USA Today Bestselling Author M.Q. Barber likes to get lost in thought. She writes things down so she can find herself again. Often found staring off into space or frantically scratching words on sticky notes, M.Q. lives with one very tolerant, easily amused husband and one very tolerant, easily amused puppy. She has a soft spot for romances that explore the inner workings of the heart and mind alongside all that steamy physical exertion. She loves memorable characters, witty banter, and heartfelt emotion in any genre. The former Midwestern gal is the author of the Neighborly Affection contemporary romance series as well as several other standalone romance novels. Pick a safeword, grab a partner or two, and jump in. Visit her on the web at mqbarber.com.
|Publisher:||Lyrical Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Dead last. Again.
The four of them went out after work every Friday, and every Friday Eleanora sat and smiled while guys bought drinks for Sharilyn. Hit the dance floor with Amber. Chatted up Chelsea's breasts.
Even the sidekicks — wingmen, whatever guys called themselves — refused to give her a second glance. She couldn't blame their lack of interest on the ring. She'd taken off the meaningless metal circle before the divorce had been finalized.
But to the endless crowd of broad-smile bar-hoppers, she rated five seconds of stilted conversation between texting or checking sports scores or playing Angry Birds. The highlight of four hours of boredom. Single life almost matched the worst tedium of married life.
That's what she got for saddling herself with David and galloping through her twenties with his ring on her finger. He'd been her first. Her only.
Now she performed rotating roles as babysitter, chaperone, and charity case. She didn't belong at a too-small table packed alongside tight-skinned and perky-breasted girls who flashed their IDs with the affected nonchalance of twenty-two-year-olds.
She downed the final sip of her third beer of the night. She didn't dare hop in her car and head home yet. Given her luck, she'd end up pulled over and facing a drunk-driving charge. David would love any excuse to point out her idiocy. Hiring a lawyer without him finding out would be impossible in this town. She'd never live down the humiliation.
"— and it's deep, too."
Chelsea laughed along with what's-his-name. Dog Collar Dude. Not attractive, but he had deep pockets. Probably thought he'd be getting in deep with Chelsea tonight, payment in exchange for buying round after round of drinks. God knew he hadn't taken his eyes off her breasts.
Laughter came dangerously close to making Chelsea spill out of her silky, sleeveless v-cut. Eleanora's closet didn't hold a shirt anywhere near so revealing. Boring and staid, as much an accountant in her fashion picks as in her career choices. And in her bedroom habits.
She tilted her brown bottle. All gone. No magical extra swallows remained to knock David's voice from her head.
"Whoa." An unknown quantity stumbled to a halt beside her chair. "Your friend's hot."
Fantastic. The newest Mr. Drunk-and-Horny leaned in close and drenched her nose with the scent of teen body spray. Probably the same disgusting brand he'd used in high school. Probably lived in the same bedroom, too.
"Oh? Which one?" She'd come to this lousy bar with three friends — well, acquaintances — and he didn't have a chance with any of them.
The skinny blond kid blinked as he scanned their table. Jesus. He looked barely old enough to buy the three beers he held, and she'd celebrated thirty-one six months ago.
Sooner or later she'd have to inform her coworkers she wasn't going out with them anymore. They were twenty-four, twenty-five, and poaching college boys was fine for them. For her, the whole scene smacked of desperation. Three months of this bullshit added up to quite enough.
"Uh, all of 'em?" He presented a dopey smile.
"Damn, Ellie. Picking 'em young tonight, aren't you?" Sharilyn swung her martini glass upward, sloshing vodka over the rim. "Good for you."
"Yeah, no, I'm not —"
The kid wobbled into her chair. "I don't feel —"
Vomit splattered her shoulder and rolled down her chest. Ugh. Should've dodged faster. She shoved him back.
Stumbling over his own feet, he landed on his ass, spilled his three beers all over himself, and retched. The acrid stench of puke replaced the flood of body spray in her nose. A toss-up, really.
