Series: The Hurley Brothers #1
Published by Harlequin HQN on August 26th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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She has complete control… and he's determined to take it away A librarian in the small town of Hood River, Natalie Clayton's world is very nearly perfect. After a turbulent childhood and her once-wild ways, life is now under control. But trouble has a way of turning up unexpectedly—especially in the tall, charismatically sexy form of Paddy Hurley…. And Paddy is the kind of trouble that Natalie has a taste for. Even after years of the rock and roll lifestyle, Paddy never forgot the two wickedly hot weeks he once shared with Natalie. Now he wants more… even if it means tempting Natalie and her iron-grip control. But there's a fine line between well-behaved and misbehaved—and the only compromise is between the sheets!
So – I hate shopping. I do as much of it as possible online in order to avoid as much human interaction as I can. This is relevant because thanks to this book and my weird compulsion to read an entire series in the format I started in, I’m going to have to go to an actual store and buy the next two books in this series so that I can have them in paperback immediately. And I simultaneously hate and love Lauren Dane for that.
Natalie and Paddy had a two-week fling a little over ten years ago. Paddy’s band was just starting out, and their tour stopped in her small town to play some dive bars. The two weeks were hot and sweaty and passionate and then over, exactly the way they had set out to make them. While neither of them ever really forgot the other, they didn’t spend the next decade pining for each other. In fact, it took Paddy a minute to come up with her name when they ran into each other again in a local coffee shop. Natalie has moved on, doing her best to leave her wild ways in the past where they belong. She’s gone to college, cleaned up her act, and settled herself in Hood River, Oregon. She has a trust fund, a house she adores, a roommate she loves and a job as a librarian that is exactly what she wants to be doing. Since she doesn’t have to worry about money, she spends a lot of her time volunteering for causes she cares about. Her life is great, if a little lonely. She would like to find a man who’s interested in a quiet, stable life, too. Paddy is not that man. Well, he is, more than she thinks he is, but less than she would like. She has no interest in reliving the past, no matter how hot it was, and she has no interest in Paddy and what she assumes are his still-wild ways.
Paddy and his brothers finished their tour of the dive bars and went on to become one of the biggest bands in the country. All four of the brothers took full advantage of the lifestyle, living it up for years. Booze, drugs, women, travel – they had a great time. But now they’re all at or right around thirty, and they’re growing out of that lifestyle. The oldest brother, Ezra, got a little too into the drugs part of it, and watching him go through his addiction and then watching and helping him kick the drugs forced them all to grow up. Another of the brothers is married, and they’re all just getting older and more interested in settling down. It happens. Paddy’s life does still involve a lot of travel, a lot of groupies, and some craziness, especially around album release time. Natalie’s not down for any of that.
His voice was caramel and a little bit of smoke. His eyes went half-lidded as he began to sing about skin and curves. Of eyes as blue as the summer sky and hands and shoulders that held the weight of everyone’s sins.
But she can’t deny the chemistry they share. No matter how hard she tries to deny it to herself, her friends, or Paddy himself. Even after all this time, it hasn’t abated. He has to pursue her for a while, but he eventually convinces her to at least go to dinner with him. And once he convinces her to go out with him once, they’re pretty much set. I was actually surprised at how quickly they got together. There was still a lot of book left. But this book really focused on the actual mechanics of a relationship. I loved it. Most romance novels are a very condensed view of a relationship. Most take place in a very short amount of time and everyone falls in love really fast. I’ve seen some people say that this book dragged in the middle because of all the day to day stuff, but I loved that. Natalie and Paddy, even though they knew each other a long time ago, really didn’t know each other at all. Most of those two weeks were spent in a booze- and sex-filled haze, and then he was gone. I loved watching them get to know each other and learn to navigate each other’s issues and hot buttons.
