Susan Mallery – “Sweet Spot”

25 Nov

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: HQN books, 2008

SERIES: “Bakery Sisters,” book 2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I bought this one during my contemporary binge in summer.

The back blurb:
“If only her life was more sinful than sweet…

‘Responsibility’ should be Nicole Keyes’s middle name. After all, not many people would sacrifice their lives to run the family bakery and raise a younger sibling. But with Nicole’s twin sister now blissfully married and her younger sis turning out more femme fatale than girl-next-door, super reliable Nicole is getting sick of putting everyone else’s needs first!

Enter Hawk. The deliciously sexy former NFL player offers Nicole a taste of the freedom she craves. Hawk may know the way, blindfolded, to her sweet spot, but Nicole’s not about to let him get close enough to break her heart. Of course, she might not have a choice in the matter if Hawk’s past keeps getting in the way of their present…”

I had my problems with Nicole in Sweet Talk. Not so much because she was very nasty and hurtful toward Claire, her sister and the heroine of Sweet Talk, but because for me, she came across as very immature in the way she handled her anger and hurt. Her characterization didn’t work and I was a bit apprehensive to read her story. In her own story, Nicole’s character worked much better for me.

Nicole and Hawk meet when Nicole catches Raoul, one of Hawk’s football players, trying to steal doughnuts in her bakery. Hawk comes on to her and although Nicole thinks Hawk hot, she wants nothing to do with him or men in general thanks to her recent experience with her husband. Hawk is intrigued by Nicole’s resistance and, being rather competitive, he sets out to win her over. Soon they come to an understanding: Nicole wants her friends, her sister and their pity for her off her back, Hawk wants Nicole in his bed. They make a deal – sex in exchange for Hawk pretending to be Nicole’s boyfriend. Everything seems to work fine – they have a hot first time – but then real life intrudes in the form of Raoul who comes to stay at Nicole’s house and Brittany, Hawk’s daughter. Suddenly, it’s very difficult to schedule “sex kitten” time. But this change of plans also gives them the time to get to know each other better. Both find something they didn’t expect.

I liked Nicole’s character a lot in this story. She has quick comebacks and a dry kind of humor. Her first few conversations with Hawk are a good example for that. She still has a temper. But this time, it is clear that although she might appear tough on the outside, she has in fact a very caring heart on the inside – she lets Raoul and his dog stay at her home when they have nowhere else to go for example – and her comebacks are just her way to protect herself. This temper helps her to not take crap from Hawk and stand up to him, even if she feels not very secure about herself as a woman. I thought her very mature (!) and her most defining character trait is probably her responsibility. If there is one weakness, it’s that she’s right all the time and because of that doesn’t change a lot in the course of the story except to accept her responsibility (something she complained about) as part of who she is and maybe make a few new experiences (football) thanks to Hawk.

Hawk might not look like it but he’s also a character who takes his responsibilities very seriously. He quit his football career when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and after her death, he shouldered the task of raising their daughter alone. He took a job as a football coach at a high school to give something back, and his daughter Brittany is his pride and joy in life. He thinks he has everything under control and doesn’t take kindly to statements that suggest otherwise, which is where Nicole’s temper comes in handy. She doesn’t back down and tells Hawk when she thinks he’s wrong about something. Hawk is in for a few surprises when he (painfully) realizes that other people (Nicole!) can be right too and he has a few lessons to learn about to be responsible and mature at the same time.

The secondary story line between Raoul and Brittany, his girlfriend, reinforces the theme of this novel – responsibility. As do the several unwanted pregnancies (I could do without them but here they fit). They also make Nicole realize that she what she really wants is a family of her own. This leads to the main romantic conflict because Hawk already had it all. His house seems like a shrine to his wife in Nicole’s eyes, and Hawk’s content with the way it is now – him a serial monogamist. So there are several bumps on the way to Nicole’s and Hawk’s happy ending and Hawk tends to screw up. But he’s also able (and willing) to learn, so there is a chance for them to make it. And in the end, it is clear that Nicole and Hawk are a great and right-for-each-other couple.

Sweet Spot is a really nice contemporary romance and I liked it much better than Sweet Talk.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably yes.

Grade: 4 / 5


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