Shaken and Stirred by Kathleen O’Reilly (2008) is a Harlequin Blaze and the first entry in the Those Sexy O’Sullivans series.
“Shaken and Stirred” features a friends to lover’s theme and the conflict? A woman’s desperate need for independence. Tessa Hart is a twenty-six year old Manhattan bartender, working at Prime while earning an associates degree in finance. She’s lived in New York for four years without making any real progress in her life. Well, that’s about to change.
Gabe O’Sullivan is the owner of Prime, a bar that was once a speakeasy during Prohibition and patronized by many of the famous and the infamous. The O’Sullivans consists of three brothers and a 80 year history of tradition and strong family ties. To introduce the O’Sullivans, first up is Daniel O’Sullivan. He is the oldest, an accountant and silent partner of Prime who lost his wife on 9/11. He provides for 1/4th of the angst and 100% melancholy (his story should be good).
Next is Sean O’Sullivan, a lawyer and a hot blooded male who can’t seem to get enough of the ladies (I liked him a lot despite his overactive libido) and last is Gabe, the baby brother and sensible one in the family who has set his sights set on renovating the space beside his bar. Prime was renamed and split in two with the other half sold as a bodega to pay the bills. During economic hardship, the O’Sullivans sacrificed to keep the bar business in the family and Gabe has dreams of joining the two properties together once again. The first entry in this series is Gabe’s story.
When Tessa moved from Florida to New York, Gabe helped her out. He gave her a job and helped her adapt to the big, bad city. Gabe is what you would call the Dr. Phil of the family and he loves saving damsel’s in distress. So when Tessa’s roommate bails out on her thereby prompting Tessa to find someplace else to stay, Gabe offers to share his apartment. She puts up a fight at first but then caves. Meanwhile at work, most of the staff at the bar have put up bets to see how long it will take for these two to fall into bed.
For such a short story it was shot full of melodrama. Like I mentioned earlier, Tessa is hell bent on surviving on her own two feet and Gabe doesn’t like that. Well, not necessarily. Tessa’s one bad relationship when she was a teen has her putting up her protective shields in full force. She does a lot of silly things with the first one being that she can’t seem to reconcile Gabe the lover with Gabe the friend. So she pretends he is someone else when they are making love (ouch). She does some other things as well, all because of her need to not depend on a man and to stay focused on her career.
There’s a lot of back/forth along with some angst, self-doubt, neediness, second-thoughts, determination and compromise. Friendships forged, lovers lost and then reunited. All humming to tune of: that we should never let a life opportunity go to waste. You might not get a second chance. So true.
Ok, the best parts of this story for me was watching Tessa get her life together. That was well done. I could relate to her on a certain level. Being a woman, it’s important to be independent. She befriends someone who gives her an inside track on a career that eventually works out for her. She becomes self-confident and successful, one baby step at a time. I was happy to see her succeed. Tessa was determined, a bit of a flake but she always held firm to her ideals.
As for Gabe, he annoyed me. First of all, I don’t like such perfect, great looking, hot looking heroes. He was so pretentious. I mean he’s dependable, confident and self-supporting and great looking – what’s not to like about this man. His one weakness is his neediness. He always wanted Tessa to deal. He always wanted to come first – and her job, her plans should be secondary to him. I like that Tessa resolved herself to sticking with her plans to be a success even if that meant heartbreak. My make or break moment was…will she have to throw it all away to keep the man she wanted?
Needless to say, the author tries to make some compromises. I mean what Tessa did to Gabe was wrong (and I didn’t elaborate on everything she did to him). I was lukewarm to the resolution, however. I felt that the actions of the characters should have been reversed but that’s me. Besides Tessa and Gabe’s love story there were some other subplots seeded for future O’Sullivan stories. I plan to read those, too.
There is a lot to like about this story starting with the author’s voice/style of writing. I liked it. Her dialogue sings off the page. I liked how the story’s foundation is built upon a strong family unit. The O’Sullivans came across as a tight knit family but they are not without their share of problems. The sex is hot, I mean, hello, this is a Harlequin Blaze. I skimmed most of those sex scenes, too (a bit much for me). The relationships and the growth of each of the principal characters was nice.
Let me just say that “Shaken and Stirred” went beyond _my_ expectations. That’s happened to me twice already. I’d love to read more stories that do this: thwart my attempt at predictability. Heh. I rarely read romances anymore, let alone, category romances unless forced to sooooo– I’m glad that I choose this story. It’s not a A read for me for the reasons listed (what, should I repeat them?) but it was good in most places, excellent in others and just ok for the rest. So, should that be a B or B+? I’m conflicted. After this story marinates some more in my brain, I might have a more definitive answer. I’d say a B (for right now).
This post is apart of the TBR 2009 challenge and we are kickstarting with a category romance. Many readers have the choice to read a category or read whatever is in their tbr piles. Please, visit the other readers in this challenge here and thank you for visiting!