Real Men Will
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: HQN Books
Publish Date: October 25, 2011
From the author's website:
It was meant to be a one-night stand. One night of passion. Scorching hot. Then Beth Cantrell and Eric Donovan were supposed to go their separate ways. That’s the only reason he lied about his name, telling her he was really his wild younger brother. Hiding his own identity as the conservative Donovan. The “good” one.
But passion has its own logic, and Eric finds he cannot forget the sable-haired beauty with whom he shared one night of passion. When Beth discovers that Eric has lied, however, she knows he cannot be trusted. Her mind tells her to forget the blue-eyed charmer. If only every fiber of her being did not burn to call him back.
Eric Donovan is the oldest of the three Donovan siblings. When their parents were killed in a car accident, he stepped in took over running the family brewery and raised his brother and sister through their late teens. He's always been responsible, and lately it just seems like that's all there is. Now that his brother and sister are taking on more responsibilities at the brewery and have significant others in their lives, he's feeling lost...and alone.
Beth Cantrell is the manager of The White Orchid, an adult novelty shop that also carries sexy clothing, runs an advice column in the local paper, and holds classes on a variety of sexual subjects. Beth does't feel like a sex expert, but feels like the men in town view her as such, which is hard to live up to when dating. She wants to find someone she doesn't feel like she needs to perform for or prove anything to, someone she can be herself with.
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, Good Girls Do (Tessa's story), and Bad Boys Don't (Jamie's story). Eric was kind of a jerk in both books, but I thought he was misunderstood and was at heart a pretty good guy. While this did turn out to be true, I just couldn't warm up to his story.
For me, there was just too much angst - between Eric's midlife crisis and Beth's past chasing her into the present, and I had a hard time with this book. Don't get me wrong - they each have a good story, but I think both of their stories together were overwhelming. Eric is battling childhood demons related to his parents, as well as dealing with the changing dynamics of the brewery now that his siblings are taking on more responsibilities. His back-and-forth with his brother Jamie, which has been a constant throughout the series, is frustrating.
Beth's history was traumatic in a different way and she definitely has her own issues to resolve. She's stressed in her personal life in part because of her job, and I couldn't figure out why she didn't just quit. Even after learning her reasoning for working at The White Orchid, I just didn't get it. Also, her relationship with the Kendalls, the villains who have been a constant in the series, felt weak. Based on her personality and social standing, the extent of their interactions seemed convenient for the story.
Would I still recommend the series? Absolutely. Victoria Dahl has a gift for writing witty, sexy scenes and characters you grow to care about. I think Eric and Beth will resonate with some readers as a couple who overcomes their fears to grab their HEA.