy product for public consumption. There's no excuse for it. Whew! OK, end rant.:-)
Bottom line, I liked Jack and Bethany pretty well as the hero and heroine. In general, they seemed like nice characters, and they certainly didn't do anything to piss me off, so that's a plus and the main reason I bumped the rating to 2.5 when I'd been thinking about only giving it 2 stars. Even with the weaknesses in character, relationship, and plot development, I'm certain I would have enjoyed the story well enough to be able to give it at least a 3-star, if not higher rating, if only the nuts and bolts of the writing itself had been vastly improved and it had gone through a serious editing process with an actual professional. As is, though, I'm extremely glad I borrowed this book from the library and didn't pay for it. But I feel bad for anyone who did, because they definitely didn't get their money's worth, IMHO. Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off is the first book in Cara North's Country Music/Montana Cowboys series. Book #2, She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy is about the reunion of Jack's oldest brother, Heath, and Chance, the woman who left him, while book #3, One Hot Momma, is about their middle brother, Rafe, and Layla, a woman whom he shamelessly follows around like a lost puppy in this book. Unfortunately, even though there were some things that I liked about Jack's brothers, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off was far too frustrating of a read for me to have any interest in continuing with the series.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including public sex acts, anal sex, a little bit of role playing, and a small amount of spanking, which some readers may find offensive.
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