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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sex, Lies and Valentines by Tawny Weber

Sex, Lies and Valentines by Tawny Weber
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (216 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Con artist Gabriel Black just got busted. By a babe. Drool-worthy (and clearly sneaky) FBI agent Danita Cruz is forcing Gabriel to choose between hard time and scamming his own family for an undercover sting. Now he has to present Danita to his family as his girlfriend. And it's the perfect opportunity to get wickedly even with her….

But Danita has some tricks of her own, and Gabriel's control begins slipping away as raw sexual energy takes over. Their sham relationship starts feeling a lot like…well, the real deal. The Big Question is, will overwhelming desire be enough to make a liar go legit?

I love it when a plot comes together, and a scheme, a double-cross and two people adept at lying so well they’re not sure if they’re really in love or not. Sound confusing? It’s actually quite exciting if a reader has been following this three book trilogy from the creative mind of Ms. Tawny Weber.

I think readers might be able to enjoy this tale as a standalone read, but I wouldn’t advise it. My advice is to read the previous two, solely for the reason of ensuring pure and complete enjoyment. There are so many undercurrents in this story that can only be understood by reading what came before.

In this final installment, Caleb and Pandora finally get married. The reason why it’s so great and why the decorations are so wacky and kind of naughty is explained in the first book of the series,Sex, Lies and Mistletoe. There is also the fact that the overall story arc of Tobias Black’s being framed and the progression it takes through the storytelling finally comes to fruition. Adding to the suspense are the clues the author left here and there during the telling of the previous two books, making me hedge toward recommending readers check out Gabriel’s siblings’ previous stories. Because, you see, I figured it out. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure but I did a fist pump in the air when my hunch was proved correct. It was tough waiting and wading through three books before the scheme and plot was finally resolved--I wanted to jump to the end. It was well worth the wait.

Gabriel certainly is a charmer. He’s the youngest of the siblings and the hardest one to heal. Turns out, he’s had feelings of inadequacy for most of his life. He wanted to be what he felt the others expected him to be, but failed. He loved his family, he really did, but it was all mixed up in his mind and he left. What I liked about this book was, at the end, the little boy who grew up into a man with hidden emotional issues got to hear the words that he always wanted to hear, but at a time and with words that completely flummoxed him. It was one of the most emotional parts of the book.

Danita is a complicated character and an efficient liar. She works for the FBI, so lying falls under the category of ‘being undercover’. That means it’s okay, right? Wrong. And she finds out just how wrong that thinking is when her own philosophy comes back to bite her. The heroine also has her own emotional baggage to deal with. Although Cassiopeia, Pandora’s mom, tries to do a reading, I really didn’t need to know those things that the cards revealed. Maybe the heroine was being given a heads up but when a person is in denial, nothing is going to make a difference. Besides, being in both Danita and Gabriel’s heads gave me all the information I needed to know that these two lost souls are perfect for each other – if they don’t glare each other to death first.

Ms. Weber usually has a cheeky sense of humor but in Sex, Lies and Valentines, it’s toned down. It’s probably in deference to the tenor of the book and that would make sense to me. Trying to clear your dad of wrong doing is serious stuff and the author translates that sense of drama, suspense and trepidation clearly to a reader. The stakes are the highest they’ve been, especially when a real criminal element ends up coming to town.

The story isn’t depressing or overly stressful but just in case, Ms. Weber added Pippi. That was adorable, endearing and allowed a reader to see into the heart of each character. I agree with Gabriel; Danita would make a wonderful mother.

This wouldn’t be a Harlequin Blaze without some spice and serious ‘up-against-the-wall’ passion and the author did not disappoint. I enjoyed every scene because for some reason, they never went the way either character thought it should. Because the sheet action was occurring during a stressful situation while at the same time the hero and heroine are trying to learn about each other, there weren’t any cute cotton candy endings. It was oftentimes a messy and emotional tennis match where they experienced highs, lows and even some furious hisses between them. Basically, I had a ball watching them fall in love while denying it as long as they could. I mean, they are just so wrong for each other, right? I’m laughing.

The villain was not a surprise to me. What was interesting was the response. When finally confronted at the emotional climactic ending, the criminal mastermind actually responded with high dudgeon! Like they were perfectly justified in their behavior and it was for the good of all that it was done. What a deluded nutcase. Thing is, I actually felt bad for the villain. To be that consumed by hate, disillusionment and a twisted sense of justice, now that I know who it is, is a tragic state of affairs. But to go that far and to have no compunction at going to the lengths that were gone to was truly psychotic. The author wrote a wonderful villain.

And I want to go on record as stating, Hunter is sexy. I want his story and I want him to fall on his smug derrière in head-over-heels love. In this series, he is so controlled and focused. I know there’s a rebel couched inside just waiting to explode. If Ms. Weber is so inclined, I guarantee the book would be an auto-buy for me. Just reading the little tidbits in all three books have whetted my appetite to know more. I dare any reader to be immune to the possibilities after watching him in action. Yum.

Another thing to be aware of--even though the word "Valentines" is in the title, this isn’t a holiday story. Caleb and Pandora’s wedding just happens to be on the date. This tale is about Gabriel and Danita and there’s nothing “hearts and candy” about it. This is a mystery getting solved.

Sex, Lies and Valentines completes this exciting trilogy to perfection. I adored the chemistry between Danita and Gabriel and enjoyed the see-saw action of their relationship. I thought the writing was well done, the dialogue intriguing and clever, and the secondary characters a delight. The only thing I found funny that is not actually funny was the author’s use of one phrase twice practically verbatim. Did she know she did that? It fit both times because certainly Gabriel tried Danita’s patience until it cracked. I thought it was cute that he found her so alluring when she lost her temper. Anyway, I think it’s a great quiz question.

I had an absolute ball reading this book. Now that all three installments are out, I can’t wait to re-read them and catch all the other nuances the author must have put in there for me to catch. This was a fun series, thoroughly entertaining and full of heart. The best thing was the satisfied daddy at the end. Love of family is powerful and Ms. Weber captured its very essence. That’s romance.