What if all you want is the one thing you can’t have?
First grade teacher Emily Towson always does the right thing. The sensible thing. But in her dreams, she does bad, bad things with the town’s baddest boy: Tanner O’Connor. But when he sells her grandmother a Harley, fantasy is about to meet a dose of reality.
And then he goes and calls her “sensible”...
Tanner can’t believe sweet Emily is standing in his shop. Yelling and waving her hands and looking so god damn sexy he’s having trouble focusing. He’d spent two hard years in prison, with only the thought of this “good girl” to keep him sane.
He really should send her away...
Before either one thinks though, they’re naked and making memories on his tool bench with apparently the oldest condom in history. Now Tanner’s managed to knock-up the town’s “good girl” and she’s going to lose her job over some stupid “morality clause” if he doesn’t step up.
But can this bad boy teach his good girl they’re perfect for each other in time?
About the Author
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia, which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia, which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of nine-to-five work. She's since then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary), and has settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina writes all types of romance, often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.
Read an Excerpt
Was she crazy?
Mimi Delaney paused, her hand half raised to open the door to O'Connor's Motorcycles. At the last moment, she was having a crisis of conscience.
Mimi was quite aware that through her long life — she'd be seventy in a couple of weeks' time — a lot of people had considered her crazy. But for the first time, she suspected they might be right.
She reminded herself that she was doing this for Emily, the sweetest granddaughter a woman could want. Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door to the motorcycle shop.
And really, this was just a reconnoitering mission. If the boy was truly as bad as everyone said — though honestly, no one could be as bad as they said Tanner O'Connor was — then she'd walk away, no harm done, and find another way to bring a little adventure into her granddaughter's life.
The garage and shop were in the center of town — prime real estate. Rumor had it the O'Connor boys had bought it with a payout from their daddy dying in some sort of industrial accident while working in a factory in Virginia Beach. Others were sure it was bought from ill-gotten gains, drugs or prostitution, or worse. The money must have come from somewhere. The family had been dirt poor.
The door opened into a showroom, empty but for a single motorcycle on a podium in the center. She approached it cautiously, as she would an unknown stallion. It was huge, but the seat was quite low, so she could probably touch the ground — the women in her family had always been known for being tall — except poor Emily, who was knee-high to a flea. Probably from her father's side.
She walked around the monster machine, then reached out a hand and stroked a finger over the black and silver metal.
"Can I help you?"
The voice almost made her jump, but she was made of sterner stuff. She composed herself and turned around. And blew out her breath. This was her prey. But she was already having second thoughts. Dressed in faded jeans and a sleeveless white tank, he was big and muscular — and exuded an air of danger.
Now she was being fanciful.
He was also quite the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
Something twisted inside her. Mimi hadn't had a man in thirty years, not since her husband had inconveniently died on her just before her fortieth birthday. She'd never thought much about sex in that time, but standing in front of this beautiful man, she felt every one of her seventy years. And a sense of melancholy and regret washed over her as she realized that she might never again feel a man's touch. That part of her life was over. Finished.
As she remained silent, his gaze wandered over her, one eyebrow raised, and she gathered her thoughts.
The idea had come to her last Sunday. She'd been walking back to the truck with Emily after lunch in town, when a low growling roar had approached from behind. They'd turned together as a huge dark red motorcycle had cruised past them.
And she'd caught a look in Emily's eyes. Longing.
Who would have thought her sweet granddaughter would have the hots for a tattooed ex-con who rode a Harley?
Of course Emily would never do anything about it. She was far too sensible and had never put a foot wrong. Mimi should be pleased about that. Because the boy was trouble. But seriously gorgeous trouble. If she was fifty years younger ...
He cleared his throat.
Time to move on. "Mr. O'Connor?" Of course she knew who he was. Everyone knew Tanner O'Connor. But her brain had turned to mush.
"Yeah?" He'd obviously been working. Wiping his hands on a stained cloth, his body language screamed impatience. "As I said — can I help you?" His tone suggested he found it highly unlikely.
Like her, his dark blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. The lower half of his face was covered by a short blond beard, his eyes were silver gray, and his cheekbones sharp. He was twenty-six but looked older — with a hardness to his features. Probably a couple of years in prison would do that.
She had another pang of doubt. She wanted Emily to have an adventure, but this might be the kind a woman never recovered from. Maybe she should just turn around and go.
"I'd ask if you were lost," he said, "but you're a local, so I'm guessing not."
"You know who I am?"
He raised a brow. "It's a small town, Mrs. Delaney. How could I not know one of our most prominent citizens? I'm guessing you've come to complain about something."
"That's usually what they come in here for."
"And do you do a lot of things worthy of complaint, Mr. O'Connor?"
He grinned then, and for a second the hard lines melted and he looked suddenly younger. Maybe what he would have been if life had treated him differently. "I do my best, ma'am. I don't like to disappoint the good folks of Saddler Cove."
She bit back a smile at that. How often did she have to stop herself from doing something just to aggravate the "good folks?" She reckoned they needed shaking up occasionally.
The grin was gone, his face settling back into its usual sullen lines. He tapped a foot, clearly trying to portray his impatience.
