Those who recommend romance novels to me (i.e. my mother) have been at me to read Dahl's contemporaries for several months now, since I got back into the Romance Swing. I was in a Historical Romance kick for a while and needed a good contemporary to spice things up, so I finally picked these up. And I am SO glad I did!
Tumble Creek is a little town in rural Colorado where everyone is in everyone's business, few secrets are successfully kept, and you see the same faces every day. Talk Me Down centers around Molly Jennings, who moves back from Denver loaded with secrets and the need for inspiration for her super-sekrit work - she's an erotic fiction writer. She finds it, as she has for years, in her oldest crush, Ben Lawson, now the police chief (fitting name for a police officer, y/y?). Since she's back in Tumble Creek, her fantasy is there in the flesh, not in her dreams, and she can't resist trying to get a little taste. Only he ends up needing more from her than a steamy affair, and her need to keep secrets could ruin everything.
Start Me Up is about Molly's friend, Lori Love, who inherited her father's car shop after a terrible accident, and Molly's brother Quinn, a successful architect. Lori feels stuck in a rut, and fills her nights reading books from Molly's genre of literature. She realizes that she can take some control back in her life if she can fulfill some of her wildest fantasies, and decides it is time to have a crazy sexy affair. Quinn is an old friend, though always absorbed in his work, and has never done well in relationships. Lori offers him sex on a platter and he takes it with glee, not knowing that he would find himself caring way too much about what is supposed to be a casual summer fling.
One of the things I adored about these two novels is that these women are unabashedly horny. They have a sex drive, and they're not afraid to use it. Molly is more outspoken about it, and often says more than she should, but once Lori gets started - whew! It's nice after reading several historicals in a row where women are taught that sex is an uncomfortable "duty" to switch over to novels where a woman's sexuality is celebrated. The most beautiful part is that it is celebrated, but Ben and Quinn don't take advantage.
While I loved both novels, I liked Lori more as a character. Her journey to rediscover herself after sacrificing her dreams for her responsibilities is one I can strongly relate to. I know her. Molly was a bit silly, but not silly in an "I'm going to throw you into the wall" kind of way. More like the friend you have who always gets too tipsy at the bar (or acts like it anyway) and makes you snort Coke out your nose with outrageous comments. But her growth as a character didn't interest me as much, though she was dreadfully amusing in both novels.
I felt the suspense in Talk Me Down was more well-developed and way more exciting. I genuinely feared for Molly. Dahl kindly gave us mind-blowing love scenes followed by fear-inducing stalker scenes so I went from one emotional extreme to another in a heartbeat. Start Me Up's suspense felt almost like excess, except that it was important for Lori and Quinn at a couple of key points.
Overall, these two novels are both HOT. Naughty, delicious, and completely unapologetic. Woo hoo! And Dahl has an incredible sense of humor. There were many laugh-out-loud moments, both in and out of the bedroom. There was a joy in these two couples' stories that touched me, though each couple had their unique qualities and discoveries. I am very excited for Lead Me On next year, the third in the series. :)
For some more of my rambles on these two novels, check out my GoodReads page.
You can check out Victoria Dahl's official website at VictoriaDahl.com where you can find snippets from her historical romances (also hot) and The Wicked West, the story written by Molly (aka Holly Summers) in Talk Me Down.