One great book is a delight but two in a row constitutes an author I can trust. Diane Alberts‘ Take a Chance series delighted me with her first novel, Try Me, (which I devoured last summer) but she’s proven herself an author to be reckoned with after this month’s release of the second in that series, Love Me.
In glancing at the cover, it’s not hard to see what drew me! Entangled Publishing could give the fuddy-duddy Big Six publishers lessons in how to produce contemporary romance covers that have depth and appeal – and look like they are from this century. This one conveys a great deal about the hero, with not only his military background clearly indicated by the dog tags and bullets, but the tattoos indicating a tough background (do you love the title at the top and the author name at the waist? It’s genius.) and the heart on his pec helping us realize that there’s a chance for a happily ever after. The bare chest and sculpted abs also successfully transmit that this is a book with a high sensuality rating, or in common parlance, Mmmmrrrooowwwww.
Jeremy has had a pretty crappy R&R in his hometown of Las Vegas. He hadn’t even enjoyed his first sip of beer before some asshole sailor took offense that Jeremy was a Marine and a colossal fistfight ensued. He’s not sure how, but he’s now wandering the Mars landscape of a desert, beaten and dehydrated. When a lone car screeches to a halt, knocking him on his butt, he’s wondering if his life can get any worse, and it does. The professionally dressed beauty asking him if he’s okay is none other than Erica, who he’s been in love with since he first saw her in the first grade.
He hasn’t seen her for seven years, not since the day her brother Tommy – who happened to be Jeremy’s best friend – accused him of sleeping with his wife. Jeremy might actually have been the only man Nicole didn’t sleep with, but the colossal hurt of his best friend turning on him sent him straight to the bottle. Drunk and wounded by the accusation, he turned up on Erica’s doorstep to drunkenly profess his long-standing love for her. Rather than answer she just ran away and Jeremy in turn ran into the arms of the Marines, having lost the two people who meant everything to him.
Erica cannot believe it’s Jeremy she just rescued – gorgeous, kind Jeremy who she’s been in love with forever. She knows that her brother should have realized Jeremy would never have slept with his bitch of a wife and she also knows that she should have had the backbone to put up a protest, particularly after Jeremy told her he loved her. Now that Jeremy is here, he’s just as tempting as ever but Erica knows she can’t have him. She’s harboring a secret that puts him off limits to her, although her body hasn’t gotten the memo.
Because they both know one another already, this romance has serious backbone and progresses rapidly as Jeremy and Erica both succumb to the heat that has always been between them. There is no way to not love the persistent, loyal Jeremy who can’t seem to stop himself from hoping where Erica is concerned. The dialogue is outstanding, conveying a playfulness between the couple that speaks to their longstanding relationship as friends, and while there isn’t a lot of sex since they are both working through their issues and emotions, sexual tension abounds and the sex scene at the end is worth waiting for, as is the wonderful epilogue chapter.
We also get a good glimpse of the happy, settled couple in the series sequel, the recently released Love Me. That’s a good thing, because Love Me doesn’t lack emotional turmoil. Erica’s brother Thomas, again in Vegas for work, feels tremendous pressure to land the casino near the airport to cinch his position in his marketing company. He’s blown away when the blond 50s pin-up businesswoman he runs into turns out to be the contact he’s there to woo, and he wants a lot more than Brianna’s business. They are both aware they are crossing a professional line, but after against the wall sex in his hotel room and then over the desk in her office, it’s a moot point.
Yet Thomas has colossal baggage from the cheating, manipulative wife he divorced eight years ago, baggage which leads him to lash out with horrible accusations at Brianna. She’s also desperate to push him away since her feelings for him are overwhelming, yet his two week assignment hardly offers a chance for something more permanent, even if he did want to take on a widow with three children.
Thomas has an unattractive shell that he has donned for years to work which I initially found very off-putting. Fortunately, Alberts’ excellent writing from his POV reveals not only his conflict with realizing he wants more than a fling from Brianna, but also his tremendous determination in the face of her running hot and cold. Brianna was harder to care for initially. It’s easy to empathize with her feelings of guilt and protectiveness toward her children, but her vacillation in the face of Thomas’ pursuit was frustrating, even while you understood her perspective. The outstanding writing of the children in this story gave the plot enormous depth, and one of Alberts’ strength as a writer is her unwillingness to gloss over real issues a burgeoning couple would face. An amazing resolution and tear-jerking epilogue cinches this novella’s keeper status in my Kindle.
Interestingly, Love Me is over twice as along as its predecessor, clocking in at an estimated 134 pages, versus 65 pages for Try Me. Yet both stories pack an emotional punch so strong that you’d swear after finishing them that you just put down a 250 page stand alone novel. There aren’t any details up yet for the third book in the Take a Chance series, but it does have a title, Play Me, and an expected publication date in 2013, so fingers crossed we get to see it soon. In the meantime, I’m going to be exploring Diane Alberts’ other books, since this is a writer who has certainly proved her worth when it comes to my allotted book dollars.