She laughed over the chorus of oh-my-gods from the rest of the table. At least the night wasn't boring anymore.
* * *
Rob swallowed the last of his beer. Lucas had better hurry up with the refills. "What now?"
They'd hit a handful of bars already. Brian had found trouble with every damned one. With Lucas staying at his place for the summer, he'd been playing mother hen for the last three weeks.
"I think my baby brother's puking his guts out."
"Take him home. Happy beer-buying birthday and all, but he's done for the night." He'd celebrated his own twenty-first on base with a pack of fellow tech geeks. Good guys, including Brian. How had fifteen years gone by so fast? "Pour him into bed."
"Yeah." Brian grimaced. "Soon as I figure out what to say to the woman with puke running down her shirt."
"Try an apology." He shoved his chair back and stood, scanning the tables for Lucas's god-awful sea-green pullover. "Where is he?"
He spotted the vomit-splattered woman about the same time Brian answered, "Your four o'clock."
Shit. Lucas had spewed at a full table, and he couldn't get eyes on him. Man down. Threat?
No punches thrown, so far as he could tell. A circle of horrified and disgusted faces clustered to one side, their owners staring at the floor. One guy held his phone up. On the far side of the table sat a laughing woman with a beautiful smile and a stained shirt. Damn. He hadn't taken a woman home in almost four months, and Lucas had partyfouled the first to catch his eye. "C'mon, let's go rescue Lucas and get out of here."
Looked like tonight wouldn't be the night to break his sexless streak.
* * *
"Oh my God, Ellie, seriously, how can you laugh about this?" Light glinted off glitter-speckled fingernails. Amber pushed back from the table. "Yuck. Danny, take me dancing." She dragged her boy of the night away with a theatrical flounce.
"You do kinda reek, Ellie." Sharilyn wrinkled her nose. "Not your fault, but eww."
Waving in front of her face, Chelsea nodded.
Dog Collar Dude flipped through his phone. "Fuck, I missed the kid's first splash. You think he could upchuck again? The visual'd make the video so much better."
Eleanora glanced down with care. The regurgitated beer soaking into her shirt quickly lost its amusement value. The kid had added a puddle beside her chair. He barked out coughs like a hoarse dog.
"No, I don't think he's got anything else in his stomach." She poked his knee with her foot. "Kid? You all right? You got somebody we can call for you?"
No answer, unless she counted more retching. Between the sound and the smell, her stomach started to turn.
A second man with the same pale hair as the first dropped to the floor beside the kid and laid a hand on his back. "Shit, Lucas, I thought you might've passed out."
"Are you all right, miss?"
Sex on a stick. Thick thighs encased in denim inches from her eyes. She launched her head back and her chin skyward. Eyes up. Ohhh, bad idea. The stranger loomed over her with his strong jaw and his short, dark hair and his no-nonsense eyes.
"No, of course you aren't." His aborted hand movement stopped short of her shoulder. "Ugh, he did a number on your shirt. Let me give you a hand."
He slipped around the other side of her seat. Cupping her elbow in one hand and pressing against her back with the other, he coaxed her to her feet. Large hands. Warm hands.
Her body jangled like a change jar spilling on tile.
"Look, he's really sorry, or he will be when he's sober." The stranger glanced down, shaking his head. "He's twenty-one today."
She nodded. The blond guy picked the younger one off the floor. First legal drinking day. Okay. She filed the data under don't care and waited for details about Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome.
"You can't wear that home."
Her chest had snared more attention in the last five minutes than in three months of flaunting herself at bars. She'd found the secret of dating. When introversion and modest assets failed, distress attracted the good guys. Not how she'd hoped to find someone.
The man with large hands squeezed and let her go. Peeling off his shirt, he revealed a to-die-for body. Solid, toned muscles from top to bottom. Too bad his jeans came almost to his waist. Denim blocked the enticing slope heading into his pants. God, David had never reached such nonchalant bare-chested perfection.
