Too Hot to Handle

Too Hot to Handle (Jackson, #2) - Victoria Dahl Merry is happy to have found a job in Wyoming, near her closest friend, Grace. And after years of fruitlessly trying to find her niche, it's also work she loves -- turning a ghost town into a historical destination. She's crushed to discover that there's a legal dispute over the project's funding, and that she was hired mainly as a cheap interim measure, with no real power to do anything.Desperate to make the restoration of Providence succeed, Merry covertly asks her neighbor Shane to repair the town's buildings. Shane agrees, without telling Merry that he is the one disputing the funding; it'll let him keep an eye on what's going on and perhaps help him stop the project he despises. But as they get to know each other, Shane finds himself drawn to Merry's enthusiasm, appreciation for domestic history… and wide, smiling mouth. Against their better judgement they wind up in bed together, leaving Shane with a big problem: "Why the hell did her greatest passion have to be the one thing he couldn't support?"I had trouble getting into this at first -- Merry seemed like such a sad sack, and Shane started out so cold. But Shane heats up very nicely, gradually starting to notice Merry's attractive qualities -- first her sweet round face and wide mouth, leading into her cleavage. This makes Merry come across as attractive in a believably ordinary sort of way. She thinks of herself as big and awkward, wears mostly funny t-shirts, and has no idea how to fix herself up, telling Grace, "When I put eyeliner on, I look like a five-year-old playing dress up. Or an eighty-year-old alcoholic trying to recapture her glory days." Even with Grace's expert help, she knows that "[her] liner would be smudged and smeared within an hour. Her body rejected any transplants of prettiness." That rang so true for me, and I enjoyed seeing her more subtle prettiness come through for Shane.And Merry's character turns around completely, the desperate, needy, unfocused woman who thinks, "I'm not even geeky enough to be good at being a sci-fi geek" (oh, I relate!) revealing herself to be strong in an unusual and striking way. Merry's life has been hard and it's tempered her, because she's refused to let it break her. By the end of the book, I admired her tremendously.The depiction of Merry's mother also stood out for me. The "hippie mom" is such an annoying stereotype, usually floating around wearing patchouli and sensing auras. Merry's hippie mom wasn't all that different from any other young single mom who struggled financially, did her best, and is now pretty much like any other middle aged mom. (With one minor exception which I won't spoil.) Believably, she has a lot of sadness over Merry's less than ideal childhood: "I wish I could've given you that when you were a little girl. A nuclear family. The American dream."As you can probably tell, the book hit me in a very personal way, which might not translate to other readers. And Shane's backstory and journey don't have the authenticity and surprise of Merry's, going in a predictable direction. This is the second in a series, not counting several novellas; Grace and Cole from [b:Close Enough to Touch|13547949|Close Enough to Touch (Jackson, #1)|Victoria Dahl|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339466709s/13547949.jpg|19113110] are featured characters, but I think it would stand alone just fine.