"I think your selling technique could use a little work, young man, if this is how you treat your customers."
Another lift of his brow. "You're a customer?" His tone reeked of disbelief.
He scrubbed a hand over his beard as if to hide his expression. Was he finding her amusing?
"You need some work done. You have a motorcycle?"
"Not yet. Obviously, that's why I'm in here."
He cast her a look, then tossed the rag through the open door behind him and strolled toward her. He must have been half a foot taller than her, and for a brief moment she had to fight the urge to step back. Some of the stories she'd heard ran through her mind.
He'd stolen a car. Murdered his best friend in a drunken rampage. He'd killed a man in prison — though surely if that was the case, he'd still be locked up tight. No woman under the age of fifty was safe from him. Well, that left her out.
Small town gossip. She'd never given it any credence before, and she wasn't going to start now.
"So," he said, coming to a halt in front of her, "what sort of bike are you looking for?"
She waved a hand at the bike on the podium. "Something like this. Maybe in ... pink?"
"You want a Harley? Ever ridden one?"
"No. Perhaps you could give me a few lessons."
Was that a glimmer of amusement in his eyes? "You think you could handle her?"
She studied the machine again. "I was a little worried I might not be able to reach the ground, but the seat seems low enough. And while I might be getting on in years, Mr. O'Connor, I'm still strong."
He looked her up and down, from her scuffed boots to her messy ponytail. "I can see that, ma'am." He tugged at his lower lip while he considered what to say next. "You know the town will probably lynch me if I sell you a hog."
"A hog?" She wanted a bike, not a pig. Well, she didn't really want a bike, but he didn't need to know that.
He nodded to the gleaming motorcycle. "That's what we call 'em."
"How odd." She bit back a smile at the thought of how the town would react. "I doubt they'll actually lynch you. Though I'm sure there'll be plenty of those good folks mighty dismayed."
"You've almost convinced me it's a good idea."
It was that one comment that persuaded her to go ahead with her plan. She had a strange notion that Tanner O'Connor did a lot of things just to deliberately dismay the townsfolk of Saddler Cove. As motives went, it wasn't a bad one.
"Do you usually expect your customers to convince you to sell them something?" she asked. "Is my money not good enough for you?"
He rubbed at a grease spot on his forehead, then at the little line between his eyes. "I guess so. You know what one of these babies goes for?"
"I have no idea."
"This particular bike is twenty-five thousand. More if you want her customized. You still want to buy her?"
Twenty-five thousand? For a secondhand bike?
She swallowed her shock. It was for a good cause, after all. And she wasn't expecting to actually buy the thing. "It's my birthday in a couple of weeks, and a woman is only seventy once, Mr. O'Connor."
He shook his head, then gave a shrug. "Let's go start the paperwork."CHAPTER 2
Was she crazy?
Of course not — she was sensible.
Why hadn't she said yes? Maybe if she'd had a little warning. Ryan had told her he wanted to take her somewhere nice tonight, and she'd thought nothing of it. Her boyfriend was wealthy and often took her to nice places. Now, driving home afterward, Emily realized she should have read more into the comment.
As she headed up the long, curved drive that led to the ranch house, she caught sight of her grandmother entering the barn. Ryan had said he'd spotted her in town that afternoon. Leaving — of all places — the O'Connor's showroom. What would her grandmother be doing in a motorcycle shop?
Perhaps solving that mystery would take her mind off the catastrophe of her evening. She took the fork in the drive that led to the barn and pulled up in front of the wooden building. After switching off the engine, she sat for a moment. Mimi would no doubt want to know why she was back so early. It was only a little after eight. Maybe she should just go straight to the house — and hide.
But better to get it over with.
She climbed out of her sensible gray Honda and smoothed down her sensible tan linen dress.
Ryan had said she was "sensible." Just before he'd proposed. Apparently, it was what he liked best about her. She was sensible. Not beautiful. Not sassy and feisty and fun to be with. No, she was sensible.Agh!
Would she have said yes if he'd told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world? Of course that would have made him a liar — she wasn't beautiful, she was cute, and how she hated that word — but surely a little poetic license was allowed during a proposal.
The sweet smell of hay and horses filled her nostrils as she entered the barn, the familiar scents soothing her. Though it was only April, the weather had turned warm, and the horses were all out in the paddocks for the night, so the place was quiet and peaceful. She found Mimi in the tack room, sitting on an upturned feed bin and putting together a bridle. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, her long black hair pulled into a ponytail, she looked far younger than her sixty-nine years.
As Emily hovered in the doorway, her grandmother glanced up, one eyebrow raised — Emily had always wanted to be able to do that but had never managed it.
"I thought you were out with what's-his-name?"
Emily had been going out with Ryan for six months, and Mimi knew exactly what he was called. Though Mimi had never said it out loud, Emily knew her grandmother didn't like him. But Emily had no clue why — Ryan was rich, handsome, successful — Saddler Cove's most eligible bachelor. One day he would take over from his daddy as CEO of the family firm and no doubt from his uncle as head of the school board. If Saddler Cove had a first family, then Ryan's was it. He'd be his own boss.
