Shaken and Stirred (2008)

By Kathleen O'Reilly

SHAKEN AND STIRRED by Kathleen O'Reilly
As a student and part-time bartender in Manhattan, Tessa Hart has found that a succession of roomies and cramped apartments are necessary evils in her life. Until she's out on the street and Gabe O'Sullivan, her mentor, boss and certified babe-magnet, steps in.

Any other woman would die to share his apartment—not to mention his bed—but Tessa's determined that they should stay just friends. The fiercely independent mixologist has to prove to their skeptical coworkers at Prime—the O'Sullivans' hot Manhattan bar—that the arrangement is strictly hands-off! But Tessa has trouble adhering to her own "no touching" rule when the actual sharing of close quarters day and night leaves her shaken and stirred....
Can you tell what I've been doing lately? I'm devoting much of my free time this summer to shrinking my TBR pile to a manageable size. Then Nationals will come around at the end of July and it'll fatten right back up again.

So... this is book one in O'Reilly's "Those Sexy O'Sullivans" trilogy, the other two being Sex, Straight Up and Nightcap. I've enjoyed them all, mostly because O'Reilly's style and talent for creating three-dimensional characters in such short reads make her books highly entertaining.

When it comes to the subject of Tessa, Romancelandia has been all abuzz with her suitability as a romance heroine. Not because she's unworthy or a whore or TSTL, but because she's very, very human. Her uncertainties and lack of self-confidence as she finds her way in the world have driven some readers batshit. Some have claimed that this book reads more like women's fiction because the arc of her self-discovery is as prominent, if not more so, than the romance. You can read the Smart Bitches' take here, which I agree with 100%.

Tessa reads like the kind of friend who has so much going for her, but whose fears keep her shackled to an ordinary or even substandard life. I just wanted to shake her, especially because her insecurities meant dissing Gabe, who is just wonderful on every level. However, I didn't find Gabe attractive in the least. O'Reilly kept mentioning how women went gaga at first sight for him, but he came across to me as a helpful big brother. He was good for Tessa, but I did not feel any tingly lusting sensations. Maybe that means the romance didn't strike me as "just right," or maybe that means I like my men brooding--like Daniel in Sex, Straight Up--not helpful and sweet.

I've enjoyed the series, overall, and appreciate how much skill of O'Reilly wields when it comes to creating very convincing, unique and three-dimensional male leads. Not all of them have worked for me, obviously, but I've been entertained nonetheless and look forward to what she does next.

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