I won Flat-Out Sexy in a giveaway on the Dear Author review site as part of their ongoing "Save the Contemporary" campaign. For those of you outside the romance novel reading community the straight contemporary romance (a romance, that is, sans sexy spies, sans serial killers, sans vampires, sans everything but the main couple falling in love) is trembling on the abyss right now. Supposedly falling in popularity. Both Dear Author and the Smart Bitches decided to pimp this book as a contemporary done right.
Flat-Out Sexy is about an older widow, Tamara Briggs, falling in love with a younger man, Elec Monroe. The story is set against the background of modern stock car racing. Tamara and Elec are part of feuding racing dynasties. Elec is a rookie driver and Tamara is the widow of a famous driver, still involved in the racing world after his death because of her in-laws and her two children.
There are a lot of good things about this book. Both main characters are likeable and realistically portrayed. Elec is 25 and he reads as a mature 25 year old, as opposed to a thirty five year old masquerading as a 25 year old. I appreciated he didn't have all his shit together and yet the author didn't resort to cheap tricks to get across his youth. He likes kids, he seriously thinks about the consequences of getting involved with a woman with two young children. His feelings for Tamara are beliveable and well-written.
One of my big problems with this book was all the sex, though. Once they meet I think Tamara and Elec have sex at least once every chapter. The first three chapters are basically one long sex scene devoted to their almost one-night stand. I felt like their emotional journey together got short-changed in favor of lots of graphic boinking. There was also WAY more oral sex then I needed to read about (and I'm sorry but a woman is not going to swallow when she just met the guy YESTERDAY). I'm used to books by Jennifer Crusie where there are two to three sex scenes per book, not two or three per chapter. Contrary to popular belief, I read romance novels for the falling in love parts, not the sexxoring.
I enjoyed McCarthy's voice overall but her writing, though easy-going and natural, seemed a little repetitive at times. Certain scenes had Tamara saying "tacky" every other word. "This feels so tacky." "I can't believe I did something so tacky", etc, etc. Get over it woman! Find a new way to express yourself. And, while I'm sure it was very gratifying to Tamara that Elec thought she was so "sexy" and "classy" I got sick of reading that refrain over and over everytime her saw her.
I also hated the blatant sequel baiting with the Imogen character. I miss the days where authors would content themselves with simply introducing the characters for the next book and not worrying about setting up their conflict. In this book there's an awkward scene introducing the two characters that I can only assume are the leads for the next book. It was really jarring and out of place. I felt like I was reading another book for those two pages. And I HATED that the wedding epilogue was told from Imogen's POV. Dude, wtf? Make the chick wait for her own book instead of shoving her into this one where she doesn't belong. It was also frustrating to have so much stuff dealing with a secondary romance between Tamara's best friend Suzanne and her ex, Ryder, and then see no resolution to their problems in this book.
Overall this book was a relatively enjoyable, quick read, but nothing so memorable or enchanting I think I'll need to read it again OR the next book in the series with Imogen.