Review: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

sweet spot by stephanie evanovichFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance; women’s fiction
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: July 8, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The amazing Stephanie Evanovich returns with The Sweet Spot, the sizzling story of everyone’s favorite couple from her New York Times bestseller Big Girl Panties: hunky professional baseball player Chase Walker and his sassy wife Amanda

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punch-line. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

My Review:

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie EvanovichThe Sweet Spot is a prequel to last year’s Big Girl Panties. Big Girl Panties drove me absolutely nuts (see review) but the secondary couple in that story is the primary couple in The Sweet Spot.

By the time that Big Girl Panties takes place, all the events in The Sweet Spot have already happened. A significant chunk of the story is revealed as background for the other story, more than enough to make me want to see what happened first. This is it.

Chase and Amanda start out as strangers in the beginning of this story, but they are at much better places in their lives than either Holly or frankly Logan in the other book. So while The Sweet Spot has its own particular brand of crazysauce, the characters are stronger and it makes the early part of the story seem to be on a much higher note.

Chase is a major league baseball player at the absolute top of his game. He’s not just big, gorgeous and generally a decent guy, he’s one of those model players that raises the level of the game he’s in. (His incredible influence reminded me a bit of Michael Jordan during his glory years in the Chicago Bulls.) Everyone loves Chase, and Chase genuinely enjoys his fans, and absolutely loves playing his game.

There’s just one little (!?!?!?) thing wrong with his life. Chase likes to spank his girlfriends, and generally be just a bit dominant when it comes to sex, but not quite to the level of BDSM. (It’s a bit hard to characterize). However, his wholesome image will be shot to hell if information about his bit of kink gets out.

Chase is a genuinely nice guy with more than a bit of a romantic streak. It’s just that there’s a wider kinky streak to go with it.

He walks into Amanda’s trendy restaurant, The Cold Creek, and falls instantly in love with the way that she sasses him and refuses to fawn over him. Amanda normally treats her customers better than that, but Chase’s agent set up the reservation with a level of assholishness that put her back up, and with good reason.

So Chase gently but inexorably goes after Amanda. The problem is that as hard as he falls for her, he sees her as a lady who can’t possibly be into any kink. He’s sure he’s fallen for a vanilla, and it makes him crazy. It also causes a slump in his baseball game.

Chase tries (and fails) to figure out how he can keep Amanda and deal with the wilder parts of his nature, while Amanda falls for the sweet romantic who sweeps her off her feet.

Taking their relationship to where they both need it to be is hot and sweet. But Amanda has gone through her whole life believing that she can never have what she wants. That she’s absolutely destined to settle for second place. As happy as she is, she can’t help but look for the crash that she knows is coming.

When scandal threatens to snatch away everything they have built, Amanda runs away. And Chase makes the terrible mistake of letting her, and the best thing in his life, go.

Escape Rating B: I wish that The Sweet Spot had come out first. Not just because all the big events in Chase and Amanda’s story are spoiled in Big Girl Panties, but because they start out from much stronger places and it makes for a more fun story, especially at the beginning.

Amanda had a good life before she met Chase, and would have continued to be successful if they had never met. They complete each other emotionally, but she doesn’t start the story “so far down that bottom looks like up”, the way that Holly did in Big Girl Panties.

Amanda also has a lot of very reasonable sounding doubts about how the spanking thing is working for her. She is liberated and independent, and she has a difficult emotional journey getting to a place where she accepts that she enjoys Chase’s style of domination to the point where she deliberately provokes it. She keeps her agency, it just takes her a while to figure that out.

I will say that Chase’s reactions the first time he lets his kinky side out bothered me a bit. There was a definite element of him being smug about knowing what was best for her. And while she did enjoy it, he doesn’t explain what is going to happen, and he was a bit condescending about the emotional storm that results. It was one of the few times when I really didn’t like him much.

On the other hand, when the scandal breaks, Amanda’s actions were pretty childish. While I could understand and sympathize, she doesn’t stand up for herself and for their relationship, and leaves Chase holding the bag and dealing with the resulting mess. So they each definitely have big moments that could have been relationship-breakers.

But that drum circle where she finally finds herself and her courage was awesome.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie EvanovichFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, large print paperback, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance, Women’s fiction
Length: 341 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: July 9, 2013
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Holly Brennan used food to comfort herself through her husband’s illness and death. Now she’s alone at age thirty-two. And she weighs more than she ever has. When fate throws her in the path of Logan Montgomery, personal trainer to pro athletes, and he offers to train her, Holly concludes it must be a sign. Much as she dreads the thought of working out, Holly knows she needs to put on her big girl panties and see if she can sweat out some of her grief.

Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly to most intense and steamy workouts. But can Holly and Logan go the distance as a couple now that she’s met her goals—and other men are noticing?

My Review:

I read Stephanie Evanovich’s “ugly duckling” story in one sitting. The story of Holly’s life-changing turn around was so damn compelling that I couldn’t stop flicking over the pages. After I finished, I realized that Holly probably wasn’t the only ugly duckling in the book. As the old saying goes, “beauty may be skin deep, but ugly goes clear through to the bone.”

Logan may start out the book looking like an Adonis, but on the inside, he’s pretty ugly, or at least on the shallow end of the personality pool. If “handsome is as handsome does,” he doesn’t.

He thinks he’s going to fix her. They fix each other. He’s a personal trainer for a lot of major league sports stars, and he’s lost a lot of his soul along the way.

She’s learned from a very unloved childhood that food is comfort. Her husband’s lingering death from cancer caused her to take that particular comfort to an unhealthy extreme.

These two people need each other, the story is in watching them figure it out. Especially since Holly doesn’t exercise herself down to a size 0. She gets strong and healthy but she’s still not a Barbie doll. And she never will be because that would not be healthy for her.

What Holly does is figure out that she can be strong on her own. And that she is able to really love someone. Fortunately or unfortunately for her she falls in love with Logan, who has issues of his own. He has let himself be trapped by what society expects of his image, instead of who or what is right for him.

Holly becomes strong enough to walk away, no matter how much it hurts, instead of continuing to be a doormat. She doesn’t quite make it all the way, but she’s far ahead of where she started. This is her story.

Escape Rating B: While Big Girl Panties was compelling, it is not a comfortable read. Holly’s life has piled on one tragedy after another, until food and self-deprecating humor have become her only comforts. Logan may be handsome, but at the beginning he is not exactly hero material. His personality needs serious work.

While the story definitely has “friends into lovers” elements, Logan doesn’t become attracted to Holly until after she loses about 45 pounds and she starts dressing to show off her new assets. He doesn’t get past her not being a Barbie-sized woman until he nearly loses her. Even once they become lovers, he keeps the affair a secret because he’s not sure what people will think about seeing him with a woman who may be fit and healthy but is probably the size of most of the rest of us instead of size 0 or 2.

His friend Chase calls him on it. Chase’s wife Amanda isn’t exactly a size 2 either, and Chase loves her just the way she is, because he loves Amanda and not what size she is. (Chase and Amanda were a fascinating secondary couple, I wouldn’t mind reading their story!)

Holly’s building friendship with Amanda was also a terrific part of the story. It showed Holly emerging from her grief and isolation.

I couldn’t put this one down. I wanted Holly to find her Happy Ever After, and I didn’t care whether she found it because Logan finally got his head on straight or because she walked away and took her brave new self to someone else who appreciated her. She was the character I’d grown to appreciate because she’d picked herself up and dusted herself off. Holly would have been a winner no matter what.

I also wish I could see the Death Swan costume she wore to that party. It must have been awesome.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.