He appeared the perfect boyfriend. Perfect husband material. A sensible woman would have said yes.
She'd often wondered what Ryan saw in her. Now she knew.
"I left early," she said.
"Why? Are you not feeling well?" Mimi put the bridle down and stood up. She came over and put a hand to Emily's forehead. "You don't feel warm."
"Did you argue?"
Did she sound hopeful? "No, we didn't argue." Ryan had sort of been struck dumb, actually. An image flashed in her mind. Ryan sitting across from her, his mouth open, his hand still holding out the ring. It had clearly never occurred to him, not in a million years, that someone as sensible as Emily would turn such a catch down.
She sighed. "Ryan asked me to marry him."
Mimi's eyes widened. She glanced past Emily as if to check that Ryan wasn't hovering somewhere behind her.
"I said no."
Mimi blew out her breath. "Praise the Lord."
Emily frowned. "Why don't you like him?"
"I don't dislike him, darling. He's just ... boring. And you'd be bored out of your mind in no time."
"There are worse things than being bored."
"For some people, maybe. But not for you. You're a dreamer, sweetheart. You've just forgotten how to dream."
She hadn't forgotten, she'd just put aside her old dreams and made some new ones. She didn't want excitement and passion. She wanted ... to be safe. And Mimi to be safe. And she wanted a family, babies. Lots of babies. And she'd keep them safe as well.
Mimi studied her, head cocked to one side. "So why did you say no to Saddler Cove's most eligible bachelor?"
She shuffled her feet, staring at the floor for a moment, then forced herself to look at her grandmother. "He told me I was sensible."
Mimi's lips twitched. "Well, you do give that impression, darling."
"I'm a teacher," she snapped. "I'm supposed to be sensible."
Mimi patted her arm. "Of course you are."
Emily scowled. One of them had to be sensible. You certainly couldn't rely on Mimi for that. The only sensible thing she'd done in her life was marry Emily's grandfather. And that hadn't lasted very long. She'd been alone since he'd died, though through her own choice, as she was fond of telling Emily — she'd had plenty of offers. Emily could believe it. Unlike Emily, she was beautiful, like Scarlett O'Hara with her black hair and green eyes.
"So, was he shocked?" she asked.
Emily grinned. "Speechless."
"Hah. I would have loved to have seen that. I'm glad. You did the right thing. You wouldn't have been happy. And you're too young to settle down. What you need is a fling or two."
Never going to happen.
Men didn't have flings with girls like her. An image flashed in her mind, though. Tanner O'Connor. Six-feet-four of bad boy biker. As different from Ryan as it was possible to get.
She'd had secret fantasies about Tanner since she was old enough to know what boys were for. She'd cried when he was sent to prison, convinced it was a travesty of justice and he was innocent. She'd been sixteen and in love — okay, maybe not in love — she'd never even had a proper conversation with him — but she'd had a huge crush. He was two years older than her and the coolest, baddest boy around. She'd watched from afar as he'd gone through just about every pretty girl in town, treating them mean, and they'd no doubt loved it. Rumor had it that he only dated girls who put out. If that were true, there'd been a lot of girls putting out back then. Emily had dreamed about being treated mean by Tanner O'Connor, but he hadn't even known she existed. But then she was hardly his type, too short, too curvy ... too sensible.
He'd been back six years, and he was badder than ever. She'd seen him last Sunday, and he was so hot she'd nearly melted in a puddle right there in front of Mimi. Definitely fling material, but sadly not for the town's first-grade teacher.
"Are you aware I have a morality clause in my contract?" she asked Mimi.
"You have? Is that even legal?"
"I suppose so. I never really thought about it. It never occurred to me that it would be an issue."
"Mimi!" But thinking about Tanner reminded her of something. "Ryan said he saw you in town this afternoon. Coming out of the O'Connor's shop."
"Yes. I might have dropped by."
When she didn't offer anything else, Emily frowned. "Why?"
"Why what, darling?"
"Why did you drop by the O'Connor's shop?"
Mimi wandered away, picked up the bridle she'd been working on, and hung it from one of the hooks around the room.
"What have you done?" Emily asked.
Mimi gave a small shrug of her shoulders. "I bought a hog."
A pig? "You're a vegetarian."
"Not that sort of hog. And really, I'd hardly buy a pig from the O'Connor's Motorcycle shop. A Harley Davidson."
"A Harley? A bike? You've bought a motorcycle?"
"It's a present to myself. I turn seventy next month and — "
"And that's just one reason why you shouldn't have bought a motorcycle. Seventy-year-old women do not ride Harleys."
"Anyone sensible, you mean."
Low blow. "I don't believe this. You actually bought it."
"I handed over my check — which reminds me — I must talk to the bank tomorrow. Transfer some money. Hogs do not come cheap."
"How much?" Not that it mattered. The bike was going back.
"What?" The word came out as a shriek.
"I have the money, darling. It's just sitting in the bank. I might as well get some fun out of it."
Fun? She'd kill herself. Despite her height, Mimi weighed about a hundred and ten pounds. She'd never manage to handle a bike that size.
