If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. - Oscar Wilde
We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. - B. F. Skinner
No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. - Mary Wortley Montagu

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review & Excerpt: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich / @TastyBookTours @SEEvanovich

Title: The Sweet Spot
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Publisher: Avon (Reprint edition)
Release Date: September 29, 2015 (Mass Market Paperback)
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
ARC Received From & Reviewed For: Tasty Book Tours

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The amazing Stephanie Evanovich returns with The Sweet Spot, the sizzling story of everyone’s favorite couple from her New York Times bestseller Big Girl Panties: hunky professional baseball player Chase Walker and his sassy wife Amanda.

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punch-line. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

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I'm not sure where to begin with this story. While the synopsis is certainly intriguing, the story itself was...okay.

Chase and Amanda were interesting characters. Baseball didn't define Chase. Well, to me it didn't. It was his career, he had all the perks that came with it, but it wasn't really who he was. Most of the story, if I remember right, isn't him on the field but in Amanda's restaurant or somewhere with her. Not a bad thing, since I'm not a baseball fan at all, but this isn't a sports heavy book for those looking for that aspect. Chase was very much like Amanda: private. Given his celebrity status that should be hard to do but it is something many athletes, fiction and non, manage to accomplish. His one "quirk" was he believed correcting unladylike behavior with domestic discipline.

I'm all for spanking in books, but it needs to be done right for me to accept it. Not the act itself but the presenting of it. Most domestic discipline books I've read make it known the hero's (usually) preference for it. They state their expectations and/or rules and the consequences for not meeting them and/or disregarding them. This is a must for me. I don't just need to know this about the main character through internal dialogue, I need the main character to actually say it before engaging in it. Give your partner a chance to acknowledge the rules and boundaries, to make sure they understand what happens if they don't. It's a verbal agreement between consenting adults that is an absolute must for me to fully accept DD in a story, just like it's a must in a BDSM story. Asking for a spanking while in bed is something different. That's a need to get off sexually, an added stimulant to reaching your climax. But DD is another realm altogether. It can be a turn-on (at some point) but it doesn't begin as one. I'm not going to classify this as BDSM (some might disagree with me and I'm okay if you do) because domestic discipline is, for me, a means of not only correcting bad behavior but of also having the wrong doer acknowledge and accept their error(s).

Such is the case with Chase and Amanda. Amanda is a strong woman with a smart mouth and zero hesitation about cursing when she feels the urge to. The smart mouth isn't so much the problem with Chase. It's the cursing. It's unladylike. The first time he puts his hand to her ass, she is not only surprised but speechless. The man who is, in the public eye, perfect has this kinky side of him that is mind-blowing and overwhelming. Her first punishment resulted in acknowledgement of her behavior but it doesn't keep her from doing it again.

Their relationship progresses quickly in this story. Chase is relentless in his pursuit of her. She stubbornly refuses his advances. Rounding first base happened quickly. Getting to second and third followed in short order. Her desire for his firm hand grew over time, yes, but she saw it as a "flaw" in herself. Chase disagreed with her, saying their fun didn't have to be a flaw but something they both desired from one another. He would also give it to her if she asked, not only because she misbehaved.

One thing I didn't agree with was Amanda running away when video of her being spanked was leaked to the public. Everyone advised her to stay and face what was happening. Overwhelmed and humiliated, she left. In doing so, she abandoned Chase who she should have know that, by now, would always be by her side no matter what. Publicity was something he was used to. She was not, but she didn't have to go it alone. He had the knowledge, the know how, the what to do that would've gotten her through their little scandal. Jumping ship is never an option for me, especially when I have the support of someone who will stand with me to face my fear. Amanda had all of that in Chase. It was hard to believe she took the coward's way out without talking to him first.

I think if Chase and Amanda's interest in one another was given more than a quick gloss over this would've been a sold story for me. But the connection wasn't there. At times it felt like it was but those times ended up being blips on my radar. I needed more from them, not just sassiness and gruffness. I needed a deeper connection between them, something that would've made their relationship more realistic and acceptable for me.

The writing is good, the characters are okay. This is a hit-or-miss with me. It might be with others, it might not. I wouldn't let my review discourage you from trying it though. My belief is "To each his own" when it comes to books. I hope you take that approach if you give this one a try.

“Cold Creek Grill. How may I help you?” She answered the phone as if her day was right as rain. She was a business woman, first and foremost.
“I need a reservation for tonight,” a gravelly voice barked into the phone. The caller was either on a cell phone with a bad connection or had a mouth full of marbles.
“Of course sir, what time are you looking for?”
“Seven,” he said impatiently and Amanda pictured him running to catch a subway.
“Let me make sure I have that available,” she told him, trying to buy time while she booted up the computer at the podium a few feet away. She moved the phone to the other side of her head, forgetting it was a war zone and her hair crackled near her ear.
“Trust me, sweetheart, you have a table available.”
“Sir?” She didn’t know what to be more offended by, his use of the word sweetheart or the underlying threat that she better be able to seat him. And she determined he was just some arrogant blowhard who was sitting with his feet up on his desk overlooking the water and a fat stogy in his mouth.
“A superstar is having dinner at your restaurant; you don’t want to make him wait.”
“All of our guests at the Cold Creek are VIPs Mr…?”
“Maybe I should speak to the owner?” he cut her off and she thought she heard more spit squish out of the end of his cigar.
“I am the owner. My name is Amanda Cole. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”
“Don’t seat us someplace high traffic like near the front. He’s not there to be an advertisement. You’ll get your photo op.”
It sounded so scathing, like she was some sort of a bistro whore looking to make a buck, as if she would be interested in taking a picture with him in the first place. Supreme Court justices and past presidents dined at the Cold Creek without incident. “Mr. What-ever-your-name-is, I’m not only concerned for the comfort of our guests, but the safety of my staff. And we have had some high profile guests in the past. Several are regulars.”
“Yeah, yeah, I heard that. That’s why I’m calling. But lady, you never had anyone this big,” he said with an air of superiority that was nothing short of skin crawling. At least he had upgraded her to lady.
If he wasn’t being such a total jack-ass, she might have taken him more seriously. “Would you like to tell me who he is, so that I might inform security?” she said with overt sarcasm. He could either take being spoken to in kind, or he would start to ream her out and she would hang up on him and he could dine elsewhere, bad business or not.
There was a pause and she thought he may have hung up on her first. But then he said, “No. Better you don’t know till he gets there. Someone tips off TMZ and the night’s a bust. And he brings his own security.”
“Will they be joining you for dinner?”
His laugh was particularly smarmy. “They’re not paid to eat.”
So he wasn’t only rude, he was also a tyrant. “That’s fine, sir, they can stand guard with mine.” Only hers were imaginary. She no longer cared if the computer was ready. It was a Weds, they were rarely fully booked, and this man and his famous guest seemed intent on dining there. He was probably going to be more aggravation than anything else, even if he was only half as self-important as his representative. “You’re all set, dinner for two at seven. Would you like to leave me a name or is there a code word or what?”
There was another pause, and once again Amanda was given the false hope that he may have hung up and saved her from a night of inconvenient distractions at the very least. But then she heard him on the other end, it sounded like a snort.
“You’re spunky, kid,” he told her. “Name under Alan Shaw. I’ll be there at 6:50. I don’t like to wait either. And make sure there are good steaks on hand, he’s a meat-eater.”

Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey girl from Asbury Park who began writing fiction while waiting for her cues during countless community theater projects. She attended New York’s School of Film and Television and acted in several improvisational troupes and a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she ever had, raising her two sons. Now a full-time writer, she’s an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do.

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