Wednesday, February 9, 2011

eBook Review: Welcome To Cougarville!

Every romance reader has their weaknesses.  Those tropes or plot devices that they're unable to resist.  One of mine?  The younger hero who desperately wants to prove himself.  The hero in 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+


Leslie said...

"Gone Fishin' sign from my uterus"

The visuals I get from some of your reviews... LOL

You know I never really thought about it but I like that trope too. Especially when the hero is use to women falling all over him. And this has another of my favorite tropes - friend to lovers.

I'm so tempted to try this just for Max. ;)

Kristie (J) said...

Ooooohh - despite your C+ grade and rather tepid response to the heroine, I'm gonna have to get me this book. Since I'm a cougar wannabe if I had the guts to do anything about it, I love older women/younger men storylines.

CindyS said...

Okay, honestly for me, he's too young at 24 if I read your review right. Now, at 40 I think if some hot 30 year old had it bad for me then I would do my best to get over myself. But there is just something about the 20's that is about looking at all you could have. However, it sounds like he was mature for his age and that would have to count but still, I could see there being issues with just how long a younger guy would stick around as you got older.

And apparently we have found my insecurities. Damn.


Wendy said...

Leslie: Max = yummy

Kristie: Re: younger man/older woman - I felt this was a particularly good example of how the trope can and does work when it's done well.

Cindy: I think the author does a good job of uh...explaining the hero's maturity. There was no question in my mind that he was ready to "settle down."

And I think like most things in depends on the person. I've known 19-year-olds ready, willing and able to make a strong committment and 30-somethings who are still living the Peter Pan lifestyle. If the author sells it well enough to me, I'll believe damn near anything :)

CindyS said...

Wendy - I think of the age of soldiers who are 18 and 19 who are getting married and having children and I just can't imagine how they are so confident in their choices at such a young age. I was no where ready for any kind of commitment so I always look at that and am in awe of their convictions.

So I do agree that age can be just a number - since I did marry a man 12 years older than me. But I do wonder about it the flip way - could I now marry a man 12 years younger than me. He would have to do some fierce convincing. Silly I know.

Just me saying that I understand the insecurities of an older woman with a younger man.

For me Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie is just awesome because the heroine did have to get over herself and there was no question the guy was solid.


Jayaly said...

Oh I don't know, from personal experience that biological clock pretty much whips out a hammer and smacks you over the head with it at some point. It may be a device, but it's a real life one that actually happens. My son has an 'older than the rest of the playground mummies' mum to prove it.

I like the sound of this one.

Wendy said...

Rosie: Oh, I would never question the ticking biological clock! I've seen it happen with women I know in Real Life. Just one of those particular tropes that I have a hard time connecting with on a personal level. Reader baggage, I haz it.