What sort of jackass would sell a seventy-year-old woman — who didn't even have a motorcycle license! — a Harley Davidson?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Handle with Care"
Copyright © 2018 Nina Croft.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion. 4 stars — This book had a lot of really great stuff going for it, but it had some major flaws as well. But in the end, the parts that surprised and impressed me balanced out the things that bugged me and left me with an overall enjoyable reading experience. I will admit, the “bad boy who just wouldn’t try” got a little old after awhile for me…it just dragged on longer than I expected. Actually everything about the bad boy got old. Initially in the book Tanner was legit mean…some of the things he said to Emily were totally ahole-ish. I’ve never been attracted to bad boys, so that went down like a lead balloon with me. I mean, Emily even says that she wants to be treated mean, and I really don’t freaking get that. In the end she doesn’t want that, she wants someone who cares about her. The things she ends up falling in love with are those of a sweet man, not a bad boy, so I don’t get what the attraction really is there. I just don’t get the bad boy image, like, AT ALL. What about him was bad? That he wanted to be himself? And I started to get annoyed with Emily and her thoughts about Tanner. She supposedly is attracted to this bad boy, but then she’s also judgemental towards him. I mean, I got what she would say about his attitude. But then she’d be all wishy washy about the other “bad boy” stuff about Tanner, and I never really got why that was. It made me disappointed in her, that she almost behaved like the townspeople on occasion. Back to Tanner, him not growing some balls and figuring his crap out earlier was annoying too. Like, was it really that hard to put himself out there for the woman he loves? It’s hard to love a hero who is *that* frightened. Some scared is endearing…that much is just disappointing. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel for him and the way he grew up, how that affected him and made him who he was, and the way the people treated him. I got it to a point, but as I said above, it dragged on too long. But on the other side of the coin, I really did love the two of them together when they weren’t butting heads and being idiots. They could be sweet, and I loved the way they were both genuinely excited about the baby. Those parts of Tanner were seriously endearing and I loved them. I, strangely, ADORED the side story of Mimi and Josh. I was completely surprised to get parts from each of their POV, but I actually felt like they really added to the story. The whole concept of institutionalization was fascinating, and I loved having a character to empathize with in that struggle. Seeing someone so wronged by society was heartbreaking. I LOVED how strong Mimi was and how she didn’t take crap from anybody. I cheered for her and how she wore Josh down. I even liked some of the side stories I can see will be coming in later books… I have a feeling the series will look at all the O’Connor boys, and it makes me wonder who’s going to be their love interests. I loved seeing little Keira with these 3 clueless men trying to do their bests to provide a home for her. So yeah. A bit of a mixed bag, and without those things I loved, would be a 3 star at most. But the addition of the other little stories really ended up interesting me a lot.
I was given an Advanced Review Copy, by the author, in return for a honest review. This is the first book in the Saddler Cove series. I loved this novel! Great plot and the characters are quite memorable. I really enjoyed the ending too. This was a wonderfully written, small town contemporary romance. Can't wait to read the next in the series! - Sarah
I wonder when it became a crime to be sensible. Sure it doesn't make you the wild child of the bunch but sensible people have a certain appeal. Some people appreciate it. Others don't. You just need someone to appreciate that quality in you and make sure you understand it's what makes you you. I can see how being called something can wear on your nerves after a while. That label tightens around you each time you hear it, suffocating the rest of who you are under its wrap. So it makes sense that Emily had had enough. It just didn't make sense to strip down in front of the town's bad boy who happens to play a starring role in her fantasies. It was a bit a extreme, I think. The upside is that Tanner has wanted the town's good girl for a long time. She was his constant when he served time for a crime he didn't commit but decided to take the fall for. Stupid on his part but lesson learned. It leaves him a pariah in Saddler Cove, a fantasy indulgence for every woman in town but not someone they'd proudly declare as theirs. Which is sad, honestly, because under Tanner's tough exterior beat the heart of a man capable of giving and loving more than anyone would dare to believe. The one night stand that resulted in pregnancy resulted in casual dating that escalated into wanting and needing more, but Tanner and Emily saw society differently and it was, for me, a sticky point in their relationship. Emily couldn't understand why Tanner didn't seem to care about the townsfolk's opinion of him. Tanner struggled with getting Emily to understand that their opinion of him or her or their situation didn't matter. I like this story. It captures that small town essence and romance nicely in words and deeds without overshadowing the issues lying between Tanner and Emily. It's a frustrating struggle watching Tanner convince Emily he's worth taking a chance on, but I believe that struggle is worth it in the end because they gained more than they started with--love, happiness, and family. 3.5* Received from publisher for an honest review
I normally love a small town romance, they’re one of my favorite kinds. Add in a bad boy who’s really ‘good’ and you have me. But, HANDLE WITH CARE by Nina Croft just didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Tanner O’Connor is that bad boy, he was sent to prison for something he didn’t do and now that he’s back home, he tries to act like he doesn’t give a damn, but beneath his scruffy overalls beat a heart that cared too much. He knew all that when he met Emily Towson, he knew she was way out of his league, but it didn’t stop him desiring her above all others. Emily is considered a sensible woman, that’s who people have talked of her for as long as she could remember and she’s had enough. She’s going to step out of those sensible shoes and wait to see what happens. She’s always had a soft spot for the town’s bad boy but her never even looked her way, but now she’s set her sights on him. They didn’t always see eye to eye but they made it in the end. This was a pretty okay story but for me it just didn’t ring any bells, maybe it was the 3rd person POV, which I am not a fan of. Fans of Nina will probably disagree with me, but to each their own.
