Handle With Care by Nina Croft
Series: Saddlers Cove #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on July 30, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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What if all you want is the one thing you can’t have? First grade teacher Emily Towson always does the right thing. The sensible thing. But in her dreams, she does bad, bad things with the town’s baddest boy: Tanner O’Connor. But when he sells her grandmother a Harley, fantasy is about to meet a dose of reality. And then he goes and calls her “sensible”... Tanner can’t believe sweet Emily is standing in his shop. Yelling and waving her hands and looking so god damn sexy he’s having trouble focusing. He’d spent two hard years in prison, with only the thought of this “good girl” to keep him sane. He really should send her away... Before either one thinks though, they’re naked and making memories on his tool bench with apparently the oldest condom in history. Now Tanner’s managed to knock-up the town’s “good girl” and she’s going to lose her job over some stupid “morality clause” if he doesn’t step up. But can this bad boy teach his good girl they’re perfect for each other in time?
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.
Being used to Nina Croft’s action-packed and suspenseful stories, Handle with Care was a bit of a surprise with its quiet, relationship driven, straight contemporary romance feel. But hey, a bad boy is a bad boy in any genre you put him, and they are yummy.
Tanner is pretty much the town’s black sheep. After making some questionable choices in his past, he’s been tagged a bad boy and he’s decided to prove to the a-holes in town that he’s even worse than they think. Unfortunately, he is very good in this endeavor and successfully covers up any and all good deeds he accomplishes by putting on a devil-may-care, flippant attitude whenever he’s around people not related to him.
Emily, a first grade teacher, is the epitome of all things sweet and proper. Labeled the town’s good girl, a tragedy in her past has pushed her to be careful and avoid wild choices… until being sensible is the reason she’s proposed to by her boyfriend. This sends her straight to her secret-fantasies-bad-boy-dream man’s arms (and other body parts).
Tanner and Emily had fabulous chemistry, and their time together is off the charts sexy and hot. And when they realized that they are now connected forever, they need to fight their individual and collective issues if they have a prayer of becoming a family together.
“Even before she’d told him she was pregnant, he’d been itching to hunt her down. Stake a claim. That night at the Founders’ Parade when he had kissed her, he’d pretty much known then that he was a goner and he was going to have to have her again or go quietly insane.”
I mostly loved both Tanner and Emily. He was all rough edges and tough attitude but had the gentlest heart. He was sexy, had some serious moves and could turn up the heat in no time. Emily was a sweetheart, nice and loving but when she got pissed, that girl could seriously throw some sass. What I didn’t like about them was how set their self-doubts were. Tanner was all “I’m not good enough for her perfectness” and she was all “I’m not beautiful, sexy and fun enough for his bad-boy-ness”. Which is why this line had me cracking right up
“You know, they just might be perfect for each other. They can sit around moaning and talking through their low self-esteem issues together.”
There’s a bit of back and forth due to these issues, and at more than one point I wanted to bitch slap some sense into them. That said, they were so cute together that they had me smiling most of the time. What also made up for this were their families. Emily’s grandmother was a hoot, and we do actually get a bit of a romance side story from her and Josh.
“You and me, Josh.” When he didn’t say anything, she heaved a sigh. “Come on. It can’t have escaped your notice that I’m in love with you.”
He almost choked.
“Tell me I’m just a stupid old lady and people our age don’t fall in love.”
“And then you’ll…?”
“Persuade you otherwise, of course. We’re never too old for love.”
I loved how this was kind of parallel to Emily and Tanner’s story, with Josh being his old cellmate, but at the same time completely their own. Also, I can’t wait to see who Tanner’s hot ex Navy, single dad big brother, as well as his baddest-bad-boy, motorcycle racing little brother end up with. I’m really looking forward to these stories.
With serious heat, fabulous chemistry and wonderful side characters, Handle with Care might have lacked in action, but touched a lot of subjects and dealt with some heavy issues in a way I liked. I’m really looking forward to the next in this series.
Rating: 3.5+ “no sense and sensibility here” Stars
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Just the way she said his name, sort of breathless, made him hard. He nodded.“Emily.”