And Natalie has a lot of hot buttons. She grew up with a father who was an addict, and because of that she really can’t deal with loss of control. Either in herself or other people. The one time she sees Paddy drunk, she immediately breaks up with him and runs, despite the fact that he really wasn’t doing anything. He was with his brother and sister-in-law at a wine tasting and had a little too much. It takes a few days, but he eventually convinces her to see him again. During those two days, Natalie spent time with her roommate and other friends in a nearby city, who know all of her issues and understand where they come from, and also understand that she’s in love with Paddy, and talk to her like she’s an adult. They remind her that she can’t be angry with Paddy for breaking one of her rules that he didn’t even know about. They understand why Natalie can’t be around people who are out of their own control in that way, but Paddy doesn’t, and it’s not fair for her to fault him for it. She goes home, calls him and sits him down and talks to him about it.
If you’re looking for an easy woman, you’re with the wrong one. This isn’t a problem that’s ever really going away, so we just have to figure a way to deal with it.
This sets up how the rest of the relationship goes, and I loved it. Paddy and Natalie realize that they both have their hot button issues, and they’re smart enough to know that the other person isn’t psychic. They need to sit and talk them through for everyone to understand. Natalie needs herself and the people around her to be in control of themselves in order to feel safe. And she needs to be able to count on them to fulfill their promises and do what they say they’ll do. Paddy doesn’t have as many internal issues, but he needs Natalie to understand that he and his band are still touring and writing music. And when they’re actively writing an album, he’s not around as much. He and his brothers are holed up in their studio writing, fixing, playing, and fighting, and it has nothing to do with his feelings for her. She also has to be ok knowing that they do have groupies, and he can’t change that, nor can he change what he did with those groupies in the past, but she has to trust that he’s not the same guy and he’s not going to cheat on her. Natalie has absolutely no problem with that when she and Paddy are out and about, in fact, she’s fantastic the few times they run into some of the groupies together, but it hits her a little differently when they go out on tour and he’s gone for months at a time.
Almost everything about this book struck me as so real. Natalie and Paddy are two people who are learning to navigate new waters. And like real people do, they had their blow ups and their fights, then they talked things out and explained themselves. Then they tried very hard not to make the same mistake again. And sometimes they still did. Fortunately, they had an amazing cast of secondary characters there to help them out. Paddy’s family and Natalie’s friends had no problem keeping them in line and telling them when they’re screwing up. They do their best to keep Natalie and Paddy sane and reasonable; they don’t feed into their insecurities. Their friends and family know how smart and strong they are, and they do their best to be sure Natalie and Paddy don’t forget it. About themselves or the other person. I cannot wait to read the next two books and see these people again. I think Tuesday and Ezra are going to be scorching together.
The one thing about this that didn’t really strike me as quite as realistic as the rest was the final fight Natalie and Paddy had. They had been doing such a great job with each other, talking their issues out and working so hard to be sure the other always knew that they came first, that it sort of came out of nowhere and didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I know that Paddy wants people to see him as dependable now, when he certainly wasn’t for a very long time, but I’m still not really clear on what Natalie did that called that into question. But sometimes that’s how it goes when someone pushes a button. It doesn’t always make sense, sometimes not even to the person who’s upset, but they are upset and you both have to deal with it. And Natalie said all the stuff to him I wanted her to say, so maybe that was part of the point.
But even that didn’t diminish my love of this book. The sex was great and plentiful and real as well. They both really like sex and aren’t ashamed of it or willing to settle for less than they want. They both take charge in the bedroom and they both relinquish control and it was wonderful and hot and sexy.
This is the first book I’ve read by Lauren Dane, and I cannot wait to get into her backlist. After I finish this trilogy. Because I can’t wait to see how hot Ezra and Tuesday are, and I have to assume Vaughan is going to at least try to get his ex back. And I want Paddy’s parents to adopt me. Apparently this trilogy is a spinoff of another series where Damien and Mary got together, which is in turn a spinoff of a series, so obviously, I have no choice but to just start at the beginning of Dane’s career and go all the way through. Which I highly recommend everyone do if you haven’t already.