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Well, that wasn't exactly true.
Beth cleared her throat and shifted, glancing around as if everyone in the brewery could feel the lie she was telling herself.
The truth was that she'd thought about Jamie Donovan plenty of times. She'd remembered the hour or two they'd shared, she'd fantasized about what might've happened if she'd stayed the whole night in that hotel room.
But in the past six months, she'd never once let herself think about seeing him again. She hadn't considered calling him or making contact in any way. That had been their agreement, after all. One night. One time. no strings attached and no expectations. She'd had to abide by that, because she would never have let herself meet him in that hotel room otherwise.
He wasn't her type. He wasn't part of her social circle. And she definitely wasn't part of his. Beth Cantrell managed the White Orchid, the premiere erotic boutique in Boulder. Her friends were her employees: women she loved like sisters. They were bold and powerful and sexually progressive. And they dated people like themselves: tattooed, pierced, educated and cool.
Absolutely cool, even when they'd only reached the pinnacle of cool by being so incredibly nerdy that they actually circled around to cool again.
Beth, on the other hand, wasn't cool. She was just Beth. But that was okay, because she was their manager and they loved her, and they did their best to pull her into their sphere. They fixed her up with guys. Friends of theirs. Men they knew and liked. Men who were cool and hip and progressive. And not one of those guys had ever pushed her buttons the way Jamie had.
She still flushed when she thought about him in his tidy polo shirt and khaki pants. His wide white smile and broad shoulders. He'd looked even better in a business suit. The perfect vision of middle-class preppy beauty. And Beth had wanted him so much it hurt.
They'd been strangers, despite this small town. But in that hotel room, with the promise that it would happen only once the isolation of the act had made it safe. Yet she couldn't stop thinking about him.
And right in the middle of the first good date she'd had in years.
"Hey," her date said as he waved a hand in front of her face. "You okay?" He smiled, taking any sting from the words.
"Sorry." Before she'd started thinking about Jamie, her date had been talking about something. She racked her brain. Something artsy and important about Robert Mapplethorpe's early career.
"I'm really sorry," she finally said. "I didn't realize how tired I was until the glass of beer hit me. I'm not usually so rude."
He smiled in a way that told her he hadn't taken offense. "I'm glad you didn't mind coming to the party with me. Faron and I have been friends for years. I didn't want to miss it. And I figured you knew her, too."
"Yes, we have mutual friends." The party wasn't the problem. Or the guest of honor. The problem was that Beth had had no idea the party would be at Donovan Brothers Brewery. Not until her date had pulled into the parking lot, and Beth's heart had sunk to her toes.
It wasn't his fault that the party he'd decided to take her to just happened to be at Donovan Brothers.
She'd spent the forty-five minutes since scanning the line of customers and servers at the bar, but Jamie wasn't there. It was pure luck on her part. Jamie Donovan was an owner of the brewery, but he was also a notoriously friendly bartender. Or so she'd heard. When she'd spent time with him, he'd struck her as serious and intense.
She didn't want to see him again like this. Didn't want him to think she'd bring another man to his brewery. She kept expecting Jamie to walk by at any moment, and she couldn't think past the torture of that.
"I'm going to run to the restroom," she blurted out. She watched as her date took a beer from the waitress, giving her a warm, open smile as he said thank-you.
"Do you want me to order you another beer while you're gone?" he asked Beth.
"No, thank you " Her mouth hung open for a moment. Oh, God, she'd forgotten his name. Yes, it was their first date, but he'd been so nice. "No, thank you," she repeated, grabbing her clutch purse and sliding out of her chair so quickly that she nearly stumbled. "I'll be right back."
Unfortunately, she had to walk past the bar to get to the restroom, and her knees felt as if they wanted to buckle under her weight. She scanned the bar, noting that the guy behind the tap was the same slender young man she'd spotted before. Then her eyes raced over the whole room again, her heart drumming a terrified beat.
He wasn't here, thank God. When she reached the short hallway that led to the bathrooms, she nearly broke into a run. She pushed open the door, said a quick prayer of thanks that the bathroom was empty and pressed her hand over her eyes.