4.5 Touching Stars Review by Elizabeth Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog I’m sad that this is my first time reading Nina Croft's words, because she is too good not to have been on my TBR before now. Handle with Care is somewhat emotional –I cried— romantic and just utterly splendid. Emily is the town’s good girl and a first grade teacher. She never does anything out the ordinary or risky until she clashes with Tanner, the town's bad boy and an ex-con. Tanner decides to ‘sell’ Emily’s grandmother a hog, or motorcycle, and Emily flips. Her moment of adventure is put to the test when an unexpected surprise comes into the picture. Emily is nowhere ready to be a mother and Tanner is not ready to be a father. These two share so much passion and chemistry its downright wow! I love how Nina has developed her characters! Emily is a sweetheart and Tanner is broken but Emily is his savior. Of course, Mimi, Emily’s grandmother, is amazing! I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Nina.
Tanner and Emily both saw the true inner person in the other. But it was disheartening that they could not see the greatness in themselves and they let it impact their relationship. I so much wanted them to snap out of their self doubt and conquer their fears. Thankfully in the end, it all worked out. And what a great way that it did. That was sweet to read and with a smile on my face. I enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Emily's grandmother, Mimi. She was a spitfire and feisty, bossy to boot. I loved how she called out Emily, Tanner or anyone else for that matter. She gave them the harsh truth. Just what every one needs. I hope we get more from this series because I loved Tanner's brothers too. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
Rating: 3.5+ “no Sense and Sensibility here” Stars Being used to Nina Croft’s action-packed and suspenseful stories, Handle with Care was a bit of a surprise with its quiet, relationship driven, straight contemporary romance feel. But hey, a bad boy is a bad boy in any genre you put him, and they are yummy. Tanner is pretty much the town’s black sheep. After making some questionable choices in his past, he’s been tagged a bad boy and he’s decided to prove to the a-holes in town that he’s even worse than they think. Unfortunately, he is very good in this endeavor and successfully covers up any and all good deeds he accomplishes by putting on a devil-may-care, flippant attitude whenever he’s around people not related to him. Emily, a first grade teacher, is the epitome of all things sweet and proper. Labeled the town’s good girl, a tragedy in her past has pushed her to be careful and avoid wild choices… until being sensible is the reason she’s proposed to by her boyfriend. This sends her straight to her secret-fantasies-bad-boy-dream man’s arms (and other body parts). Tanner and Emily had fabulous chemistry, and their time together is off the charts sexy and hot. And when they realized that they are now connected forever, they need to fight their individual and collective issues if they have a prayer of becoming a family together. I mostly loved both Tanner and Emily. He was all rough edges and tough attitude but had the gentlest heart. He was sexy, had some serious moves and could turn up the heat in no time. Emily was a sweetheart, nice and loving but when she got pissed, that girl could seriously throw some sass. What I didn’t like about them was how set their self-doubts were. Tanner was all “I’m not good enough for her perfectness” and she was all “I’m not beautiful, sexy and fun enough for his bad-boy-ness”. Which is why this line had me cracking right up “You know, they just might be perfect for each other. They can sit around moaning and talking through their low self-esteem issues together.” There’s a bit of back and forth due to these issues, and at more than one point I wanted to slap some sense into them. That said, they were so cute together that they had me smiling most of the time. What also made up for this were their families. Emily’s grandmother was a hoot, and we do actually get a bit of a romance side story from her and Josh. I loved how this was kind of parallel to Emily and Tanner’s story, with Josh being his old cellmate, but at the same time completely their own. Also, I can’t wait to see who Tanner’s hot ex Navy, single dad big brother, as well as his baddest-bad-boy, motorcycle racing little brother end up with. I’m really looking forward to these stories. With serious heat, fabulous chemistry and wonderful side characters, Handle with Care might have lacked in action, but touched a lot of subjects and dealt with some heavy issues in a way I liked. I’m really looking forward to the next in this series. *I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book*
3.5 stars-- HANDLE WITH CARE is the first instalment in Nina Croft’s contemporary, adult SADDLER COVE erotic, romance series. This is twenty-six year old, mechanic and town bad boy Tanner O’Connor, and twenty-four year old, first grade teacher Emily Towson’s story line. There is also a secondary story line and relationship developing between Emily’s grandmother Mimi, and Tanner’s friend Joshua Simpson Told from several third person perspectives including Emily, Tanner, Mimi and Josh HANDLE WITH CARE follows the building relationship between twenty-six year old, town bad boy Tanner O’Connor, and twenty-four year old, first grade teacher Emily Towson. Tanner O’Connor is Saddler Cove resident bad boy. Having spent two years in prison for the death of his childhood friend, the small-minded and judgemental residents of Saddler Cove are still having a difficult time with Tanner’s return to their quiet, little town, six years later, believing his bad boy attitude will affect all who come in contact. Enter Emily Towson, Tanner’s high school crush, and the woman with whom Tanner will fall in love. What ensues is the acrimonious relationship between Emily and Tanner, and the potential fall-out as a ‘morals clause’ in Emily’s teaching contract comes into question when the town’s newest primary school teachers is pregnant by Saddler Cove resident bad boy. Emily Towson