Her rescuer held out his shirt and gestured her toward the back of the bar. "Here, let me give you mine for tonight."
No fucking way. This guy couldn't be for real. She stumbled over her chair.
He steadied her with a quick hand on her clean shoulder.
"Thanks." Oh, hallelujah. She'd started thinking she'd never find her voice. "That's, umm, I appreciate it."
"Least I can do, miss." He guided her in front of him past the line for the ladies' room and stopped at the door.
"Yo, man, you gotta put your shirt on." A beefy guy in a black shirt with the bar's logo over his chest held out an arm. "Carrying it don't count. You can't be shirtless, not in here."
She disagreed with strenuous, silent objections. Her gentleman deserved to go shirtless wherever he liked.
"You wanna run around half-naked, you gotta head down the street to the Lazy Eight."
Making that man put his shirt back on would be a crime. Her skin heated at the slow slide of excitement between her legs. Thirty minutes of fantasizing and foreplay with David left her dry as a desert compared to three minutes of standing next to Shirtless Gentleman. The longer she lingered in his orbit, the harder her lungs worked to serve up oxygen.
Lust walloped her with embarrassing swiftness. She lacked the looks and flirty attitude to pull a guy without adding a vomit-soaked shell to the mix. Riding off into the sunset with Shirtless Gentleman glinted so far out of the picture the location didn't exist on her map.
"Yeah, I get that." Shirtless Gentleman raised a hand. "You can toss me out in a minute. Right now, this pretty girl's got someone else's puke on her clothes, and I'm going to make sure she's safe while she's changing."
Gripping his shirt, she ducked into the ladies' room past the line of pissed-off, well-beyond-buzzed women. Shirtless Gentleman's presence seemed to deflect any cursing about cutting the line.
"No, ma'am," he rumbled over the din of music and chatter. "I don't wax and you may not touch."
Ma'am. Polite. Mannered.
She stuffed her shirt in the trash and grabbed a handful of paper towels.
The damp paper towels scraped her neck under her hardy scrubbing. At least the kid hadn't destroyed her bra. The practical white soft-cup would serve.
Was Shirtless Gentleman military?
Tucking in the shirt didn't give her the fitted look it had given him, but she managed to minimize her resemblance to a child swimming in her father's clothes. Squinting hard almost made the outfit look intentional. A style choice to wear a black wide-neck tee with exposed white bra straps.
She slipped into the hall, her skin electric. His bare chest greeted her from two feet away, his arms crossed and his feet planted in a wide, easy stance. A few hoots and drunken catcalls rose from the women waiting in line.
Shoving aside her embarrassment, she tipped her head back and met his eyes. "Thank you."
His attention stayed centered on her. The unsmiling bulk of a man sported solid pecs and a penetrating stare.
"Again." She fumbled for a classy conversation starter. "Your shirt's really soft."
Your shirt's really soft. What the fuck. Her brains had gone soft. Complete mush. Mashed potatoes held the edge in outthinking her.
His mouth twitched. "Must match your skin."
"Sorry?" She'd heard him wrong. No way had he complimented her skin. Men didn't say those things to her. "I didn't catch that."
He shook his head and dropped his arms. "Shirt looks better on you than it ever did on me, miss. Let me walk you back."
Turning, he swept his hand behind her and landed with a light touch. Five points of pressure, a half circle of fingertips keeping in contact as they returned to the table. More than a few whistles followed them.
"It doesn't bother you? Being" — she waved at the crowded tables — "stared at? Graded? Like you're on display?"
Stupid question. Of course, the attention wouldn't bother him. He had cool, calm confidence perfected. Anyone with his godlike body would want to show off.
"I got over any fear of public grading in basic training."
Military. Nailed it.
Not yet, you haven't.
Her face flamed.
