Readers who love bad boys, and good girls who want to be bad, will find themselves drawn to this romance about starting over. Keep reading to get a tantalizing taste of Turn Up the Heat by Serena Bell, along with my impressions of it. Learn some in-depth info about this book from the author herself and by visiting the other sites hosting this tour too. To celebrate this first installment in the Second Chances series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a Loveswept mug, a Flirt mug, and an assortment of eBooks!
I’m thrilled to be visiting today as part of my Turn Up the Heat tour! Thank you so much, Scarf Princess for hosting me today.....
Turn Up the Heat is the story of Lily, an aspiring chef who has been derailed by bad romantic choices, and Kincaid, a tattooed ex-con who wants nothing more than to coax—or, really, command—Lily into making what she sees as more bad decisions.
Readers often ask about the settings for my books, wondering whether they’re real locations or made up. The answer is a little of both! Turn Up the Heat takes place in the fictional beach town of Tierney Bay, which is an amalgam of a whole lot of my favorite locales along the northernmost stretch of Oregon’s coast:
Tierney Bay had once upon a time been a well-known tourist destination, but about fifty years ago Cannon Beach had stolen its thunder, and Tierney Bay had slowly dried up until there was not much left of its former glory. Markos’s diner. A bakery, a market, a hardware store. The stores that had once appealed to tourists—the bike shop, the kite shop, the ice cream shop, the toy store, the women’s clothing boutiques—were open fewer and fewer hours, and some had shuttered for good, leaving empty storefronts.
Sometimes people will talk about the setting of a book being like “another character.” I never really understood that until I wrote Turn Up the Heat. As I developed Tierney Bay, I began to see that, like both Lily and Kincaid, the town is at first caught between a past it can’t quite come to terms with, and a future it hasn’t yet imagined. In some ways, Turn Up the Heat is the story of how all three of them—hero, heroine, and town—escape the past’s tethers and plow forward to find something better.
Or to put it a different way, Turn Up the Heat is partly a book about how falling in love in a place is a lot like falling in love with a place, and how when that happens, your fortunes can easily become tied to the town’s. We see this all the time in romance novels—and I’ve seen it in my own life.
The first time I ever visited the Oregon coast was the summer after I met my now-husband. His family had been vacationing there ever since his father was a kid, and he lured me from my East coast comforts to accompany him to Cannon Beach. I was charmed—by the town’s similarity to a New England beach town, by the wide, pale sands of Cannon Beach itself, and by the mysterious, craggy, cliffs that characterized the beaches to the north and south.
It was perfect summer weather, too—bright blue, clear skies, blazing sun, and cool breezes. I was still falling in love (am still), and my enchantment with the place—long cliff walks and a sunburned nose; wandering at night on the beach, arms around each other; browsing Cannon Beach’s charming bookstore and library—blended with my unfolding fascination with Mr. Bell.
That story, like Lily, Kincaid, and Tierney Bay’s, has a happy ending. Every year since that first fateful visit, Mr. Bell and I have returned to the Oregon coast, and now that we live in the Seattle area, we vacation there frequently with our kids, who have fallen in love with the area, too—with playing Legos in the beach house that Mr. Bell’s parents built, with wandering on the beach and finding treasures, with glomming crepes and ice cream cones and—of course—spending long hours browsing in bookstore and library.
For readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell teases all five senses in this poignant, tantalizing novel of fantasies long hidden . . . and finally indulged.
Aspiring chef Lily McKee noticed Kincaid Graves the first time he walked into the dingy diner where she waits tables. With his ice-blue eyes and primal tattoos, his presence puts Lily on edge—and reminds her of all the unfulfilled longings she isn’t pursuing while she’s stuck in this dead-end job. Without a doubt, the man is dangerous to her long-term plans of leaving town and hiring on at a real kitchen—and yet, she hungers for him, if even for just a taste.
Kincaid didn’t come back to his coastal Oregon hometown looking for a good time or a good meal. The ex-con has a score to settle, old wrongs to set right. But Lily, equal parts innocence and insight, brings out an impulsive side of him he thought he’d left behind in the past. And it only takes one intense moment of weakness between them to make him consider the possibility of an entirely new future—and the promise of passion beyond either of their wildest dreams.
In prison, you perfected the art of watching without seeming to watch. You learned to keep an eye on everyone and everything, to monitor subtle shifts, the changes in weather that warned of coming disaster.