cannot believe she seduced Tanner O’Connor on the heels of her breakup with Ryan Forrester. Being called ‘sensible’ sent Emily over the edge into the arms of Tanner O’Connor, arms that felt right for our story line heroine. But an unplanned pregnancy meant sweet, innocent, sensible and goody-two-shoes Emily Towson was in violation of her teacher’s contract, a violation that threatened everything she had worked for including her relationship with the man with whom she was falling in love. Tanner O’Connor served his time for a crime he did not commit in order to protect his one-time best friend but the people of Saddler Cove had long memories including the time when Tanner’s own father once wore the moniker of resident bad boy. Like father, like son, Tanner’s reputation had a snowball affect especially as Tanner believed the self-fulfilling prophecy as a life-long screw up, and it didn’t help matters that Emily often sat in judgement of the man, herself. The relationship between Tanner and Emily is tempestuous at best as both have issues of low self-esteem. Emily has a difficult time looking past Tanner’s tattooed and bad boy image, an image that is greatly affecting her own standing in a town filled with judgemental people. Tanner believes himself unworthy of love, especially from a woman as sweet and ‘sensible’ as Emily Towson. The back and forth, yin and yang, accusatory and emotional highs and lows between our leading couple were frustrating and childish; immature and heart breaking. The $ex scenes are intimate, erotic and intense without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text. HANDLE WITH CARE is a frustrating read; an emotional story about betrayal and discrimination; about issues of low self esteem, and self fulfilling prophecy; of redemption, acceptance and falling in love. The premise is energetic ; the characters are spirited but wounded; the romance struggles in the face of preconceived notions, self doubt and the narrow-minded, judgemental people whose intent is to ensure there is no upset to their clouded balance.
Safe. Sensible what a way to be described. It was true though, that's all she showed to anyone except him. He was angry, defiant, scared and the town bad boy. The problem is that's not who he is and why he came back. I have to say this was a well written story and yeah their story is a good one. I love that these two found what they needed and it really is a feel good story where you want them to succeed. This actually feels like a story within a story. The secondary story of Mimi and Josh is the thing that keep this story from dragging and being too long with the fight to be good enough between Tanner and Emily. The combination of the two couples makes this a wonderful emotional story of recovery and love, forgiveness and healing for everyone. This is the great start of a series from an author I haven't had the chance to read before. I love her characters and the issues addressed, they are passionate and quirky and utterly real. I can't wait to enjoy more of this series.
Handle With Care felt like such a treat. A big delicious, hot romantic treat for the heart! I can’t stop swooning! I’m absolutely smitten with every little detail that makes up this story! This is the first Nina Croft story I have read and I can’t wait to read some more by this author. Every moment spent with these characters was an ultimate pleasure. I had belly flutters, little electric sparks zapping me as I read. There is such beauty in this love story, such sizzling chemistry between these polar opposites. Loved how the town’s bad boy and the good, sensible, girl come together and make it when the odds are against them. Don’t miss this story. I loved it! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Handle with Care by Nina Croft is the first of a new Saddler Cove Series. It introduces the reader to the small-town community along with two families. It would be safe to say the Delaney-Towson and O’Connor families are on opposite sides of the track when it comes to Saddler Cove. As far as self-image goes, Emily Towson and Tanner O’Connor are right there together; not an ounce between the two of them. Along with Tanner and Emily’s story there is another major romance as well as a disturbing past event that is still affecting lives there. Saddler Cove is not your typical rural romance community. Help from neighbors seem quite limited, plus a bitter old man has more power than is healthy for any community. I did like both bad boy and good girl in this story though both had high schoolish behavior much of the time. However, it was the grandmother who stole the limelight in this story. The events at the school board meeting made quite interesting and entertaining reading too. However, this is pure fiction. Maybe these could have happened 50 years ago more likely 60 years old, but I don’t believe it could remotely happen today. I live in a neighboring state to VA but felt sorry that the state was even named in such bad behavior. Local school boards are usually county, meeting in the county seat; certainly not a small-town such as Saddler Cove. Then the church was named several times as the people who attending were part of the negativity in the town. I do not know one true Christian in my small-town who would ever agree with or back the bitter, malicious man who ran that town. In fact, I am very thankful that this is a fictional town not at all like the one where I live. 4.5 Stars The publisher/author gave me a complimentary ARC of the book which I voluntarily chose to read and reviewed. