Hot To The Touch

Darcy Clark is a successful lady–she owns her own restaurant, and it’s becoming more successful all the time; she’s put in a lot of hard work to get there, and she just doesn’t have time for the distraction of a man who’s gonna tell her how to live her life.  No way. So one night, she goes out to eat at a competitor’s joint, and meets…him.  A one night fling, a hotel room, no names.  Great idea, right?

Well, it might be, except that these two have a friend in common, who owns an online dating service! She’s not above being sneaky enough to set her friends up, not knowing that they’ve already slept with each other!

The Harlequin Blaze line is all about the heat; these are sensuous, sexy stories where the character chemistry is white-hot. The plot conflicts, rather than being mere challenges to overcome, are a crucible in which that heat can get refined.  Isabel Sharpe delivers with Hot to the Touch, the conclusion of her “Checking E-Males” trilogy for Blaze.

It would be easy, given the Blaze line’s focus, to dismiss the plot as relatively unimportant, but Sharpe has given us not only some seriously steamy sex scenes, but also an engaging story.  Darcy is an understandable, approachable heroine; most of us, I think, know someone in our world who is just too busy (and has been hurt too much before, as Darcy has) to have time for relationships, so they bury themselves in their work, art, or other passions. I recognize a lot of Darcy in myself–and that is the point that makes this a truly awesome story.

Our hero, too, is no perfect Adonis, but a thoroughly believable real guy.  He’s got issues of his own, and he’s an overall ordinary guy, with a decent job that he’s good at, and past baggage that he is carrying.  The terms of Troy and Darcy’s meeting (and the growth of their relationship) is something pretty plausible, too, something that could happen to just about any of us.  The setting is Milwaukee, a place I’ve never been to, but the details all seem clear enough to give us a decent picture, and give a further boost to the “real-world-ness” of this tale.

In the bedroom, our hero and heroine both know what they like, and are confident , well-rounded people; neither overwhelms the other, and their intimacy is intense and harmonious.  This is a nice change of pace from uncertain virgins, damaged-goods people who are scared, and similar awkwardness.  Darcy and Troy both look great and keep their bodies in good shape, and they’re not at all ashamed of their nature, and their passion is an amazing thing to read.

One of the hidden treasures of Hot to the Touch, in my view, is the side story between Marie, who is the online dating-service owner, and her companion/friend/something Quinn.  The “Checking E-Males” trilogy concerned four women, all of whom wind up in relationships–but Marie didn’t end up with her own story.  I think this is a pity; Marie is an interesting character in her own right, and the play between her and her foil Quinn might have made a great book of its’ own, especially if (in the style of Anne McCaffrey’s Nerilka’s Story) Sharpe re-told the other three stores, from the point of view of Marie and Quinn.  But even as an aside, the development of their relationship into something they’ve both wanted for a long time is a nice grace note for the larger story.

Hot to the Touch is a fantastic story with an interesting, engaging plot line and completely-believable characters; I highly recommend it, and look forward to finding other goodies from Isabel Sharpe in the near future!

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