ARC Review: Too Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoohottohandle
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #1
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Jasper Ellis
Heroine: Rita Clarkson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 17, 2016
Started On: May 06, 2016
Finished On: May 08, 2016

28 year old Rita Clarkson manages to get her siblings Aaron, Belmont and Peggy to agree to go on a road trip on the quest to fulfill the dying wish of their recently deceased mother Miriam, who had been a well renowned chef, a legacy that Rita had managed to burn down to the ground.

Though the siblings had never been close, everyone agrees to go along and that is how they end up with their car broken down in the town of Hurley in New Mexico. To their rescue rides the most handsome man that Rita might have ever laid her eyes on, 33 year old Jasper Ellis, who from the very beginning makes her heart go pitter-patter.

Labeled as the town tramp, Jasper has good reason to not want to go physical the minute he lays eyes on Rita. While Jasper has no qualms about letting Rita know that he is attracted to her and wants to know her in every possible way there is, Rita is the type of woman who does not believe in happily ever afters and does not think much of the concept of dating.

However, Rita is forced to revise her initial assumptions and beliefs when it comes to dating and Jasper, as she finds out what lies beneath the gorgeous surface; a heart and soul seeking redemption and acceptance as he is, not just as the town’s good time guy but as someone worth much more.

The romance between Jasper and Rita takes place amidst the developing stories of the siblings. Belmont who has the whole silent, stoic thing going for him while Aaron is the one with the political ambitions and Peggy the youngest who at first comes off as the airheaded variety of character but as you read along you realize that she is one of the most astute characters in the story.

Rita has her own past from which she is trying to flee, but the walls seem to close in on her the more she tries to do so. In Jasper she finds a man who is willing to help her through it all, even when she does not realize that she needs the help that Jasper is willing to offer.

Jasper’s reluctance to take things up a notch in the physical aspect when it comes to Rita is something he does consciously, exerting effort to do so. Not because he wants to play hard to get or because he is not attracted to Rita. It is in fact because of his vivid attraction to Rita on all levels that he wants the opportunity to take it slow, for it to be different, and I for one liked it.

I loved the emotional wallop this book carried with it. Unlike most of Tessa’s recent novels I’ve read, this one is not just about dirty talking heroes pinning their heroines on every flat surface they can find. Of course there is that too! But there is so much more than just hot sex in this story. In one sense, I’m glad that Jasper kept backing off from the heat because if otherwise the story would’ve lacked the substance it managed to deliver. 

The cast of characters that Tessa has crafted for this series is one I can’t get enough of. Belmont of course has already become my favorite while Penny’s story is one that I’m hankering to read, even now. While Belmont already comes off as the deep one, the connection that he shares with Sage is one that would intrigue any reader. Penny has become as fascinating in one way because beneath the surfaces of all that gaiety lies a heart that bleeds, and I for one am dying to know why. 

I liked how Tessa was patient enough to let Jasper and especially Rita work their way towards one another. Both deeply flawed in ways that makes each of them unable to trust their own selves to do right by their lives. Jasper with good reason of course, but failing to see how far along he has come until Rita manages to show it to him. For Rita, the hurt had been more raw and recent, which had needed someone patient and with foresight like Jasper to heal her gaping wounds. 

A road trip to fulfill a mother’s dying wish that turned the world into the Clarksons’ oyster. This series has so much potential that I for one cannot wait for more!

Final Verdict: Beautifully plotted, all the way. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

He’d be a rougher ride than a bull.
He might as well have whispered that promise out loud because it surrounded him like an aura. Men like Jasper were supposed to be reserved for naughty Internet memes, but here he was. Her own private, moving GIF, only he didn’t loop back to the beginning after three seconds. No, he just kept coming, like he might never stop kissing her once he started. Like he might do a shit ton more than just kiss with that mouth.

“Jasper, I shouldn’t have—”
“That is why you came, isn’t it?” Talking dirty to a woman was just like riding a bike. Jasper rubbed a hand over his stubbled jaw and gave Rita a deliberate, head-to-toe once-over, watching her thighs flex under his notice. His cock gloried in the sight, hardening in his briefs. Right, beautiful. I’ll fit myself between them with enough force to show you who’s taking the lead. “You’re an up-against-the-wall kind of girl, aren’t you?”
“All girls are up-against-the-wall girls,” she whispered

It took her fingers stroking down his forearm to cover the hand cradling her pussy for him to regain awareness of the intimate touch. Oh, and he remembered with a goddamn vengeance. She put pressure on his hand, moaning into his mouth with the universal language for More, keep going. With their tongues tangling together, lips slanting for frantic tastes, he had no choice. He yanked down her panties and slid his middle finger between her wet folds—so wet he tore his mouth away so he could curse.
“God. I would mouth-fuck this little sweetheart for days.”

“Do it,” she moaned, propping her bent legs higher on his hips, using them as leverage to lift off the swing. “I need you. Hard like before.”
“Hard like before, yes. But this time you’ll look me in the eye while I’m ringing your bell. You understand me?” Jasper pressed her back down into the swing, bearing down with his lower body, grinding her into the wood until she whimpered. “And at some point tonight, I’m going to make love to you. The kind of sex that takes an hour of slow rocking and pumping. The kind where we wrap our fingers together, then twine them around the headboard. And I whisper things in your ear I can’t say in the light. Promise me.”

“God, Rita. I can feel that little lace edge of your thong rubbing up and down my cock.” He gave her a full minute of nonstop bucking, stopping only when her pussy locked up, a telltale sign she was near the edge. She wailed and dug her nails into his shoulders when he paused, but she settled when he started a slow bump and grind. “Yeah, beautiful. Fucking is that much sweeter when you’ve driven a man to the point where he wants to jack off in his own kitchen, isn’t it?” He dropped his forehead onto her shoulder and groaned. “I’m not finishing you down here. You’re going to leave your scent in my bed, you understand me?”
“Yes,” she moaned, curling around Jasper as he advanced toward the stairs, still impaled on his dick.

“Jasper,” she whispered, sounding out of breath. “I don’t—”
“Please, just don’t act surprised. I won’t be able to stand it.” His mouth fell to hers, kissing, kissing, like a man mouthing a furious prayer. “You can’t be surprised when the last few days have given me life. Act upset or happy or storm out. But I can’t handle surprised, like maybe you didn’t even consider me for a second.”
“I’ve considered you,” she sobbed. “Of course I have. Just stop talking like that for a second, stop stealing my breath when I’m trying to catch it.”
“No.” He pressed their foreheads together. “I don’t want you to catch it. I want it to stay lost and I want to be the man who steals it. All day, every day. Forever. Stay with me right here.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBookMall | iTunes

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