“What are you doing here?” Her eyes narrowed.“Did you follow me?”
“You looked a little upset. I was just making sure no one else followed you.”
“You mean Ryan? He’s being a total pain in the…”
“Yes.” She pressed her finger to the spot between her brows.“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m usually so…” She took a couple of deep breaths.“He was making me so angry.”
“I thought he was your boyfriend?”
“Not anymore. It’s over between me and Ryan. It was over before that night you and I…”
He decided to help her out.“Had hot, dirty sex on top of the workbench in my garage. Then up against the wall in my garage.”
She gritted her teeth but gave a quick nod.
“Why was it over with Mr. Perfect? Did he finish with you?” Maybe she’d needed some sort of affirmation of herself as a sexy woman. He wanted to beat Ryan for that, though he had ultimately benefited from it.
“None of your business.”
“Come on, Em. I’m curious.”
Her face took on a mutinous expression, lips pursed.“He said I was sensible and then he asked me to marry him.”
Tanner managed to choke back the laugh, but she must have seen it on his face.
“It’s not funny.”
He’d proposed? That made Tanner want to growl. But she had a point. It sounded as though Ryan had fucked up on the proposal. Tanner certainly wasn’t sorry. Ryan’s loss, his gain.“Let me get this straight. If he hadn’t called you sensible, you would have said yes?”
“Probably not. He told me he’d decided it was time to settle down, and I was a nice, sensible woman, and would make him a suitable wife. Or something like that. I sort of stopped listening at ‘sensible.’What sort of man starts a proposal by saying you’re sensible?”
“Yes. Exactly. I said I didn’t think we were suited and walked out. Then when I got home, Mimi told me she’d bought a bike from you, and then she more than hinted that I was sensible, too. So when you said it as well, I just…sort of blew.”
“Actually, you kissed me, then you stripped, then you threw yourself at me. I didn’t stand a chance.” He had an image of her standing naked in front of him, challenging him to do something, and almost groaned.
“I did not throw myself at you.”
He just stood there, one eyebrow raised.
She folded her arms across her chest.“Anyway.I thought you were pretending that never happened?”
“Believe me, I’m trying. But I keep getting these little flashbacks at the most inappropriate times. Like when I’m picking up a tool from my workbench and there you are, all soft and naked and panting for me.”
Why did he do this to himself? His dick was almost painfully hard.
She was staring at him wide-eyed, her pink lips slightly parted. She didn’t move. He cast a quick look around the street—it was empty—then he closed the space between them, lowered his head, and kissed her before she could even have an idea of his intentions. He half expected her to pull back and run away, but her lips softened, then parted under his, and he slipped his tongue inside, sliding it along the length of hers. He kissed her until they both ran out of air. He hadn’t thought kissing was such a big deal, but he could kiss Emily all night.
Growing up in the cold, wet, north of England, Nina Croft spent a lot of time huddled under the blankets dreaming of faraway sunnier places and ponies. When she discovered both could be found between the covers of a book, her life changed forever.
At the age of eighteen, in an attempt to turn dreams into reality, she headed south in search of the sun. She quickly picked up the perfect husband along the way, and developed a taste for red wine and holidays in warm places.
Soon holidays weren’t enough, and together they volunteered to work in Africa where they both discovered a love of traveling and a dislike of 9-5 work. Afterward they spent a number of years travelling (whenever possible) intermingled with working (whenever the money ran out.) Eventually they stumbled upon a remote area in the mountains of southern Spain where they bought the small almond farm they now call home.
No electricity, no neighbors, no chocolate shops, but on the plus side, stunning scenery, a vineyard to make her own red wine, and far enough away from anywhere to satisfy Nina’s hermit tendencies. She shares the farm with her husband, and an ever increasing number of animals, including Piggles, a three-legged Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.
Nina now spends her days riding her mare Gencianna under the blue Spanish skies—sunshine and ponies. She reckons this is proof that dreams really can come true if you want them enough.
She still travels, but usually only in her imagination, and can often be found lying under a fig tree, wine in hand, plotting stories of love in faraway places.
Nina believes love can come to anyone, anytime, anywhere and her books reflect this.
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