"He's not even here," she told herself.
Once her heart had stopped its mad gallop, she set her purse on the counter and washed her hands in cold water. The icy shock made her feel better. "It's going to be fine," she whispered, trying to convince herself that she was ready to go back out. But when Beth met her own wide eyes in the mirror and saw just how pale her face was, she knew she'd need a few more minutes.
She put her hands on the sink and leaned closer. "It's going to be fine," she repeated.
Two minutes, and then she'd walk out with her head high and her heart back in the right place. And she wouldn't think about Jamie Donovan again tonight.
God save him from the sexually liberated.
Eric Donovan crossed his arms and frowned at his shoes, trying to process what he'd just heard from his brewmaster. "Wallace, I don't understand. Faron is here with her husband. Her husband. How can you be upset about that? She's married to the man."
"He's a philandering scoundrel!" Wallace yelled, shaking his fist toward the front room of the brewery as his face flooded red with rage.
A scoundrel? Eric ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry. I don't understand. They have an open marriage. As a matter of fact, you're dating Faron, so how can her husband be cheating on her?"
Wallace Hood, a bearded giant of a man who looked like he went home to a log cabin every night, gave Eric a look of prim horror. "I'm not dating her, man. I'm in love with her. And of course her husband can cheat on her. Don't be an idiot."
Eric probably should've felt irritated at being called an idiot, but he was too confused by the conversation. He glanced around the tank room of the brewery as if someone else could help. But they were alone amongst the brewing tanks and mash tuns. Eric shrugged and shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't get it."
The brewmaster sighed and ran an impatient hand over his thick beard. "There are ground rules in open marriages, and her bastard of a husband has stopped even pretending to follow them. He cheats on her. He lies about it. And then he vetoes all the men she wants to see, claiming that he doesn't like them. That's what he did to me, despite that I've known them both for years. And then tonight he brought her here on purpose"
"Why?" Eric asked carefully.
"He's taunting me, because he knows I see him for what he is. I tried to tell her a few months ago. Faron is a queen, and he's not worthy to even kiss her feet. But she's loyal and sees the best in people. She wants to give him a chance."
"She seems really sweet." And she had, the one time that Eric had met her. In fact, he'd been startled by her quiet voice and shy smile. The tiny girl with gentle brown eyes hadn't fit Eric's assumptions about that lifestyle at all.
"She is sweet." Wallace sighed. "And she was falling for me. And now that bastard is taking her away to California, and he purposefully arranged this farewell party for her friends at my brewery."
Technically, it was Eric's brewery, but Wallace was as possessive and passionate as any owner, so Eric just rolled his eyes. "You can't leave right now, Wallace. I need—"
"Well, I can't stay here, can I?"
What was Eric supposed to say to that? He gazed into the kitchen through the glass wall of the tank room. Despite the late hour, there were still workmen out there, laboring overtime to cut a ventilation hole in his wall. Eric grimaced.
"She's right there, man," Wallace grumbled. "I know it's a bad time, but she's right there."
It was a bad time. The bottling line was acting up for the third time this month, they were behind on branding for the winter brews, and the kitchen had been invaded by outsiders. Granted, the outsiders had been brought in by Eric's brother and sister, but still These changes to the brewery weren't Eric's idea, even if he'd approved them, and he wanted nothing to do with them. "I really need you here tonight. You promised to stay late and transfer that small batch of amber to the new oak barrels."
Wallace looked so heartbroken at Eric's words that he wished he could take them back. "But " Eric finally conceded. "I guess it's just a few hours."
"I'll be in early tomorrow. I swear."
Eric sighed. "Maybe it's a good thing she's moving to California."
"She's a good woman," Wallace said, his voice suspiciously raspy. "She wants to trust the man, and she won't walk away until she feels it's really over. But he's going to break her heart."
Eric still couldn't understand what marriage meant to someone who dated at the same time, but he'd never really understood Wallace's lifestyle. Despite the man's intimidating mountain-man looks, Wallace dated men, women and some people who seemed to skate between genders. But this was the first time Eric had seen Wallace in anything other than complete control. Love had hit him hard, it seemed.