"A'course, the opinions of a bunch of yappy drunks aren't worth all that much, positive or not." Shrugging, he tapped her back. "Being on display for the one woman who matters, well now, that's a whole other thing. That'll make a man nervous, sure enough, however cool he plays it."
Great. He had a woman who mattered. Smooth, too, about sliding the revelation into the conversation. No ring, but an empty finger didn't mean much these days.
"I think you've got cool down." Months of going out with the girls from work had taught her how to categorize the bar crowd. The unholy chaos broke into three groups, all ring-free, with the singular difference whether they were ring-free but committed, ring-free and open or cheating, or ring-free and actually unattached. Limiting herself to the third group hadn't done her any favors. "I hope your woman who matters sees through the facade and tells you what a great catch she's made."
He paused his tapping. "Oh, I don't —"
"Woo, I didn't know you were that kind of girl."
Sharilyn slapped her hand on the table. "Swapping clothes in a stall?" Her nosy, flamboyant attitude owed nothing to the drinks she'd downed. She came by her perky personality naturally. "What else did he get on you, Ellie?"
Ugh. She smiled through her irritation. Eleanora was bad enough, thanks to her mother's obsession with family history. Every girl wanted to be named for the great-grandmother she'd never met.
Shortening her name to Ellie might as well transform her into a cow. Get along now, Bessie, Daisy, Ellie.
Sharilyn made her sound like a cow giving the milk away for free with a man she'd met ten minutes ago.
"I'm — we weren't —"
* * *
Christ. Her little friend produced as much bile as Lucas had, and the bitter sting seemed to hit her harder. The woman who'd laughed over a ruined shirt faced her sniping girlfriend with hunched shoulders, stammering a response somewhere roundabout her shoes.
"I'll overlook that because you're young and drunk, but you might wanna think on what you're saying about your friend." He'd dropped into his gruff tone, a favorite for his square-your-shit speech. A touch of gravel worked great for rattling the nerves.
The bile-producer dropped her mouth open, amazingly without the rim of a drink glass attached. The modest beauty wearing his shirt lifted her head.
"I'm not the sort of man to take a beautiful woman in a bar bathroom for an audience." Not on the first date, at least, and not unless he'd be fulfilling a fantasy for her. "And she seems like a fine lady who deserves a better class of friends."
"Did he just — who the hell are you to say what —"
Lordy, Miss Martini could screech. The woman beside him stood silent, watching him with narrowed eyes. Not angry, so far as he could tell. Assessing, like she'd spotted something new. Good. She might spare more than a thought for something new, if he got the chance to correct her misunderstanding about his relationship status.
"Shar, be chill." The curvy blonde beside the screecher leaned forward.
He averted his eyes from her gaping shirt. His daddy'd taught him to be polite. Daddy'd also taught his sisters to have more respect for themselves than these girls possessed.
"Hey, rescue dude, your buddy took the spew monkey outside for some air or whatever. Said they'd wait for you out there."
Fuck. He'd offered to drive tonight so Brian could get smashed with his brother.
"Right. Thanks for the message." He turned to the woman in his shirt, torn between handing her down to her chair the way a gentleman ought to and asking if she'd care to go for a drive.
He should've bought the extended cab. Nothing romantic about sitting four across in the pickup with a boy sick as a dog hanging his head out the window.
Of course, he'd have the lovely lady beside him, her thigh pressed alongside his. Maybe the tickle of her honey brown hair on his shoulder. His cock twitched, eager as a teenager's for a shot at action.
"I'll walk you out," she blurted. "In case the staff gives you any more trouble. About the shirt, I mean."
Holy hell. He might have a better-than-nothing chance of getting her number yet. "My heroine. That's right kind of you, miss."
She linked her arm around his, sweet as you please, and tugged him away from the table.
"Yeah!" Stemware drained, martini girl slung the empty glass with loud, obnoxious, sloppy encouragement.
"You're halfway there, girl."
