Series: Goody's Goodies #2
Source: the author in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Challenges: COYER Summer Scavenger Hunt | Finishing the Series | NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge
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Blurb from goodreads:
As the punk-goth manager of Las Vegas’s premiere adult toy store, Kai Tyler changes her hair color, nail color, and eye color the way some people change socks. In fact, she’s even changed her name. She owes no one, depends on no one, and stopped believing in happily ever after before she reached the age of ten. All she really wants out of life is a few good gadgets and the occasional day of pampering once in a while.
Luke Clarke loves his family, but he has no desire to fulfill his parents’ dream by getting married and going into politics. So when he’s invited to his sister’s week-long wedding gala, he asks Kai along as a decoy. Having a date will squelch his mother’s matchmaking attempts and Kai’s outrageous appearance might—just might—convince his family once and for all that he’ll never have a career in politics.
But as stress, desire, and close quarters eat away at the masks both Luke and Kai wear, their easy arrangement begins to transform into something neither expected. Will they cling to the stable roles of the past, or bet on an uncertain future together?
I have a handful of authors who, no matter what they write, what genre they switch to, I will follow and read. I may not love everything but I consistently enjoy the books; Kelley Armstrong, Krista D Ball, Laura Anne Gilman, and now Laura K. Curtis. So far, she's published books in romantic suspense and contemporary romance but it's her contemporaries that have grabbed me. I love this series. So far, there are 2 full-length books and a short story which is only available to newsletter subscribers (disclosure: I did copy edits on the short story) and it's a fun, fresh series with a good mix of humor, family drama, and sexy times. And I can't help but think Curtis has had fun researching sex toys for the series. :D
Actually, one of the pluses for this story for me was how respectful Curtis is around the subject of sex stores. It would be easy to play it for laughs and not look seriously at the people who shop at sex stores and why they are there. Kai is the manager and a salesperson who is really quite good at reading customers and getting them to open up. She has a real knack and treats all of her customers with respect, even the teens who come in behaving like the juveniles that they are. She seems quite confident, fooling a great many people, including Luke. He also comes off as confident but is less so on the inside.
Kai and Luke just worked as a couple. They accepted each other, and with the exception of the inevitable big miscommunication towards the end of the story, they didn't judge each other. Although they just met prior to the wedding, they quickly come to understand each other, and know how to calm or relax the other one. There's an immediate attraction which they acknowledge and act on. Oh, and unlike so many contemporary romances, they actually discuss, before getting into bed together, STDs and pregnancy and who is using what and have they been tested. They actually behave like mature, responsible adults. Shocking, I know, but a refreshing change from most romances which either ignore the topics or gloss right over them in a rush to get to bed. It didn't slow the story down; it actually heightened their anticipation, and showed their individual characters quite well. Three cheers for Curtis!
I really enjoyed Kai and Luke, and even Luke's family. Okay, I didn't enjoy Luke's family but they were interesting and realistic. Georgie was a doll, cousin Gil was both funny and obnoxious, and Luke's mother really needs to be killed off in Curtis's next romantic suspense. Kai and Luke's problems are real, they're not perfect but they try to be good people, they're both smart, funny, and caring. I love that Kai holds her ground and doesn't let people get away with being rude or dissing her. Luke's mom is vain, pushy, arrogant, thoughtless, ruthless, and cares only about herself. Kai stands right up to her and in the process inspires Luke's sister, the bride at the wedding they are attending, to stand up to her also.
Luke's concern about his sister Georgie's wedding and whether she and her groom Brad were really right for each other did strike some false notes. He felt guilty for the years when he ignored her while growing up and now, certain that Brad is all wrong for her, Luke's determined to sit her down and talk to her, maybe talk her out of marrying Brad. He seems to think that this will somehow makeup for his misbehavior all those years ago. It was both sweet and obnoxious. I mean, Georgie is a grown, competent woman. It's really not his business who she marries or why and his reasoning for interfering just didn't quite ring true. He watches them like hawks, to see if they are really in love. He was annoying as only an older brother can be. Kai, despite her blunt ways, did better talking to Georgie, sounding her out about her feelings for Brad.
Luke and Kai were fun together, they generated some real heat, and Luke's assistance with a sexual, call it quirk, of Kai's (that's not exactly right but I don't want to give it away) was sweet and tender, and I loved that he didn't magically fix Kai. Neither one fixed the other. They're each broken in different ways but see the good in each other. They encourage each other, support each other, but they don't forget to have fun. The scene at the amusement park made me laugh, as did several other scenes. I can think of a few people I'd like to push into a pool. :D There are some serious topics addressed in the book - suicide, mental instability, child neglect, dysfunctional families, and firefighting - but it never felt like too much. The story moved along briskly and despite the short amount of time that Kai and Luke knew each other, I could believe how quickly they fell in love. Kai was used to keeping people at arm's length and it was cute at times, watching her deal, or not deal, with her emotions
"Gaming the System" was a sweet romance that delivered delightful characters, some serious themes wrapped in a layer of romance and redemption, and let's not forget the hot sex scenes. I stayed up until almost 2AM finishing this story, and even forgot to eat dinner. So, what are you waiting for? Go get a copy of this book!
About Laura ~
Laura K. Curtis does everything backwards. As a child, she was extremely serious, so now that she’s chronologically an adult, she feels perfectly justified in acting the fool. She started teaching at age fifteen, then decided to go back to school herself at thirty.
Laura has taught middle school social studies, high school literature, and college-level rhetoric, all with relative success. She’s also a full-on Mac geek who spent years as a consultant and running an academic computing lab. The only thing she completely failed at in the field of education was attempting to teach obedience to her pack of Irish Terriers. Currently, she lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and two insane Irish Terriers who have taught her how easily love can coincide with the desire to kill.
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