Vivian Arend's Turn It Up shouldn't have to prove anything to anybody - but he spends a good chunk of this story trying to convince our fair heroine (who is 10 years older than he is) that's she's the only woman for him.
Natasha "Tasha" Bellingham's biological clock isn't ticking so much as booming. She's 34 and since Mr. Right has continued to evade her she decides a date with a turkey baster is the way to go. That plan flies out the window though when Maxwell Turner gets wind of her scheme.
Max has been in love with Tasha for years. The problem is that she's always thrown up a road block between them by declaring that he's "too young." So he's remained patient, spending time with her as a friend. They're actually really great friends. However when he finds out about her plans, he figures enough is enough. If Tasha wants a baby, that's fine by him, but she ain't having one with anybody other than him. So he sets about putting on the ol' full court press. And this being an erotic romance, you know there's quite a bit of pressin' goin' on ::wink, wink, nudge, nudge::
Max is quite possibly one of the most swoonworthy heroes I've read about in recent memory. I am a total sucker for the Hero In Pursuit trope, and Arend really makes it work here. This can be tricky, since the guy who pines for the heroine from afar (and for years!) can come off as creepy or stalker-ish, but Max is such a fantastic guy that after the first chapter I was ready to remove the Gone Fishin' sign from my uterus and make babies with him.
The problem here is the heroine. Max is so great that I frankly think that Tasha must be more than a little tetched to not immediately jump naked into his arms. The main strike against him, in her obviously tetched opinion, is his youth - and since Tasha's had terrible past relationships with men her own age, she just knows it wouldn't work with Max. Color me crazy, but if your experiences with men your own age end in disaster - I would think going younger or older would actually be the next logical step. But hell, that's me. Also, Max is gorgeous, super smart, healthy, a great kisser, even greater in (and out!) of bed, has his own business, is financially secure....oh, and he's nuts about her.
Yeah, I can see why she'd hesitate to get involved with this guy ::eye roll:: /end sarcasm.
Blessedly, this is a novella, so Tasha's cold feet don't last for long and they enter into an arrangement. However, in order to keep some tension in the story, the author introduces some other reasons for her commitment issues - namely those bad past relationships and an emotionally distant family. This actually isn't half-bad conflict, but the problem is at novella length the author doesn't have the necessary word count to flesh it all out. So instead Tasha still comes off as tetched to me. Hell honey, if you hesitating in declaring your undying love to Max send him my way! I've got no such problem.
I mean, other than the fact that Max is a fictional character and not real - but minor detail that....
Arend continues to excel at writing steamy, and it was nice to have a return visit with the Turner family. On the subject of timeline, this book actually takes place before the events of Turn It On...and it was nice to see the heroine in that story (Max's twin sister) on the verge of making some decisions about her life. I also, admittedly, am not the wildest fan of the ol' Booming Biological Clock plot device, but it serves it's purpose as a frame for the story. However, readers looking for an "issues" romance involving a heroine wrestling with her decision in starting a family as a single parent should keep on looking. The author is going for sexy and sizzle here, not dark and angsty.
This is kind of a hard story for me to grade. As much as I adored Max, I never entirely warmed up to Tasha. And I'm nothing if not a hard core heroine-centric romance reader. Max is so lick-able that the guy deserves an A on his own. But dang....I also have Tasha to consider. So....
Final Grade = C+