At sixteen, he'd begged every night in his dreams for that type of rowdy girl. At thirty-six, he had other ideas.
"Take him out and ride him home, Ellie." The girl's shout followed them. "You deserve it!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Her Shirtless Gentleman"
Copyright © 2015 M.Q. Barber.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
What a wonderful love story with some hot sprinkled around. Love the way they met. I enjoyed how Rob helped Nora come into herself after being put down for so many years by her dipwad husband. Just a truly good guy who knew what he wanted and went after her.
Sweet and romantic....hated it to end!
I love Barber's writing style. This is about divorcee Nora and Rob. Nora was emotionally abused by her ex husband. Rob is a true gentleman. There weren't any horrible misunderstandings and Rob wasn't a player that settled down for Nora. It was a sweet and sexy read. The sex scenes were hot and I loved the honesty they both had. No games here. This book had the comfort of sipping hot cocoa in front of a fire on a cold, winter night. A very enjoyable read.
OK book . I love her other series but don't know what happened to this one
As a fan of Barber’s Neighborly Affection series, I was both excited and nervous to read Her Shirtless Gentleman. Excited because I love the author’s writing style, yet nervous because the book is unlike the Neighborly Affection series and I worried that I would discover it was the series and characters and not actually the author’s writing I enjoyed. However, within mere pages my nervousness was obliterated as I fell under the spell of Rob and Nora and their unfolding romance. We first meet Nora as she is out with the girls from work, and she means that literally as there is almost a decade between her and her 22 year-old coworkers. But as a divorcee, she doesn’t feel she can be too choosey if she wants to avoid hitting the dating scene alone. Even though she’s striking out when compared to her friends, an encounter with a young man who can’t hold his liquor insures that her evening will be memorable (
Already being a fan of M.Q. Barber from her Neighborly Affection series, I had a feeling this was going to be a great book, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. Her Shirtless Gentleman was incredibly sweet and passionate and empowering and hopeful and the kind of book that just makes you feel good. Rob and Nora are such a beautiful couple and their journey to love is nothing short of magical, yet grounded in reality at the same time. Ms. Barber has a genuine gift for writing true to life characters who still manage to find real true love in today's world. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an erotic yet heartfelt book. You won't be disappointed!
HHer Shirtless Gentleman by M.Q. Barber er Shirtless Gentleman by M.Q. BarberHer Shirtless Gentleman, M.Q. Barber er Shirtless Gentleman Her Shirtless Gentleman, M.Q,Barber Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre: Romance,Erotica. Well, I adore M.Q.Barber’s books featuring Henry, Jay and Alice, so was keen to read this. Its similar in that once again its very sensual, with well written love scenes, and it’s not a conventional romance read, where a meets b and they have fun, get parted and find each other again to live HEA. No, this is more a journey for Eleanora, where she learns to live, to trust, to love again after her despicable ex left her. He’d sapped at her confidence, made her feel at fault for their marriage failing, he’d criticised everything about her from her looks, her job, her friends to their sex life. He claimed it was her frigidity that made him turn to another woman....Now they’re divorced but Eleanora just doesn’t know how to date, what to do or say, how to behave, it’s years since she needed to and everything seems so different. She hasn’t any friends to ask, the ex got rid of all those, and moved them to a place where she knew no-one except work colleagues. Then on a night out with them she meets Rob. Rob can see she’s worth every bit of effort he’ll need to put in with her, that she needs careful handling to not frighten her away, that he needs to build her confidence. He reminds me of Henry in a way, where he puts Eleanora first, just as Henry always puts Alice and Jay first. Its a gentle, slow romance but that doesn't mean its without heat. They aren’t teens but adults with adult natures, and Rob has some brilliant ways of encouraging Eleanora out of her shell and into his hands – literally at times!! Its a lovely gentle romance but though I love that with the H,J,A trio, its the combo of them together that makes the books such fun, along with the BDSM and the psychology, but in this there’s just the two of them, no extras and its just too sweet and gentle. I missed the drama that’s usually in a romance. I understand the way it played out, liked seeing the way Eleanora bloomed, gained confidence, and there’s a nice wrap up but though I enjoyed reading it I won’t re read as I do with H,J,A’s novels. Stars: 3.5 I hovered between three and four, I did enjoy it but wasn’t riveted and won’t reread. ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
I love MQ Barber! And this book doesn't disappoint. It is a sweet love story and I totally fell in love with Rob. :) I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a gentle romance.
