Victoria Dahl kicks off a new series this week with Looking for Trouble (which comes out tomorrow). It centers around a group of friends we first met in the last series. In fact, if you intend to pick up this one, it helps to have read Too Hot to Handle, which features the story of Merry Kade and Shane Harcourt, who is the brother of Looking for Trouble’s hero Alex. You’ll be able to follow the story if you skip the other book, but like Mary Balogh’s Slightly series, it’s awfully nice to have a handle on some of the secondary characters going in.
Speaking of Alex Harcourt, he hasn’t been back to Jackson in a decade. Unable to deal with his mother’s mental illness and his brother’s enabling of her bad behavior, he has chosen to absent himself from their lives. Now he’s back for his father’s memorial service, and none too happy about it. At least until he meets Sophie Heyer.
Sophie is a librarian in town and a friend of Lauren Foster, the super hot heroine of the novella Fanning the Flames (still available for free, I think). Her mother and Alex’s father had a scandalous affair and when they disappeared on the same day, it left a huge hole in both their lives. Since it was pretty big news for a pretty small town, everyone is still talking about it. Plus Alex’s mother isn’t any help, continually labeling Sophie the exact same kind of trollop as her mother, which is plainly unjust and wrong.
I don’t know what it is with heroines lately. Even though the plot revolves more around Alex, his brother, his mother and his commitment issues, it was Sophie’s character growth I found most interesting here. Leaving out her qualms about Alex, she has a complex relationship with herself. Sophie desperately wants to let loose: she wants to travel, she wants hot sex with hot men, she wants more than her small town library job. This is not helped by the constant slut-shaming she receives from town members, largely thanks to Alex’s mother’s interpretation of the events surrounding her mother 20 years before. Even her clothing telegraphs her ambivalence about herself: all modesty and primness outside, fiery hot lingerie and garter belts inside.
The source of much of the conflict in Looking for Trouble revolves around Sophie and Alex keeping their fling a secret from the rest of the town. They know that if they are linked together, it will start up even more talk than the actions both their families caused in the past and continue to cause in various ways throughout this book. Sophie is very concerned about her reputation and how it reflects on her father and brother. Alex is uncertain that he wants a relationship with anyone at all, thanks to the dysfunction of his family. This feeling of small worldness is highlighted by the inclusion of characters from both previous books and the short Fanning the Flames that kicked off this series earlier this month.
Looking for Trouble is quality Victoria Dahl. If you’ve liked her other books, you’ll definitely like this one. But don’t skip out on Lauren and Jake’s story in the short freebie. The older hero and heroine make for some seriously smoking hot chemistry. I can only hope this represents a trend in Dahl’s work, as Fanning the Flames might be the best thing of hers I’ve read yet.
I’ve gotten pretty inventive when it comes to creating recipes for the various romances I read, even when there’s a dearth of food in the actual novel. When it came down to food in Looking for Trouble, though, the choices were pretty much vast quantities of Scotch or grabbing Chinese take out on the way home from the grocery store. Since I couldn’t quite see consuming half a bottle of Scotch in lieu of dinner, Chinese take out it was. If you want to make a different choice though, far be it from me to judge.
One of the things I loved about this book was seeing the relationship between brothers Shane and Alex get reestablished. The scene where Merry brings home take out and they spend time together for the first time in a decade was particularly touching.
Plus everyone can use a break from cooking every once in a while. Even me.
I don’t think I’m unduly picky, but what is it with trying to find quality Chinese food? So much of it is greasy, salty and MSG-laden. However, we actually sat down and did some research this time, and found a pretty darn good spot near our favorite grocery store. Yelp actually knows what it’s talking about!
I think I see more Chinese take out in our future.