This is, hands down, my favorite category and contemporary romance ever, and makes my list of best romances ever. I have very few keepers – in fact, I’m brutal about getting rid of books, but this has been on my keeper shelf (or in my keeper drawer, LOL) since it first published in Jan 2003. My poor copy is so tattered, it’s coming apart and the binding is falling apart. I finally got an e-version for my nook so that I don’t have to keep ruining my beloved paper copy.
This is book 2 in the Men to Do series from Blaze. I bought this way back when I bought every single Blaze the second it came out. I also highly recommend The Sweetest Taboo, book 1. I didn’t love book 3 quite as much as the first two, but it was still very good.
So, how to describe this book. First off, excuse the gushing. I want to have babies with this book. OK, more specifically Dash Black. And the cover? It is exactly how I pictured him. Both in my mind and from the description.
Dash is the face of the men’s magazine Noir, which his father started and is planning on passing down to Dash and his brother when he retires. Dash spends his days and nights hobnobbing with the Hollywood elite, and living the New York lifestyle, dating Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, and Helen Hunt (yes it’s a little dated) for show. Tess has come to NY from Tulip, Texas, and started her own business caring for plants in the offices of the rich and famous. She manages the plants in Noir as well as in Dash’s own home. When Dash overhears her planning to go to a party that he will also be attending (she’s looking for financing to open her own flower/plant shop), he basically invites himself along as her escort. From there, their relationship grows. I found it to be incredibly sweet, very hot, and super funny.
What I loved: Dash. He’s suave, sophisticated, rich. But at the same time, he’s incredibly approachable, has a great sense of humor, and is incredibly self-aware. He recognizes that he wants to be with Tess, and moves heaven and earth to do it. Although his life is very public, he strives to keep his feelings close to the vest, and maintains a very personal, private life as well as his public persona. He isn’t sure what to make of his feelings for Tess; he only knows that he wants to be with her.
Tess: She’s a strong heroine. Strong, but vulnerable. And she's funny. I liked that she wanted to build her business on her own, but wasn’t stupid about it, and accepted help. I loved that she has a close girlfriend in the city, as well as her two close friends that keep in touch via email. A large portion of the book is told via emails between Tess and her two friends, Samantha and Erin. I love that Leigh shows a strong, supportive friendship between women without jealousy, pettiness, or one-upsmanship. Although she does manage to squeeze that into the story through a different character. You can’t realistically have a story about the rich and famous without petty jealousies playing a part, right?
Dash and Tess together: Oh wow. First of all, fireworks, chemistry, hot. But there were so many sweet, wonderful moments between them, too. I fell in love with Dash the second they had their first kiss, and he was the one to ask if the earth moved for her, too.
He pulled her into his arms again, holding her tight as he moved deeper into the crowd on the dance floor. The music was familiar, and if she took just a moment she'd figure out the piece, but then Dash leaned close, his warm breath on her ear making her shiver.
"Did you feel that?" he whispered.
"The earth moved. The angels wept."
She smiled as heat filled her cheeks. "Oh, that."
There are a lot of perfect moments like that in the book. He does so many sweet, wonderful things for her, including getting up in the middle of the night and getting ice cream, just because she mumbled something about wanting some. Dash is protective of her, but lets her be her own woman as well. When he realizes that in order to be with her he’ll need to give up much of his current life, he moves heaven and earth to do it. Tess, in turn, grounds him, keeps him real. She is funny, and she's irreverent. She makes him feel good, and he doesn’t want to lose that.
When she realizes she can’t live with his lifestyle, the scene written is heartbreaking. I was talking rhapsodizing about this book on twitter with Lauren Dane, and we agreed that scene makes both of us bawl every time.
The banter: It’s funny. It’s honest.
The secondary characters: Tess’ friends are great, as is Dash’s brother. They are real people, and provide perspective for Tess and Dash.
I could go on and on forever about this book, but really, you should pick it up for yourself. It’s part of Harlequin’s digitized backlist, so you can get it wherever you want.
Oh, and if you're curious as to what other categories are in my keeper drawer? It's A Dash of Temptation, The Sweetest Taboo (Men To Do) by Alison Kent, and Behind Enemy Lines by Cindy Dees.