REVIEW: 'Shaken and Stirred' by Kathleen O'Reilly

shaken-and-stirred-by-oreillyShaken 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!

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade B Reviews, Romance, TBR Challenge 2009 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to REVIEW: 'Shaken and Stirred' by Kathleen O'Reilly

  1. sally906 says:

    The link to the review for my January book is here:
    http://myreadingchallanges.blogspot.com/2009/01/tbr-challenge-2009.html

    I read Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon – a charming love story with a hunky Greek sex slave 🙂

  2. Sarai says:

    Nice review!!! This was a hard one b/c I don’t normally buy categories LOL!

    My review is up at: http://saraisbookchallenges.blogspot.com/

  3. Renee says:

    Great review! I’ve been curious about this category, especially with the beginning of a “brothers” series.

    Sally: OMG, I reviewed the same book!

  4. Jan says:

    I haven’t read any of Kathleen O’Reilly’s books, but this one sounds like it has quite a bit of substance which isn’t always the case for a category romance. Thanks for the good review. I’ve posted my review (not as positive as yours!)

  5. Jenn says:

    I’ve read all three of her books in this series and enjoyed each of them, although I think Gabe and Tess are my favorite couple.

    My TBR is up as well, THE DADDY PLAN by Karen Rose Smith

  6. Avid Reader says:

    I made all the rounds with reviews today – a big thank you to all of you who participated! I think we had about 85% participation at this time of writing but this is voluntary AND I will check back later to see if any new reviews pop up. Thanks guys.

  7. Kailana says:

    I got mine up! I ended up going on a road trip, so I just barely had time to get it up!

    http://myreadingbooks.blogspot.com/2009/01/righting-mother-tongue-from-olde.html

  8. Nikki says:

    Great review! I recently read this book and I felt the same way as you did about the resolution. It should have been the opposite. Anyway, I’ve read all three O’Sullivans and I don’t think you will be disappointed. They were all good.

  9. Avid Reader says:

    Great review! I recently read this book and I felt the same way as you did about the resolution.

    Thank you! I mean, I was hoping against hope that the author would do something different in that the hero for once would do the right thing. Instead she has the heroine catapult first, predictable I guess in that regard.

  10. RenéeW says:

    I read Book #2 in this series (Sex, Straight Up) and loved it (B+). And surprisingly deep for a Blaze. Thanks for reviewing this one and reminding me I need to buy the others in the series.

    BTW, I got my TBR Challenge review up barely making the deadline (before midnight). I read a Harlequin Historical (Winter Woman by Jenna Kernan).

  11. Taja says:

    Thanks for the review, Keishon. I liked “Shaken and Stirred” but I, too, was quite irritated with Gabe (and the story) at the end. I felt kind of let down. I loved the next one, though. 🙂

  12. Jorrie Spencer says:

    Thanks for running this, Keishon! O’Reilly sounds like an interesting writer.

    I had fun reading a 1991 category romance 🙂
    http://jorriespencer.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/a-rose-for-maggie/

  13. Christine says:

    Hey Keishon! So funny that we read and reviewed the same book from our TBR pile. Great minds think alike and all that. 😉

    I left a reply comment to you on my blog, but wanted to add here, that I think it was necessary for Tessa to be the one to meet Gabe halfway in this one. I think because of her absolute resolve to make it on her own–have the career and the apartment and the independence she needed to almost validate her life– that she had to be the one to do all that and then figure out that she didn’t want all of that if she didn’t have Gabe, too. I’m not sure what he could have done to accommodate her at that point. She was hell bent on independence from anyone, so I don’t think she would have agreed to have him live with her without first going through the experience by herself first. Does that make sense?

    Great review and your comments made me really think about the final outcome again. Thanks! 🙂

  14. Avid Reader says:

    Hi Christine,

    I was very excited to see your review and read your perspective on this story! Tickled too as this is a first for this challenge.

    I think it is a compliment to the author that this story had such substance to it as to make me forget that this is a romance, first and foremost. Yes, I can clearly see your points and they make a lot of sense. Part of me just wished that things were a tiny bit different in the resolution but overall, this story was well written. There were some age-old themes and I really enjoy stories that emphasize a strong family unit.

    After reading Taja’s and a few other responses to this series, I can’t wait to read the next Sexy O’Sullivan story.

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