Published April 1, 2008
NOTE: Sex, Straight Up was read and reviewed for my FEBRUARY Contemporary Reading Challenge hosted by Brie at Musings of a Bibliophile AND my FEBRUARY Year of the Category Romance Challenge hosted by Kmont at Lurv a la Mode. I realize it is March 1 by the time this review is posted on my blog, but well... at least it's still February somewhere. ;)
Sex, Straight Up is the second book in the Harlequin Blaze trilogy titled "Those Sexy O'Sullivans" by Kathleen O'Reilly. Each of the three books revolve around one of the three O'Sullivan brothers who co-own the famous Manhattan bar called Prime. Sex, Straight Up is the love story of the oldest brother, Daniel O'Sullivan and a fine arts dealer named Catherine Montefiore. Daniel's beloved wife of five short months was killed in the 9/11 tragedy that felled the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Seven years later, Daniel still loves his wife very much remains faithful to her in mind and body, and in fact, still wears his wedding ring to prove it. In an effort to get their brother to relax, have some fun, and maybe hook up with a woman, Gabe and Sean convince Daniel to spend a long weekend in the Hamptons at a beach house occupied by several of Sean's single lawyer friends and an equal number of single female friends--without his wedding ring. Daniel acquiesces only to make his brothers happy, but still finds the whole party scene at the beach house very uncomfortable and ends up spending his time sitting on the vacant beach of the house next door.
Catherine Montefiore is staying at her grandfather's beach house for a quiet weekend away from the stresses of living and working in the city. A quiet, single woman who is comfortable being by herself, Catherine loves art and is always looking for inspiration for her sketchbook. She notices Daniel sitting on her beach and is instantly inspired by his handsome, sexy good looks, and even more so by the deep set of emotions that play across his face, so she spends the morning sketching him. Eventually they start talking and find that they're both really comfortable with the other's company. When Catherine offers for Daniel to stay in one of the spare bedrooms in her house to save him from the party house next door that he is so obviously uncomfortable with, he accepts. At the end of their evening together, Catherine spontaneously kisses Daniel goodnight, which sets off desires that have long lay dormant in both of them. They spend the rest of the weekend together having great, passionate sex and amazing conversation. At the end of the weekend, just as Daniel is ready to leave, Catherine spots his wedding ring on his duffle bag. Daniel makes a less than half hearted attempt to explain, and they abruptly and coldly say their good byes, Catherine disgusted with herself for having an affair with a married man.
Upon returning to the City, Catherine's family business is faced with a public scandal that could destroy the Montefiore auction house. Catherine's grandfather hires a private accountant who specializes in audits in order to save the business, who turns out to be none other than Daniel O'Sullivan. Daniel explains to Catherine that he is widowed, but she knows better than to compete with his deceased wife for his love, so tries to keep their relationship business only. However, as Catherine and Daniel team up to prove that the Montefiore Auction house was not involved in collusion with another auction house, they find it impossible to resist and indulge in a passionate affair once again. An affair that starts out as Sex, Straight Up, but ends up as so much more. So much more like Love, Happily Ever After.
Sex, Straight Up is yet another great installment in this fun, sexy, and romantic trilogy. Another relatively short novel, yet impressively packed with an interesting story line and fantastic character and relationship development that is realistic, emotional, and truly compelling.
The nature of this love story made for a fairly complicated emotional journey for Daniel O'Sullivan. He still loves his deceased wife, and knows he always will love her, but he also acknowledges that time has been telling him he's ready to move on. Throughout the pages of the story, Daniel's struggle to figure out how exactly to do just that is emotional and also beautiful. Once he and Catherine begin their affair the second time around, he's honest with Catherine and really does try to do the right thing. One can't help but empathize with him and admire him for his efforts.
At the same time that Daniel struggles with trying to let go of his past and start to move on, Catherine struggles with maintaining realistic expectations of her relationship with Daniel. She knows she's falling in love with Daniel, but knows it wouldn't be wise to just give her heart up to him. She wants to, though, because when she's with him, everything feels easy and right. And yet, when it does start to show that he loves her, too, she doesn't just cave into that without thinking. She's smart and knows Daniel isn't just going to get over his wife after a few nights or weeks of great sex and conversation. So she's cautious. And what's great about that is that while she's protecting herself from heartache, she's also helping Daniel figure out exactly what he needs, too. He is the one who has to figure himself out and when he does figure it out, he's the one who has to make it happen between them.
Sex, Straight Up is a really beautiful romance that is both passionate and tender. Both characters do a lot of soul searching as they try to figure out what they want from the other person and what is a realistic and fair expectation. Their actions are realistic and purposeful, even when it's just about the sex. When love comes into play, this couple share some very tender and romantic moments that had such depth of emotion and truth. You couldn't help but believe their love was true and meant to be.
Sex, Straight Up is difficult to find available for purchase new in paperback. Your best bet would be to purchase it either through a used book dealer or to buy the ebook version available at eharlequin HERE.
You can visit Kathleen O'Reilly at http://kathleenoreilly.com/ where you can even read the first two chapters of Sex, Straight Up.