Eric stole another look around the tank room, trying not to feel a sense of greedy anticipation. "All right. I'll take care of the barrels. You—"
"Oh, I don't know if I want you to—"
"Wallace," Eric snapped. "We're already off schedule."
Wallace narrowed his eyes. The man was protective of his beer. Almost obsessively so. But it was Eric's beer, too, and he'd lost enough control over his life this year. He wasn't going to let Wallace think he could snatch a little more.
"Fine," the brewmaster finally said. "Just don't screw it up." Wallace tossed his work gloves on the table and stalked out, slamming the door behind him. He paused for a moment, his eyes locked like lasers on the double doors that led to the front room and Faron, but then he shook his head and stalked out the back door.
"Jesus," Eric muttered. Everyone around him seemed to be controlled by love and sex these days. His brother and sister were both in serious relationships, and now Wallace, a man who treated dating like a professional sport, was miserably in love with a married woman. Eric felt like the only person untouched by the craziness.
Not that he didn't have any experience with it. He'd had his brush with it a few months ago, and even that brief encounter had left him shaken. He couldn't imagine being faced with that kind of emotional intensity every day. Maybe he could forgive the fact that his siblings seemed to have lost their minds.
Eric rolled his shoulders, trying to dislodge the weariness that had settled in. He was always tense at work. But the stress usually didn't bother him, if only because he couldn't imagine life without it. He ran a business; of course he was stressed. What he didn't like was the gnawing uncertainty that had taken him over in the last couple of months.
It had been one nightmare situation after another. Lost deals, theft and fraud, and now this mess in the kitchen. His brother, Jamie, was turning the family brewery into a pizza-serving brewpub, and Eric felt as though he'd lost complete control.
Grimacing, he watched masonry dust puff from the kitchen wall like a tiny cloud. Eric would much rather stay hidden in the peace of the tank room, but unfortunately, the casks would have to wait a couple of hours.
When Eric stepped into the kitchen his scowl faded away despite the roar of the masonry saw. The place might be chaotic and dusty, but Jamie stood watching it all with a grin on his face. This wasn't Eric's dream, but it was Jamie's, and Eric would do everything he could to make sure it happened.
Jamie glanced over with a quick smile. Things had been easier between them for the past few months. Thank God. It still felt tenuous, but Eric was relieved as all hell that their years of fighting seemed to be behind them.
He walked over and slapped Jamie on the shoulder. "How's it going?"
"Great!" Jamie shouted.
Eric turned to watch the progress with his brother for a few seconds, but he knew nothing about ovens or restaurant equipment, so he eventually slapped Jamie's back again. "I'll go check on the front, make sure everything is running smoothly."
Laughter roared from the front room as he drew close. Eric glanced toward the crowd as he pushed through the doors, keeping a close eye out for Faron and her scoundrel of a husband. Before the doors had swung closed behind him, someone crashed into Eric's shoulder. He grabbed for the woman, trying to steady her before she stumbled. She reached out, too, and her hand slid along his side just as she looked up.
Her face was so close to his that, for a moment, Eric thought he was imagining things. He smiled even as the nerves of his fingertips seemed to activate one by one. The wash of stark feeling progressed slowly up his fingers, his hands, his arms. By the time she pushed away with a gasp, his whole body felt as if an electrical shock was running through it.
Beth. His hands were on Beth Cantrell. His brain flickered through panicked thoughts.
Holy shit. His hands were on Beth Cantrell in his brewery.
Posted September 25, 2011
Redonk Nutshell: Upstanding older brother gets in over his head with a woman he can't seem to shake from his past
I love it when a series comes to a conclusion with an epic BANG! And in this case it's safe to say that in a raunchy way because this book has some serious smoke.
The third book in Dah'ls Donovan Brother's Brewery series gives us Eric's story. Poor Eric. He's gotten a lot of crap from his younger siblings in the first two books. He's the eldest, the brother that kept (and continues to keep) things running somewhat smoothly. He assumes the parental role when their parents tragically die, a role Eric carries with heavy burden. While his sister and brother flail and falter their way to finding true contentment, Eric stands stoically by and offers his support in a way only an older brother can.
