I’m beginning to appreciate the diversity of voices in Harlequin’s recent partnership with Cosmopolitan magazine‘s Red-Hot Reads ebooks. Tawny Weber, HelenKay Dimon and we all know how I think Lauren Dane’s Cake should win an award it was so awesome…this is quite the lineup of very different authors, all of them with a distinct readership. It’s a smart approach and I love smart.
Bacarr has a somewhat zany style in this 90 page novella, starting the book in media res with our heroine, Pepper, stretched naked on a sushi table at a high scale Japanese restaurant trying to get the attention of her former boss and horrified to see the man she had sex with in the copy room of her programming company taking a tuna roll off her thigh.
The scene quickly dissolves to take us back to the beginning of the adventure, focusing on Pepper the brainy computer programmer who loves her job but not her witch of an office manager. She drops back into work one night only to find a hot guy in the copy room who she thinks is the new person just hired. They end up having one steamy sex scene before Pepper accidentally triggers an alarm and her copy buddy makes his escape after having his orgasm but right before she has hers. Ouch.
This is frustrating in more than one way, particularly after her bitchy manager, who is perpetually jealous of the pretty, capable Pepper even though she wears thick glasses and oversized flannel shirts, is the one to discover her bare-assed and shaking with need attempting to tidy the room. When the paper scattered every which way is revealed to be the company owner’s tax returns, Pepper is instantly fired without a reference. Angry at both the lover who left her high and not dry as well as the situation, Pepper shifts into sleuth mode and tries to get back her job. What she finds is that the mystery guy carries handcuffs….for a living…and that things are way more complicated than even she could imagine.
I wasn’t initially sure that I liked the style of this book, with the way it jumped around a bit on the timeline, until I realized that it had the flavor of a more steamy Stephanie Plum novel, with Pepper’s antics reminding me of that level of screwball luck. Granted, Pepper is a talented computer hacker but her FBI agent love interest walks the edge of obnoxious before melting for Pepper’s charms. I liked the vulnerability built into her backstory when we find out why she didn’t go through the entire application process for law enforcement, and adored the denouement of the final take-down. Granted, this is the most unprofessional FBI unit ever, with the hero having sex on the job and his sexually manipulative boss content to flash cleavage and make remarks about the hero’s intimacy with Pepper, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. Despite the cover blurb, both the POV of the hero and the heroine are given.
Naked Sushi is priced a little high for a 90 page novella – at the $3 mark – and considering I can get a full-length category romance Harlequin book for this amount, I worry that the publisher’s decision is going to put people a little off purchasing it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novella very much and felt that Bacarr lived up to the sensual promise inherent in such a provocative title.
Happy reading! 🙂