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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ARC Review: Hotshot by Julie Garwood

I keep hoping that Julie Garwood—once (and still) an institution in romance and my gateway to the genre—will return to my auto-buy list, but she keeps letting me down. Some time after FIRE AND ICE (her last decent contemporary title) in 2008, and discounting SHADOW MUSIC (the debacle that was her return to historicals) in 2007, it’s like she underwent a writing lobotomy. The quirky heroines, the alpha-but-loveable heroes, the witty dialogue, and the pizazz of the writing have been replaced with wooden characters, flat prose, and ridiculously formulaic plots—especially as she’s edged away from the straight-up romantic suspense that characterized her early contemporary releases and toward more mainstream contemporary romance with slight suspense undertones. Her latest release, HOTSHOT, continues in that same vein, though it is an improvement over her previous novel.

My biggest problem with the last few Garwood releases has been my inability to connect with the hero and heroine, who’ve turned into incredibly perfect people doing incredibly perfect things and wanting each other from the get-go without any character development. Finn MacBain is a typical new-Garwood hero: academically gifted, a triple Olympic gold swimmer (before age 18!), a crack FBI agent, a natural-born protector, and soured on love thanks to a woman. I know this is romance and a combination of qualities no mortal man would possess is common, but COME ON! This is really taking it too far. And Ms. Garwood’s unwillingness to describe her male lead (presumably so her readers can imagine whomever they want) irks me—I don’t need a complete character sketch that includes whom you’d cast in a movie version, but at least tell me what colour his eyes are! With heroine Peyton Lockhart and her long list of hilarious romantic failures Ms. Garwood’s tried to return to her endearingly clueless but quirky heroines of yore, with mixed results: her determination and perseverance make up the mould of a potentially great character and her misadventures in dating make her personable and relatable, but her naiveté almost edges over into TSTL territory. The way she swoons every time Finn is in the room and goes from hero worship of the boy that saved her life to being helplessly in love with the man he’s become is typical for a contemporary Garwood novel, but it’s hindered by the lack of emotional chemistry between the protagonists. Yes, they both pontificate about the other’s hotness (repeatedly), but their connection feels entirely physical—despite being the most earth-shattering sex for both of them—and, in turn, makes it difficult to become emotionally invested in either of them or the HEA.

There’s a decent attempt at a plot—though I wouldn’t really call it ‘suspense’—and a moderately heinous letch of a ‘villain’, but the stilted writing makes the bad guys feel a bit like caricatures. With the exception of Christopher and Finn’s FBI partner Ronan (surely the hero of a future book), the secondary characters go a bit overboard with the melodrama, and cousin Debi is so blatantly overdone that you can’t help but wonder if Ms. Garwood did it on purpose just for fun. If you don’t take her seriously as a character, she and her shenanigans are truly laugh-out-loud hilarious. The secondary romance feels a bit rushed, but it does provide an additional point of interest and a way to become somewhat invested in the characters.

Overall, HOTSHOT was only a mediocre read for me—which, sadly, has been par for the course with Julie Garwood’s books lately. It reads very much like SWEET TALK and THE IDEAL MAN before it, so if you enjoyed those books you’ll surely enjoy this one. Her recent writing style just doesn’t work for me.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |


  1. I agree with everything that you said in the review. After Fire & Ice, she lost me. She still has 3 Buchanans to write about: Michael, Zack and the other sister. My favorite hero of her's is Noah. *sigh*

    Its like reading Linda Howard now...what happened to her?

    *shakes head*