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Emily and Tanner. Miss perfect school teacher and the town ex-con bad boy. Set up by her Gran Mimi, when she wants Emily to stop playing safe and start living life, Mimi goes to town to buy and Harley from Tanner. Tanner and his two brothers own a shop in town, selling and restoring old hogs. Tanner is bitter, having served time for killing his best friend when he was younger in a car accident. Didn't help that the golden boy came from the most elitist family in their tiny town. The Conner brothers didn't have an easy time growing up, their dad was the town drunk and they got no help from anyone in the town. Tanner is the brother with the attitude. Reese recently found out he's a father to a sweet little first grader who happens to be one of Emily's pupils. Emily the epitome of school teacher, even dresses like one. Her Gran runs a ranch where she lives. Em lost her parents in a plane crash and she's lived with Mimi since then. Mimi is the best character ever. She runs an equine program for Vets with PTSD and others who need it. When Emily catches wind that her 70 year old Mimi has just bought a Harley she goes to town to give Tanner a piece of her mind and the two end up in a molten meltdown of steamy sex that melted the words of the pages. When Emily finds herself pregnant she goes to Tanner and his response was honestly the best. Not what I expected but he wanted to do right by Emily and his child. The two decide to take is slow and become friends to get to know each other going on dates. Meanwhile her ex tries to win her back... what a loser. You have to read the book to get the back story on that one, but being deemed wife material because you're sensible doesn't hit my checklist. Tanner's insecurities play into their story heavily and his doubt whether he's good enough for Em and their child. But he is determined to be their for them, no matter what. The story takes a number of twists and turns and though they've kept their impending marriage on the quiet side, they decide to go public. Bringing a whole new set of problems to these two. Tanner has also brought onboard a friend from prison who did 40 years and Josh and Mimi become close friends, causing yet another stir. No one dares say a word to Mimi who has lived in town her whole life and has her own secrets as well. Everyone in this story has a secret. When they come out, it puts yet another spin on things. After a night out together as a couple and an altercation with an old friend, Tanner makes a major decision, serving absolutely no purpose other than making him a miserable sob. Tanner is stubborn and digs in for the haul. Fool. This is a good read. I enjoyed it because despite Tanner's attitude about the people in town, he does everything he can for Emily. There was no question that Tanner was going to not be there for her. Emily made Tanner happy and Tanner helped Emily get back out there and live. The rest of the story you have to read. I hope we see more from this little town and the brothers. advanced reader copy from NetGalley and Entangled for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
I love the bad boy/good girl trope and really enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed and likable. The story is well written with very few grammatical errors. I liked how you get to see what a couple of the other characters are thinking, especially Mimi. I did start to get tired of Tanner’s f*ck everyone attitude and the general overuse of the phrase “not going to happen” throughout the book. But, it was still a fun read. I can’t wait to read more about the O’Connor boys. ARC received from the author and voluntarily reviewed.
I loved this gentle romance between Tanner the town bad boy & Emily the (sensible) school teacher. Her grandmother Mimi was a force to be reckoned with & added another dimension to the book. I liked the clash when Tanner & Emily got together which was orchestrated by Mimi, I liked getting to know them & how they had unrequited love for each other from when they were younger. There was some great dialogue between the characters & I found myself really wanting them to make it all work. It was an extra interest with Mimi & her building relationship which added to the overall storyline. Sometimes it’s good to read a different genre & contemporary is not my normal “go to” read but I always enjoy Nina’s writing & this was no exception so a deserved 5 stars. I was lucky enough to be given an ARC in exchange for an honest review of this lovely book.
Everyone in town knows Tanner O' Conner, but not for the reasons he'd hope to be known, when you come from a family like his it's hard not to catch flack from the tight knit community. His father paved the way by being known as the town drunk, then of course his siblings found their fair share of trouble, and he too earned a bad rap by doing a little stint in prison. He's use to the looks, whispers behind his back, and the common displeasure he receives while dealing with the towns folk, heck he is almost immune to it these days, he knows he'll never be able to redeem himself in their eyes, so why even try right? But when a disgruntled Emily Towson wanders into his shop one night, voicing her distaste in him selling her elderly grandmother a motorcycle, he has a hard time biting his tongue and taking the lashing Miss Prim and Proper is dishing out. She is just like the rest of the town, thinking he's up to no good and taking advantage of her grandmother, when in fact that couldn't be farther from the truth. But, instead of admitting that he already canceled the order for the hog, he decides to mess with her a bit, he's really getting a kick out of her standing in his shop all fired up and struggling the hide the lust in her eyes. It's all fun and games for him until the conversation takes an unexpected heated turn when he calls her sensible, and she literally jumps his bones... now he finds himself with a whole new host of trouble that he never saw coming!! Handle With Care takes readers to Saddlers Cove, and front and center into the lives of two characters that learn the true meaning of opposites attract, Emily and Tanner couldn't be more different, but love knows no bounds! This sweet little small town romance tale had a lot to offer readers; a wonderful pairing with sizzling chemistry; an engaging plot full of humor and heart; and of course some endearing secondary characters that round out the story; and leave you wanting to return for more! I really enjoyed this one, it captured my attention from the first page and had me hanging on tight until the last; it's sure to be a hit with small town romance readers! I requested an advanced copy of this title from NetGalley, and I am voluntarily leaving my honest opinion.