Well, it's always the quiet ones you gotta watch. *snort*
Eric can't seem to shake the memory of the woman from his one night stand several months ago. "One night stand," you say? "Eric?" Yup. Well, he's met his match in Beth, the quiet yet independent woman who runs the classy erotic adult boutique in his hometown. When these two inadvertently crash into one another the sparks start flying once again, and they gradually give in to the temptation to have another night together. When one night turns into two, they realize their attraction to one another can't be ignored. But in order to make their relationship work, they both have their own issues to work through.
This is my favorite in the Donovan series, which is funny because I wasn't a big Eric fan until this book. Beth is a wonderful watch for him, and the crazy-intense sparks that fly between them will really make you grin and blush. You want nothing more than for these two to figure out their baggage so they can just quit the crap and be together. And when they do get together? Ah, yes. It's magical.
I consumed this book in a day. It's a lovely fluffy yet steamy read. I could have done without the drama of Eric's siblings (can someone just smack Tessa? Please?), but Eric and Beth rise above it to shine as the stars of this book.
Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl, 10/25/11
Romance: 2/5 Raunch: 4.5/5
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Posted October 15, 2011
OH. MY. GOD. Victoria Dahl you are my new contemporary genre goddess. Eric Donovan became a father figure and brewery owner at 24 years old due to the death of his parents. He's had to deal with bad boy brother Jamie's constant screw ups and sheltering sweet baby sister Tessa all the while running a brewery on his own. Taking on these responsibilities at such a young age had finally taken its toll and begins to make Eric question who he really is. His siblings no longer need him, they're in steady relationships and had grown into their responsibilities at the brewery. Beth Cantrell is the owner of The White Orchid, an upscale lingerie and sex toys boutique. For the past six months, all she can think about is Jamie Donovan and the things he did to her with his mouth, his hands and other parts of his body. Sure, she's been with other guys since then but, Jamie keeps creeping back into her thoughts. A night out at Donovan's brings her face to face with the man she can't seem to forget, although leaves her a little confused because a different Jamie Donovan is pointed out to her. Well, turns out Jamie Donovan isn't the man Beth met at the conference six months ago but Eric, the older, uptight brother. Between Eric's lying, her strained relationship with her father due to a mistake from the past and anxiously waiting for the return of her friend and owner of The White Orchid, Beth must figure out who she is and what she wants. Eric knows he lied to Beth about his name but he swears that's the only thing he lied about. Not really a good way to start to gain her trust. Their physical relationship is scorching hot! I was waiting for my Kindle to start melting in my hands. Beth's big reveal of her secret shocked me and her inner turmoil of whether to tell her father what she really does for a living or not, had me chanting under my breath--'Do it. Do it. Do it.' Of course, I chanted that as well right before Eric and Beth got touchy feely. Each book in the Donovan Brothers Brewery trilogy has gotten hotter and hotter. Tessa's (GOOD GIRLS DON'T) was hot, Jamie's (BAD BOYS DO) was hotter, and Eric's (REAL MEN WILL) was a complete scorcher. I had to put it down several times to fan myself and run out on the balcony since the weather has cooled down a bit. My cheeks were flushed, I may have gripped my Kindle to the point of almost breaking it, twice and I sobbed like a baby at the heart to hearts, of which I will not divulge. Also, I may have screamed "Sarsaparilla!" a few times while reading this book. I swear, you need a safe word or something when indulging in a Victoria Dahl book. I mean it's a good thing. The smexing was hel-lo! A perfect ending to a five hearts trilogy (I rated each book with 5 purple hearts.) Now I'm itching for more V.Dahl books. *sigh*
***review copy provided by NetGalley***
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Posted November 27, 2012
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For me, this series seemed to go down hill after the first book. I really loved Tessa's story, and then I kind of liked Jamie's story in book two, and here in book 3 I found myself skimming a lot. It didn't really seem very realistic, and I had a hard time connecting with the characters, or caring if they got their HEA.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 4, 2012
Posted December 4, 2011
I liked that the author made a Eric a really dynamic character in this book, and was able to pull out that he was having struggles with his identity now that his siblings were "grown" and moving on. I was a little surprised at Jamie's negative attitude in this book. But overall I thought that this was a great ending to the series. I would have definitely loved an epilogue thoughWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 25, 2011
I absolutly love Victoria Dahl's writing but this series was good but not great. Is it worth buying yes but if this is your first taste of her books she's done better so dont count her out!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 31, 2011
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Posted October 25, 2011
I probably set out to read this book with too high of expectations. After the novella in The Guy Next Door featuring Beth & Eric, this is the Donovan book that I have been anticipating. Don't get me wrong, the book was VERY good....highly entertaining and incredibly steamy, but it just wasn't quite "all-that" for me. I didn't sense the chemistry emotionally between Eric & Beth that I had hoped for. They spent too much of the book at opposite ends and just having sex instead of building a relationship which made the "real love" of the relationship not work for me. They didn't finally get truly honest with each other until the very end, so for this book to have worked completely for me, I think that it would have needed another 100 pages of true relationship development.
