Archive | 7:42 pm

Kathleen O’Reilly – "Sex, Straight Up"

20 Jun

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Blaze, 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: Main reason: I got the first part in this trilogy and I like to have things complete; secondary reason: good reviews + sounded interesting

The back blurb:
“Meeting a handsome loner on a deserted beach in the Hamptons was like being hit by lightning. One steamy weekend in bed with Daniel O’Sullivan and Catherine Montefiore was marvelously woozy from a delicious cocktail of sun, sand and superhot sex.
Abruptly, though, Catherine’s forty-eight hours of fun are at an end when her family’s exclusive auction house is hit by a very public scandal. She’s ready to step in and save the day, but she’s hoping Daniel, her hot Irish hunk, will lend a hand. After all, he’s got the necessary skills and, straight up or not, Catherine want another long drink of Daniel before another forty-eight hours are up and her legacy is lost forever!”

Every once in a while, there comes a novel along that reminds me why I love to read, that hits all the right notes and pushes all the right buttons; in short: a novel works on all levels. A novel that makes me think after finishing it that I better not start on another too soon because it wouldn’t be fair to the new one.

Sex, Straight Up is such a story for me.

Well, the title sounds crude but in some strange way it also somehow fits the story, because a) both Catherine and Daniel think it’s about sex between them: Catherine because she knows sex is all Daniel can give and Daniel because he thinks sex is all he can give and b) the bar thing (Daniel works in his brother’s bar on Saturdays).

The first one and a half pages of this novel make it clear what Sex, Straight Up is about and what the task of the author is in this story: make the reader believe that the hero can fall in love a second time. Here’s what Daniel thinks about fidelity and how it relates to marriage vows, even if the other person is dead for 7 years (he lost his wife on September, 11):

“Daniel didn’t look at other women, he didn’t flirt with other women and he sure as hell didn’t sleep with other women. Maybe his sleep-bagged mind would betray her, but his body wouldn’t.” (p. 8)

It’s summer, it’s hot in the city and after much urging and blackmailing by his brothers, Daniel agrees to go to the Hamptons for a weekend with some of his brother Sean’s lawyer friends. In Daniel’s eyes the house where he’s staying for the weekend is a “nuthouse.” Sean’s friends are there to have a good time and party. Since Daniel didn’t want to be there in the first place, he escapes to the beach on front of the adjoining house which he thinks is empty. It’s actually not, and that’s how Daniel and Catherine meet.

Catherine is fascinated by Daniel and attracted to him from the first time she sees him, whereas for Daniel it’s a slower development and slower realization with him noticing more and more things about Catherine while they talk for hours. I really liked this part.

Catherine and Daniel spent the weekend together and both think that was that and that they won’t meet again. But some weeks later, Daniel is brought in to investigate financial irregularities at the auction house of Catherine’s family. After some hesitation, they give in to their attraction and begin an affair – sex, straight up. Catherine knows Daniel isn’t capable of more and Daniel knows he doesn’t want more because to do so would be a betrayal to his wife. Plus, he’s also not sure if he can fall in love again.

O’Reilly has set herself a difficult task and she doesn’t use the “wife-was-actually-a-really-unpleasant-person-and-not-deserving-of-Daniel” device or the “elevating-the-new-woman-at-the-wife’s-expense” device to make it easier. Daniel’s wife was a nice and likeable person, very different from Catherine, and Daniel really loved her with all his heart. So, O’Reilly has to convince the reader that Daniel fell in love with Catherine completely and 100% and that Catherine isn’t second best, possibly even used only for sex. It’s the same thing Daniel has to do in regard to Catherine.

Here’s why it worked for me:

  • Daniel’s thoughts about the way he treats Catherine. He knows it’s not right to keep seeing her when he’s not sure he can love her completely.
  • the time factor: O’Reilly gives this story time. Between the first time Daniel and Catherine meet and the time Catherine accepts Daniel’s marriage proposal are several months; there are exactly 104 days between Daniel’s first proposal and Catherine’s acceptance.
  • Catherine’s awareness of Daniel’s struggle with his conscience and his feelings and her knowledge of herself.
  • “She hugged him, awkwardly at first, because she was so scared. She didn’t believe in many things, and although she believed in him, she wasn’t quite ready to believe in them. But when he looked at her, she could swear that really was love in his eyes. When she spotted her picture on his wall, she thought…maybe.
    And she gave herself up to him, gave him her heart, but still, she held back a little bit of her soul.” (p. 209)

    Which is why she keeps Daniel waiting for her answer because she isn’t completely sure about their HEA yet.

  • little clues throughout the story that Daniel’s feelings are changing and he slowly comes to accept Catherine as the woman in his life now even if he doesn’t know it himself yet.
  • I liked that the beginning mirrored the end, making the structure of the story complete and whole.

All this together made me believe in Daniel’s and Catherine’s love and their HEA.

Sometimes I’m glad that I like my things to be complete.

One more thing: Lately I’ve been struggling with my grading of novels. Is it really 4/5 or isn’t it 3,5/5? Is it really 4,5/5 or isn’t it a straight 5/5? I didn’t ask myself such questions about Sex, Straight Up. The 5 / 5 grade for Sex, Straight Up was a sure thing the whole time I read the novel.

Now, maybe my grade will go down when I come down from my reading-it-induced high. Maybe I’ll see plot problems or some other bothersome things when I read it a second time. I don’t know. But maybe I won’t. And I think the fact that I didn’t waver with the grade as I did with the other novels that ended up with a 4,5/5 grade instead of a 5/5 grade is the best sign that Sex, Straight Up is a 5 / 5 for me.

Well, two actually: Catherine. Reading my comments, it might seem as if this story is only about Daniel, and that isn’t true. I think his character arc is more prominent because it’s tied to the main task the story has to accomplish, but Catherine isn’t just there. She’s very “real” and has problems and a development of her own. I really liked her and was very happy to read about such a heroine. It’s the whole package that made me like this novel.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 5 / 5