I LOVED this book! It was one of those books that I had no expectations when I started but before long the awesome characters and the intriguing storyline had me fully invested and unable to put it down. Tanner is known as the town bad boy. He's one of the sons of the town drunk and after a car accident he was sent to prison after being convicted of causing the death of his friend. Emily Towsen is a school teacher and a good girl but she's always had a soft spot for Tanner and never believed he was responsible for the accident. Their worlds collide when Emily's meddling grandmother goes to Tanner's shop and buys a Harley. When Emily confronts Tanner about the motorcycle, things get real crazy real fast. After that nothing in their lives will ever be the same. I highly recommend this one!
Saddler Cove Series Well, it happened again! I found another new to me author to stalk! Handle with Care is the first book in a hopefully new series. This book is a fantastic introduction to the people of Saddler Cove. Small town drama and small town living. This story is more than just the love story of Tanner and Emily. It's so much more! I loved the multiple POV's and the secondary romance that was going on! Emily is a fantastic character! I loved her honesty. I enjoyed the fact that she was forthright about her feelings and she didn't stew long about issues that were plaguing her! Tanner is the ultimate alpha. He has dealt with bad luck and judgemental people in his past. It explains why he is the way his is today. The chemistry between Tanner and Emily was amazing! I loved the whole dichotomy between the characters! It was a great telling of the "good girl" "bad boy" scenario. The secondary characters were fantastic and I am so hoping to read more about them in the future! This is a definite must read! I am so glad to have had the opportunity to read this! Thank you for your words Ms. Croft! I cannot wait to see what you come out with next!
Loved this book! Tanner is the sexy bad boy from the town drunk that even spent a couple years in prison, before returning to his home town to start a business with his brothers. Convinced the town hates him, he does everything possible to live up (or is it down?) to their expectations. Emily is the good girl, the sensible girl that is a first grade teacher, but who fantasizes about the bad boy....until it's no longer a fantasy. I loved the characters and especially loved Tanner....if you like a bad boy, he is very swoon-worthy. The characters have a depth that made them feel real. The author created a wonderful story that engaged me from the first page and kept me hooked until the very last page. If you enjoy contemporary romance with a side of bad, you will love this book. The author is on my must read authors' list and, if you're a fan of the genre, should probably be on yours as well.
Whew! Angst, steam, and swoon are all prominent in Handle With Care and take you on one heck of a ride! This book is certainly a roller coaster of emotion and brought out so many feelings in me as a read it. Everything from heart melting romance to utter frustration and tears, I felt it while I was reading this. Emily was hard for me to love. While she was sugary sweet to nearly everyone, her attitude towards Tanner at times really came off as judgmental and snobbish. It was a lot of one step forward two steps back with these opposites attract, which definitely built up that tension, but those steps back were always filled with what she wanted to change about Tanner. Don’t get me wrong, Tanner nailed being the town jerk occasionally, but quite frankly it was warranted. This man having such a tragic past, does nothing more than run his business and keep to himself but can’t seem to go anywhere without being judged and deemed horrible. From start to nearly finish it was like he was the town punching bag and nothing about him was good enough so when Emily would ask him to just try to change it made my heart hurt for him. Emily definitely had some growing to do, but with the more time she spent with Tanner and some more meddling and honest words from her grandmother she definitely grew to be someone I liked by the end. Along with the angsty push and pull romance between these two there are many twists and secrets that keep you flying through the pages and pull you in deeper.
Emily Towson is the epitome of a good girl. First grade teacher, conservative dress, polite, well-mannered, thoughtful. But when her boyfriend Ryan proposes she recoils in horror, particularly when he compliments her on being so sensible. Emily grandmother Mimi might be close to 70 years old but she's young at heart and she sees the way that her buttoned up grand-daughter looks at Tanner O'Connor, the town's bad boy, and decides to engineer a fling. But when a school teacher and the bad boy have a one-night stand things don't go according to plan. I really liked the start of this book: the ex-con, bad boy, tattooed, hog-riding Tanner and the tiny good girl teacher Emily have both admired from afar but each felt themselves unworthy of the other, until a temper tantrum and a bad attitude combust spectacularly. However, about a third of the way through I felt the plot ran out of steam and it became a bit 'rinse-and-repeat', Tanner gets angry because the town treats him like a pariah, Emily worries that Tanner is slumming with her, Tanner worries that Emily wants him to change, blah, blah, blah. The plot hinged on neither Tanner nor Emily ever telling the other how they felt, despite the initial over-sharing about they had each been fantasising about each other. Overall, I thought the book was overlong for the plot. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It has a great cast of characters and the story kept me turning pages pretty much nonstop until I reached the end. I was fully invested in Emily and Tanner's story even though it was not without it's frustrations. I also liked the subplot with Emily's grandmother Mimi and Tanner's ex-cellmate Josh. The writing is great and I really cared about these characters. This book was a great read. 4.5 stars. I am voluntarily reviewing an advance reader copy of this book.
He's trying to outrun his past. She's trying to run toward her future. Who knew that they'd find what they sought in the most unlikely of places. In a town where image is your calling card, the good girl and the bad boy are a mismatch made in gossip that borders on heartache and strolls through heaven. Handle With Care is a calling card of the power that love has. A courageous tale of second chances, surprise romances and happy endings.