Saturday, July 24, 2010

Great Summer Reading

by Anna Campbell

Kathleen O'Reilly
is one of my favorite writers!

There, that about covers the review!

Oh, you'd like some more? Sheesh! Picky!

Kathleen O'Reilly writes great character-driven books for Harlequin Blaze. Hmm, sometimes they're driven to do all sorts of things! ;-)

Actually all jokes aside, I love that Kathleen's stories are based so firmly in emotion. There's a lot of wonderful sensuality in her writing but it's the emotional depth that keeps me coming back for more.

There's been great buzz about Kathleen. Out of curiosity, I bought the first of her trilogy THOSE SEXY O'SULLIVANS when I was at the San Francisco RWA conference.

As many of you know, conference is really full-on and reading time is at a premium and everyone gets so tired, we all just want to sleep when we hit our rooms in the wee smalls (hey, it's all good fun!). I started SHAKEN AND STIRRED late one night. Well, I couldn't put the thing down - so my late night turned out REALLY late. I grabbed and devoured the next two books in the trilogy, SEX, STRAIGHT UP and NIGHTCAP. And since then, I've preordered everything Kathleen's written.

Those books are a great introduction to a lot of the things I adore about Kathleen's writing. The way they touched my emotions - I found myself crying a few times. The humor, which somehow makes the heart-wrenching scenes more heart-wrenching.

Kathleen writes great dialogue - smart, sexy, witty. Her characters absolutely come alive on the page through the way they speak. And these characters all have a touch of real life about them. They tend to have normal jobs and face the sort of life issues that so many of us do in our worlds. What to do when an ageing parent is unable to look after herself any longer, for example, rather than what color Lamborghini to buy. Although I must say, choosing the Lamborghini color keeps me awake most nights!

To go back to the O'Sullivans books (I'm getting to the new one, bear with me!), the stories are based around a bar in New York City. Three Irish brothers own the bar and their love stories form the basis for the trilogy. OK, a guy who runs a bar? Not exactly a Lear jet-owning desert king (although I love desert king books!). The second book, SEX, STRAIGHT UP, features an accountant. An accountant as a romance hero? Whoda thunk it? All the billionaires and secret agents and dukes have turned pale with shock!

And do you know what? That book about the accountant counts as one of my favorite romances ever and until now, it was my favorite Kathleen O'Reilly. Daniel lost his wife in 9/11 and watching him overcome his crippling grief and learn to love again will break your heart.

So SEX, STRAIGHT UP is a brilliant read and I thought it would be hard to match - until I read Kathleen's latest, LONG SUMMER NIGHTS which came out in May. It's still available on Amazon and on the Harlequin site.

LONG SUMMER NIGHTS combines a whole stack of romance themes that I always enjoy. The irresistible force (our heroine) and the immovable object (our hero). The attraction of apparent opposites. Fish out of water. Mr Mysterious. The lone wolf lured back to share the warmth of the tribal fire through the power of love. Hot love scenes (hmm, not sure that counts as a theme!). A dual character arc where both hero and heroine learn essential truths about themselves through the experience of opening up to the other person.

Jennifer Dade is a journalist and dedicated city girl who arrives at the upstate New York town of Harmony Springs to cover the summer festival. Her career is on the skids - this is probably her last assignment for the paper she works for - and to add insult to injury, a scheming co-worker has booked her into a rundown cabin in an isolated campsite which has only one other resident.

Aaron Barksdale, the one other resident, is a reclusive writer living under an alias, think J.D. Salinger as a really hot 30-something guy. Automatically, there's the conflict that if Jennifer discovers this attractive, mysterious man is really an award-winning author who disappeared years ago, she can use that story to reinstate herself at her paper.

From the moment, she and Aaron meet, sparks fly (there are some luscious scenes when they're out stargazing!) both of the sensual and conversational variety. Jennifer, who is refreshingly self-aware, quickly realizes she's falling for this completely unsuitable man. But she's in Harmony Springs only for two weeks, he's a man who has rejected the world, there's the whole secret identity plot, and Aaron has been bruised by life and isn't exactly rushing to believe in love and happiness.

One of the many things I love about this book is that the ethics versus career plot doesn't take over. There are so many rich layers here and the most heart-wrenching one is watching Jennifer coax a wary, prickly, difficult Aaron into admitting he loves her. Your heart aches for Jennifer when she thinks she's reached a certain level of emotional intimacy and Aaron turns away from her in self-protection. A very snakes and ladders story and one I absolutely loved to read.

You'll love both these characters - Aaron has that compelling quality that makes you love him and suffer for him even when he's acting like a complete idiot. Jennifer is such a great heroine - warm, loving, generous and aware of what's important in life. You'll adore watching these two edge towards their happy ending.

And that ending? Oh, man, I sighed for a week after I read it. It's truly lovely!

Seriously, if you haven't read this book, grab it! It's one of the best contemporary romances, long or short, I've read in a long, long while.


  1. Thanks for another terrific review, Anna! Kathleen O'Reilly is such a wonderful writer, isn't she? I've been so busy the past couple months that I haven't picked up Long Summer Nights yet. I need to correct that, especially after reading what you have to say about it.

  2. What a great review and recommendation Anna, now I have to go out and get the books. Hope conference is going good, you will need to plan some vacation time to catch up on sleep after all the conferences.

  3. Fabulous review, Anna! I know you have been raving about Kathleen for a while now and I keep telling myself I need to get one of books. Maybe I'll pick up SEX, STRAIGHT UP since the dh is an accountant ;-)

  4. Oh, I'm loving that cover! HAWT! I will definitely pick this one up, Anna. You never steer me wrong!

  5. Guys, so sorry I've been MIA and I'm on a computer terminal site that charges me 69 cents a minute! Daylight robbery! Looking forward to catching up with a lot of you at RWA!

  6. Yikes, Anna! That's terrible!! See you in a few days :-)