As a librarian, I’ll read or watch just about anything if it features one of us as a central character. Sometimes, this works out well–Party Girl!–and other times I need to recover from the hours of my life I’ll never get back after watching something I’ll only reluctantly admit viewing (ahem, The Mummy). A librarian protagonist is no guarantee of quality, and yet I find myself reaching for book after movie after tv show in hopes that this time–THIS TIME!–I’ll meet Rupert Giles again.
The librarian heroine and hero are what drew me to two books in romance sub-genres I rarely read: Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh (New Adult) and Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl (Contemporary). Stepping outside of my historical comfort zone was a much needed change of pace, although I will say that only one novel lived up to its erotic librarian hype. If you’re looking for your new librarian crush, read on for a review of each book.
At the end of July my Twitter feed (full of romance readers and writers, mind you) blew up with talk about librarians and a male protagonist affectionately nick-named Cunnilingus Gabe. Intrigued, I tracked down the source of this promising tale to Victoria Dahl‘s latest release, the third book in her Jackson Girls’ Night Out series, Taking the Heat.
This book lived up to the Twitter hype (and then some). I’m not a typical contemporary romance reader or into the billionaire/sports hero/modern alpha male story line, so Taking the Heat and its beta male hero was PERFECTION.
Veronica Chandler is back home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming after her New York City dreams turned out less Sex in the City and more terrible shared apartment in a seedy neighborhood. As the local paper’s new relationship advice columnist, Veronica is trying to get her life back on track despite feeling like a Grade A Faker. She has no plans for romance until she meets the new librarian / bearded rock-climber / e-book magician Gabe MacKenzie. Gabe’s temporary stint in Jackson Hole is supposed to be his last big hurrah before taking over the family restaurant business in NYC, but of course, there’s Veronica.
There is so much awesome in this one book that I CAN’T EVEN.
Veronica’s a virgin–let’s just get that one out there–and not like a “oh, I don’t know anything about sex and am afraid of the internet” virgin, but a completely plausible 27 year-old who just never totally sealed the deal. She was a girl with a plan: finish high school and college without getting pregnant or saddled with some loser so that dreams of a better life could become reality. (If you aren’t this girl, then you know her, trust me.) Unfortunately virginity in her mid-twenties proved to be sexual kryptonite to the kinds of douchebag financial-types she kept dating. She has no hang-ups about sex; the girl owns a vibrator like any self-respecting 20-something virgin. It just hasn’t really happened for her.
This set up had the potential to go south QUICKLY if the hero played out as an aggressive, over-bearing, “let me teach you about sex, little lady,” type, but thankfully, Dahl spared us that cliche and gave us Gabe,
He’s pretty much the guy that every bi/hetero woman in library school wished she’d met in her Metadata class. Beard? Check. Smart? Check. Sexy? YES. He’s a level-headed, feminist, rugged rock-climbing librarian with just the right chill, easy-going demeanor to counter Veronica’s nervous energy. Did I mention he’s also really into digital libraries? Because that’s kind of a bonus.
Their chemistry is off-the-charts: playful, funny, and unbelievably sexy. Yes, Dahl brings the heat in what is probably the best version of anyone losing their virginity ever, but so much of the sexiness of the novel is thanks to the amazing build-up to the actual moment. I could have just read Veronica and Gabe chatting around a couple of drinks all night. It was so real and engaging. I felt like I really GOT Veronica. She’s smart and in control of her shit, but secretly feels like a fraud, like all of us in our 20s…and 30s…and, well…yeah. Gabe lets her feel those insecurities and doesn’t try to fix her. Instead he just loves her for who she is, which, of course, works.
The happy-for-now ending did feel a bit abrupt to me, but that was likely because I wanted the story to go on forever.
Rating: A, because Gabe. That is all.
I downloaded the first chapter of Rock Addiction based on the librarian heroine and the amazing reputation of Nalini Singh. I was immediately hooked despite the seemingly implausible premise: Rock god Zachary Fox sees librarian Molly Webster (also sister to his publicist) at a party in New Zealand and immediately wants to make her his. Their hot and heavy one night stand simultaneously divests Molly of her virginity and leads to a one month stand, which then leads to a relationship, which includes lots and lots of sex on various non-bedroom household furniture.
Ok. Fine. I’ll allow it. Where else is a public librarian going to meet a rockstar/billionaire/tattooed sex god? How else is a rockstar going to find a woman who loves him for him (and not his money)? As crazy as it seemed, I was in. The tension between Fox and Molly in that first chapter was electric and I wanted more of it.
I was even with Fox and Molly for the first few chapters. They both had some serious emotional baggage and I was curious to find out how they’d work through their respective issues (Fox: abandonment; Molly: public humiliation and abandonment) and navigate the treacherous waters of a celebrity-regular person romance. I don’t know if this is a consequence of the “new adult” category of this book, but I thought what could have been a really nuanced relationship turned into just a lot of rough sex and emotional platitudes. Maybe I am old and don’t remember how much sex twenty-somethings actually have, but somehow the lack of build-up/tension made the actual sex scenes way less erotic.
I stuck with this one until the end because I was interested in how it would eventually play out, but it sort of left me cold mid-way through. I enjoyed the conflict between Molly’s need to hide from public scrutiny and Fox’s desire to make her a part of his life, but wished their story could have stayed in New Zealand. I didn’t enjoy their transition to the LA lifestyle and Molly as a faux-roadie on tour with Fox. I found Molly’s insecurities and Fox’s “babe, you gotta trust me” tantrums exhausting.
I did enjoy the change-of-pace provided by the occasional regular-relationship events (Celebrities! They go to the farmer’s market! They go to the zoo! They’re just like us!). I thought the appearances of Fox’s bandmates and Molly’s friends provided some much needed plot variety and sometimes comic relief. Overall, though, I just wished the Fox-Molly relationship had been less intense and more human. I feel like there was some promise here and it just didn’t play out the way I thought it would.