Sweet Spot

Susan Mallery
August 2008, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373773145
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Warm

I've read a lot of books by Susan Mallery, and Sweet Spot, the second in her Keyes sisters trilogy, is definitely one of my favorites. I didn't read the first book, but this worked for me as a stand-alone.

Nicole is the responsible sister. She's worked in the family bakery from a young age and raised or tried to raise her troubled younger sister. Now she's fed up. She's divorcing her husband, after catching him in bed with said younger sister. With her twin sister the heroine of the first book - pregnant and happily planning her marriage, Nicole is ready for something different.

She gets her wish in an unusual way when she catches a teenager stealing donuts from her bakery and immediately contacts the police. Before the police arrive, though, Hawk the young man's football coach - enters the bakery. He manages to convince Nicole to let the young man work off the amount he owes, instead of having him arrested.

Hawk, a former NFL star, married his first wife while still in high school when she got pregnant. After her death five years ago, he retired from pro-football and became a high school football coach in order to devote himself to raising his daughter.

Hawk is attracted to Nicole from the first moment, and makes strong efforts to get her into bed. While she initially resists, she soon gives in and offers Hawk an interesting proposition: She'll be his sex kitten, if he'll publicly date her and pretend they have a relationship. Hawk is surprised, but readily accepts. This gives them each what they think they want a no strings, sexual relationship. For Nicole, it has the added benefit of letting everyone close to her think she's moved on from her divorce and is dating a hot guy.

Not surprisingly after all, this is a romance the two quickly develop deeper feelings for each other. Nicole often seems very prickly, but she has a mushy inner core that leads her to take in a scruffy pregnant dog, as well as one of Hawk's players, something that complicates Nicole and Hawk's relationship since her new border is dating his daughter. Another complication is the memory of Hawk's first wife, and the fact that his home is like a shrine to her.

Nicole and Hawk butt heads a number of times, over a number of issues. They're both stubborn, strong personalities, but each time they reunite fairly quickly. I felt their arguments were realistic and liked that they didn't drag out, as well as the fact that both Nicole and Hawk showed growth throughout the book.

I found myself smiling throughout the last chapter, not because it was particularly funny, but because it was so sweet and pleased me. I was genuinely sad when the book ended, and look forward to visiting the Keyes' sisters again in the third installment. I'm really curious to see how Susan Mallery turns bad girl Jesse into a heroine.

-- LinnieGayl Kimmel

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