Sweet romance story!
Freshly divorced and still reeling, Eleanora is trying to find her footing in a life very different from the one she always imagined. But, her marriage wasn’t perfect: her husband was distant and remote, and a philanderer, and like all in her situation, her self-esteem took a serious hit. Rob has been searching for ‘the right woman’, unsuccessfully, since leaving the Air Force. He’s got a solid idea of what he wants, now the time is to find his who. A night out with work friends finds Eleanora a touch uncomfortable, but hoping to have a good time. And then she meets Rob, and sparks fly. Different from her husband, Rob is kind, interested in what she thinks and feels, and he is willing to gently encourage her to embrace who she is in this new incarnations, that potentially holds a relationship for the two of them. Told in alternating points of view, the characters relationship develops and grows, and readers see the dates and together time, as well as the changes in the interior monologues about the relationship. These two are on the same page: they both want a person to love them, to be honest with, to explore life and pleasure together. And those moments are sweet, steamy and honest. A wonderful start to a new series, and a perfect read to reclaim your belief in relationships. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Five satisfied stars for this seductively sweet story about love. Sweet, intelligent, romantic exploration. THAT is Barber's genre. If you’ve come to this standalone book because you’ve read her Neighborly Affection series, then you’re already a fan. We shouldn't narrow her writing or try to define it with labels like vanilla, ménage, or BDSM -- two of which aren't part of this book's story arc, which is kind of my point. Her characters are what make all of her books unique; the wit and turn of phrase embedded within the dialog, the attention to physical characteristics and details -- those are the bones on which her stories are laid. Bowling lanes, restaurant scenes, relationship baggage, and rituals, those muscles pull this story wagon up the hill stride-by-stride with a few breath-stealing slips along the way. Piece-by-piece we bring together the puzzle of bits that make Rob and Eleanora tick on their own. Then, the characters emotional growth and relief at finding love are what send that same wagon careening downhill in a carefully controlled rush. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT implying the sex scenes aren’t hot, because they soooo are. Tautly controlled passion filled with a responsive connection is a superb thing to witness and experience, even second hand, through the pages of a book such as this. Barber's writing is so much more than the tab / slot that so many books offer, and regardless what category you find the book listed under, remember: sweet, intelligent, romantic exploration. Enjoy, I know I did!
While there are some sexy scenes in this book (and Rob is one hot-hot guy!), this isn’t an erotica like M.Q. Barber’s other books. No BDSM in sight. But it is just the kind of romance I love to read (making me feel all gooey inside) and it went much too fast (I might just have to re-read it!). I love M.Q. Barber’s books and she’s an automatic buy for me.
I loved this book! This is the first book I have read by M. Q. Barber and I plan to look up her books in the future! This story centers on Nora a recent divorcee and Rob, a genuine nice guy who is looking for a wife and a family. They meet at a bar when Rob's little brother throws up all over Nora, and Rob literally gives her the shirt off his back so she doesn't have to smell like vomit on her way home. He takes her out and realizes that she needs time and a friend. If he is patient he will be able to achieve his goal and live happily ever after with his true love, Nora. I really loved how the author was able to create two realistic main characters that were funny, with insecurities, hopes and fears. I was blown away by the this book and had to finish it in one night! I recommend it to fans of fans of Romance! I was given a free copy for an honest review by netgalley.com