Taking the Heat, by Victoria Dahl

takingtheheatTitle: Taking the Heat

Author: Dahl, Victoria (Author’s Website)

Genre: Contemporary romance

Bibliographic: HQN Books, 379 pages, Mass Market Paperback List Price $7.99, Audiobook List Price $27.99, ISBNs 9780373779703, 9781460384022

Publication Date: July 28, 2015

Rating: ★★★★☆/♥♥♡♡♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Racy humor, steamy, banter-filled, engaging

Why I picked it up: The sexy librarian stereotype really gets on my nerves sometimes, so it was nice to see a sexy male librarian.

S.I.A.S.: Gabe is only in town for a year, but his romance with Veronica may be more serious than he planned.

Summary: Veronica Chandler spent her entire adolescence dreaming of the day when she would leave Jackson, Wyoming, and move to New York City — only to find out that she hated New York City. After a few years, she turned tail and came home, relying on her wealthy father to help her land on her feet. He gave her an apartment to live in and found her a job as a writer for the local newspaper. So he became Dear Veronica, the local agony aunt. She disperses advice about all sorts of things and is extremely popular, but she feels like a fraud, largely because one of her mainstays is sex advice — and she is a twenty-six-year-old virgin.

Meanwhile, Gabe MacKenzie has just moved to town on a one-year contract with the local public library (he’s going to start an ebook lending program). He’s taking a year off from his responsibilities to live the life of his dreams — working on digital literacy, rock climbing on his days off, and enjoying the rural west. When he meets Veronica, he is prepared to dislike her immediately: she is too polished, to prepared, and too much like the girls he knew in New York, where he know’s he’ll have to return to take over his father’s business. The more time he spends with her, however, the more he comes to like her — but he’s not sure if he can keep things as casual as his imminent departure demands.

Evaluation: This book was surprisingly good; while I am a romance reader I generally strongly prefer historicals and this is set in the present — but I liked it anyway! The writing is sharp and funny, and the characters seem real. Veronica’s insecurities seem totally reasonable, and the more that is revealed about her adolescent experience the more her behaviors and decisions seem in line with her past. Her relationship with Gabe felt a little bit rushed, but that’s common in romance novels and it wasn’t out of line with the conventions of the genre here.

The best romance novels are funny and this one certainly is that, and I loved that the sexy librarian was a man. It was a refreshing take on a tired old trope. I also enjoyed the way he handled being the only man in a female-dominated workplace, since it firmly established him as much more sensitive to gender politics that some people would expect in a romance novel. The romantic scenes were fairly steamy and quite explicit, so this title might not work for readers who prefer a cleaner romance experience, but if language and graphic sex aren’t a deterrent than I would recommend this to just about any fan of romance (even people who think they only like one specific subgenre).

The one complaint I have about the book is its title — it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. One of the other books in the series features a fireman as its hero, and I suspect that this title is meant to compare favorably to that one. I might have tried to find a title that had something to do with rock climbing, perhaps, since Gabe’s teaching Veronica how to climb is a major plot point.

SignificanceThis is the third book in the Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series. It is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this one.

Readalikes: Always a Cowboy, by Linda Lael Miller. The Wanderer, by Robyn Carr. Chasing Perfect, by Susan Mallery.

Discussion Questions:

  1. At the beginning of the novel, Veronica feels like an impostor for dispensing relationship advice despite never having had sex. Is she right or wrong? How important is personal experience for the type of advice she gives?
  2. Why does Gabe feel so pressured to return to New York and take over the family business? Why does is his father so desperate to keep the restaurants in the family?
  3. What did you think of Veronica’s rules? What rules would you make for your own life?
  4. How does Veronica’s relationship with her father impact the rest of her relationships in the book? Did the scene where she confronts him seem realistic to you? How do you think their relationship might change in the future?
  5. Do you think that Veronica handled the letters from the suicidal teen well? Why might someone considering suicide consult an advice columnist?

Lists and Awards: The Reading List (RUSA): 2016.

Professional Reviews:  Publishers Weekly.

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