A couple of years ago, when I saw that Harlequin had a new line that would focus on families in the NASCAR world, I pretty much ignored it. I’m not a fan, and I’ll even admit to having some prejudices about the sport, even though I know people who build and race cars as a hobby.
The books have been around for a bit now, and I had managed to not read them, and continued to do so until one day in my former job at a library, I flipped over one of the anthologies and found the blurb interesting enough that I checked the book out. I liked it enough that I decided to give another book a chance, and got Overheated by Barbara Dunlop. It features a May-December romance, with the age difference being 22 years. I almost rejected it because I somehow got it into my head that the heroine was 22 and dating a 44 year-old. It’s closer to 30-50, and since I’m never going to see 30 again, it’s not that big of a deal.
Crystal Hayes is 28, a frustrated writer, and working as a delivery driver for her father’s auto-parts company, so she’s been around racing a long time, and has learned to handle herself (and men) as a woman in a male-dominated sport. Larry Grosso is 50, and part of the Grosso racing family, but since he makes a better mathematician than mechanic, he teaches at the local university and consults for NASA. Both are widowed; Larry’s wife died of a heart attack after a happy marriage, and Crystal’s Navy husband died of SCUBA equipment failure the day after she asked him for a divorce. Larry misses his wife and Crystal just feels guilty that others see her as the grieving widow when she’s really not. The story has a couple of conflicts happening. The first is the age difference. Larry and Crystal acknowledge it and move on and commence to falling in love, but everyone else has reservations. For the couple, age is less of an issue than Crystal wanting children, while Larry already has a grown son and a vasectomy. Their relationship is further complicated by Crystal’s alcoholic sister Amber, and her abusive ex-husband Zane. While Amber and Zane try to work it out, she leaves their son and daughter with Crystal for days, and sometimes weeks, on end. Insert an anvil of your choice here.
My only/biggest quibble with this book was Crystal’s attitude towards money: I didn’t understand it. She received money from her husband’s life/military insurance, and later on, she comes into more money via a bequest, but she is constantly thinking about how she can afford to write full time. Her parents have money, and run own their own successful company. Crystal says she feels like a fraud because she didn’t love her husband, and uses words like “integrity” when she explains why she won’t touch the money for her personal use, but she may use it for her own kids someday. Once scene actually had her trying to decide if she could wanted pizza on Saturday or an ice cream cone today, because she couldn’t afford both AND groceries on her budget. Whatever. You know how some readers hate secret babies? I hate characters who are stupid about money, and Crystal is stupid about money. Authors, please don’t give your characters lots of money and then have them refuse to use it because of “integrity”. It just makes them stupid and annoying. This brought the grade down a bit.
I had originally gotten this book from the library, but I liked it enough to buy it. I’ve since read more books in the series, and the heroes/heroines are everyone involved in the sport, from owners and drivers to the PR people, pit crew, and other support staff. The books are well worth a read. The deal with NASCAR has the bedroom door firmly shut, so even though they are having sex, it’s behind closed doors.
*I posted a shorter version of this previously in AAR’s Recent Book Reviews thread*