Series: Jackson: Girls Night Out #2
Published by HQN Books on July 28th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Barnes & Noble
Passion this hot can't be faked… All revved up for bright lights and steamy nights, writer Veronica Chandler chased her dreams to New York City. When she hit a dead end, reality sent her back home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Saving her pride and her new gig—writing a relationship advice column!—requires some faking. No one can know the truth about her big-city flop or her nonexistent sex life. But the town's irresistibly rugged librarian is determined to figure her out… and give her hands-on lessons in every wicked thing she wants to know. Gabe MacKenzie's heart might be in Wyoming, but secretly his future's tied up in his family's Manhattan legacy. Getting down and dirty with Veronica is supposed to give him a few memorable nights—not complicate his plans. But the thing about heat this scorching is there's just no going back… and it might be too hot for either of them to take.
I was going to make this entire post nothing but heart emojis, but I figured I’d go a little deeper than that.
Oh, man. This book was so good. I said in my last post how tired I am of the virgin heroine, then picked this one up, knowing Victoria Dahl has never done a virgin heroine and I’d be safe. Then I met Veronica Chandler.
Veronica Chandler followed her post-college dreams to New York City, hated it, and now she’s back home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She writes the Dear Veronica advice column for the local paper, usually giving advice on relationships and sex, occasionally weightier matters if they come up. When we first meet her, she’s absolutely terrified someone is going to find out her secret, namely that she makes a living giving advice on sex and relationships, but has had very few relationships, and zero sex.
Gabe MacKenzie is new to Jackson Hole. He’s the new librarian, transplanted from the public library system in Cincinnati, and can’t wait to spend the next year doing exactly what he wants. He has family responsibilities waiting for him back in NYC, so his contract with the library is only that long. Then he meets Veronica.
One thing I loved about this book (and I’m going to stop using that phrase because I would just use it over and over) is that when Veronica and Gabe first meet, sparks do not fly. They both think “Yum”, but there’s no sizzling skin or sudden flaring of heat. They’re not unattracted to the other, but they’re introduced using their common experience in New York as an ice breaker, and neither of them is interested in dating what they consider to be a New Yorker and all the stereotypes that go along with that. Gabe’s initial incorrect impression of Veronica is helped along by the fact that Veronica is already dressed for her evening, and is trying to hide the fact her exhausted, bloodshot eyes behind huge sunglasses in the middle of the library.
She’s tired and nervous because, despite an almost crippling case of stage fright, she’s agreed to do a live reading of her advice column. It’s set up for Thursday night in a bar – she’ll read questions audience members have written down and answer them there. She downs a few drinks to loosen herself up and goes out there on that stage and owns it. She’s fantastic. Her advice is great without being preachy, it’s irreverent while being totally true, and everyone loves her. Obviously, her boss and the bar want to make this a weekly event.
There are men out there who will put their penises in a tree. There are men out there who will put their penises in a sheep. You do not need to feel flattered that a man wants to put his penis inside you.
And Gabe. Oh, sweet, delicious, bearded Gabe. As a woman very happily married to a non-lumberjack, non-hipster bearded dude, I can tell you without hesitation that there are not enough of them in romance novels. Gabe was so perfect for Veronica. Not perfect. Just perfect for her. He could not have cared less that she was a virgin. It didn’t scare him off, nor did it make him swell up in manly pride. Everyone should have a Gabe for their first time. He was so kind to her, funny, direct, and so, so sexy.
And the sex. Good lord, the sex. Victoria Dahl writes some of the hottest sex in contemporary romance. First of all, Veronica was a virgin because Veronica was a virgin. There was no past trauma anyone had to overcome, there was no deep-seated hatred of herself. It happened the same way it happened for millions of other people. She didn’t have a ton of friends in high school, mainly because her more popular step-brother was such a shit to her, and when she got to college, it became a “THING”. Since she’d waited so long, she wanted it to be right and special. Then college ended and she hadn’t found that guy yet. Then she went to New York by herself, and being somewhat shy had a difficult time meeting someone. Then she moved back to Jackson Hole, and here she is. It’s just a thing about her, not THE thing about her.
And when she and Gabe finally have sex, it so, so good. It’s so good because it’s so real. Veronica may be a virgin, but that doesn’t mean she’s never done anything. At one point, she tells Gabe that he doesn’t have to worry about her hymen because she owns a vibrator and knows how to use it. She knows some things she likes, but she doesn’t just turn into this amazing porn-star sex goddess the minute her clothes come off. She asks Gabe questions and he answers her. He gives her direction and tips, which she tries. He tells her exactly what he likes. She’s willing to do all of it, she just wants to know that she’s doing it right and that he enjoys it. And, yes, she has an orgasm her first time out, which most women don’t, but it was believable because of the aforementioned vibrators. And even though she’s had orgasms before, and she knows what to expect, she still gets all up in her own head about it and has to stop and reset herself. Which women do sometimes. Our orgasms are much more tied to our emotions and our brains than men’s are. Usually.
This was definitely Veronica’s story. In the beginning she let very few people see who she really was. She refers to her clothes and makeup as a costume more than once. It was so great to see her take everything she learned about herself from her relationship with Gabe and use it come out of her shell. She helps a bullied teenager, stands up to her father, and branches out to try new things. I loved it. Gabe changed some, too, but he didn’t have as far to go. He took a hard look at his family obligations and made some tough decisions about how much he was willing to sacrifice for those obligations, and how he wanted to live his life.
Veronica and Gabe were one of my all-time favorite couples. They just had so much fun together. In the bedroom and out of it. I can’t remember a contemporary couple who spent so much time just being together and laughing together. So many authors skip that part, going straight from meet-cute to first sex to BIG MISUNDERSTANDING to groveling. Very few of the couples have genuinely fun dates and a lot of lovely buildup to the rest of it. I just loved this book. It was exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. I’m so happy I bought it instead of borrowing it from the library (sorry, Gabe), because I’m going to read this one over and over. I haven’t read everything by Victoria Dahl yet, but I’m slowly making my way through her backlist. Slowly because I’m going to be so sad when I’ve read them all and have to wait for new ones. And I’m not going to demand new ones from her, but I’ll probably stalk her on social media waiting for news of them.
Oh! One side note. There’s not a ton of space devoted to Gabe’s experiences in the main branch of the Cincinnati library, but as someone born and raised in Cincinnati, and still living there, everything he did say about it rang true. It is shocking and horrifying how often the librarians at that branch have to call social services for some of the homeless people there. (Shocking and horrifying from a societal POV, not from a “gross, homeless people” POV) There’s so much homelessness in that area, and the library genuinely wants to and tries to help. They do everything they can, but it’s nowhere near enough. And it’s a fantastic library. Several times it has been the busiest central library in the entire country. So often in books and other media, Cincinnati is a throw away city, used to denote uneducated, Bible-thumping, right-wing farmers. It’s so clear that those authors have done zero research and know nothing of this city. I’m not suggesting Victoria Dahl moved here for a year to check out our libraries, but she clearly did some research. Also, if Victoria Dahl ever reads this and decides to do exactly that, I will insist on buying her many glasses of wine and being her new best friend. At one of the many fabulous wine bars this city has to offer.
If you’re in the area, and you’re interested in trying to help, cincihomeless.org has a list of shelters and volunteer/donation options.