What did work for me:
*Finally a good explanation of what has been up Eric's butt throughout the entire series. I liked that there finally was true resolution between Eric & Jamie.
*I loved the solution that Eric came up with to help resolve his restlessness at the brewery...so perfect for him!
*I continue to love the brewery setting. It makes such a fabulous background for the stories.
*The incredible sex between Beth & Eric. They both maintain throughout this entire book that they are simply normal, boring people, but wow, do they combust when they are together. Seriously steamy sex in this one!! I liked the playfulness about this at the end.
*I liked the added dimension of Beth's newspaper column in the newspaper and the way that Eric would read it with a bit of dread of having to live up to expectations. There were definitely many giggle-worthy moments featuring this and the different aspects/perks of Beth's job.
While Beth & Eric's emotional connection was disappointing to me in this book, the overall book was another fabulous read in the Donovan Brothers series. This has been a FABULOUS series and I am going to miss these characters now that the trilogy is done.
Posted October 3, 2011
Eric Donovan has lived his life being the perfect son and brother. When his parents were suddenly killed in a freak car accident, he abandoned his dreams to return home and run the family brewery, raising his teenage brother and sister at the same time.
Beth Cantrell is the35-year old manager of White Orchid, an erotic boutique in Boulder, located only a few blocks from the brewery. Both she and Eric were attending a business expo in Denver with stations near each other when they established eye contact and the chemistry was explosive. Neither fit each other's ideal of their normal "type" but the attraction was undeniable. They end up in a hotel room but agree to go their separate ways, marveling at how what they'd just done was out of character for them both. However, the entire time Beth believed she was with Jamie Donovan (that was the name displayed at the expo) and Eric did nothing to clear up the misconception.
This was a story of two people who were living lives based on the expectations of others and not necessarily ones they would choose. They are more alike than how they appear on the surface, suppressing their real feelings and resorting to lies whenever needed to perpetuate their myths. It was inevitable that Beth and Eric's paths would cross again and she would discover his betrayal. As much as she distrusts him, they cannot seem to avoid their physical attraction and succumb to it repeatedly.
Eric isn't an easy character and I found it difficult at times to be sympathetic towards him or even like him, however, he redeems himself very late in the story. Beth makes choices that are very curious and it was often difficult to clearly understand her point of view. We learn more about her personal baggage fairly late in the story and it might have been more helpful in getting her character if this information was disclosed just a little earlier. Nevertheless, she's extremely likable but you question what it was that attracted her to Eric, beyond his "preppy" look and why she's such a contradiction.
I liked this story but it is my least favorite in the series. Be forewarned that the glue that holds this couple together is sexual compatibility so there are many steamy scenes between the two, almost to distraction. There isn't a neat wrap up at the end of the story so I'm hoping there will be more to the series. There are some secondary characters, like Luke Asher's partner, Simone Parker, and Wallace Hood the brewmaster who are pretty interesting with room for stories. We can only hope as this was a very interesting series.
My rating for the book is 3.5 stars.
(I received an ARC from NetGalley)