You didn’t lose that habit overnight. Kincaid Graves could sit in his booth in the diner, read his book, and see and hear everything. He knew where she was, every second. He’d watched when the burly Greek had invited her to cook, seen the way she danced behind the counter, graceful and efficient. He’d monitored the movements of the other cook, too, so he knew the guy had been in her space, had messed with her grill.
He’d watched her scrape the grill and start over, and he’d watched her wield a hot spatula against her oppressor the next time he’d messed with her. She’d eked a smile out of the guy, even—the guy knew toughness when he saw it. She might not be from around here—something Midwestern in her accent said she wasn’t—but she had good pioneer spirit. Build, burn it down, rebuild.
She was beautiful, this close. Huge green eyes, arched eyebrows, pixie face, pointed chin, wide, full mouth. Those eyes. Hadn’t he read that people were programmed to go nuts for big eyes, something to do with the urge to care for young, vulnerable creatures?
This was all apart from how bad he wanted her. She was tall and slim, with small, high breasts and a tiny waist, and he wanted to pick her up and wedge her against the wood paneling and surge into her under that absurd little skirt.
He couldn’t trust those impulses. He’d been the better part of a decade without sex with anything other than his fist. He was hyperaware of all the waitresses, dressed to bring in tips in short skirts and booty shorts and teeny-tiny tops. His cock was decidedly unpicky these days, willing to get hammer hard for any halfway appealing visual.
Her eyes were another thing entirely. Always moving, taking everything in. Sad all the time, sadder still after she’d been booted out of the kitchen. He’d wanted to shake the asshole owner, to make him see: She’s the only one around here who knows what she’s doing. Listen to her!
Those eyes took people’s measure, were thoughtful without being calculating. She spent time at each table, never seemed rushed, talked earnestly with customers, advising them. Getting to know them.
Those eyes, when they looked at him, held something speculative, something greedy. His cock hardened. Ever-hopeful idiot.
“I’m Lily,” she said.
He already knew that. The waitresses here didn’t wear name tags, but he’d heard her say it to other customers. Still, it was different, hearing her say it to him. Introducing yourself, that was the beginning of something. A friendship, a relationship.
He didn’t need or want either of those things. For one thing, he had a job to do, a mission. He was going to find a way to get his grandmother’s money back and make sure it went to the kids she’d loved so much. For now, that was where all his energy needed to go. And besides, even if there might at some point in his life—if he could remake it—be room for a woman, it wouldn’t be a woman like Lily. It would be someone less refined, angrier, more worldly, someone who had already set aside bright, innocent dreams. The other waitresses were closer to it. A single mom with a deadbeat ex-husband—Grant had told him—who’d done time for cooking meth. Another, thirty-something, chronically single, her age showing in every line of her face and in her dead eyes. It would be harder to scare away a woman like that. To disappoint her.
This woman, this Lily, did not seem like the sort who would be able to assimilate Kincaid’s life story. In a rage, I held a knife, a knife I’d used to chop onions since I was eight years old, to a man’s throat, and I told him if he hurt my grandmother again, I’d kill him. I cut him. Not deep enough to kill. But deep enough.
“I’ll take the check,” he said, instead of answering her implicit question. “Get out of your way.”
Even though he wanted to stay. Because it was a place to be, because there were people here and that felt like company, even if he didn’t interact with them. Because he was used to constant clamor, to being surrounded by human life and foible, and if he went home now it would be another night in that small, dark, lonely cabin. His P.O.—parole officer—had strongly advised him against spending time in bars (“Shit happens in bars”), which left him only a few options for hangouts. This was his favorite.
“You want to stay? Sit and read?”
It was as if she’d read his mind, and the way those green eyes bored into him, maybe she had.
“He’ll be pissed at you.” He gestured with his head at the tubby Greek owner.
“He’s already pissed at me.” She smiled and shrugged.
Brave girl. “You’ll lose tips.”
They both knew he’d tip her well. He’d gone out of his way to tip all the waitresses here generously, in hopes of a favor like this one coming his way. The chance to sit a little longer where the noise in his head wasn’t louder than the noise outside.
“But you do have to tell me your name.”
She’d noticed his evasion, then. “Kincaid Graves.”
“Kincaid,” she repeated. “Nice to meet you, Kincaid.”
“Nice to meet you, Lily,” he said.
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MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
Though this story was a bit predictable I enjoyed the flow of the storytelling and the sexual tension that permeated the entire story. Kincaid's a man who committed a crime in the name of love and still feels there's more to be done out of that love but is desperate to keep out of trouble. He's lonely though, and after keeping to himself since returning home, he's starting to venture out. Though he's drawn to the good girl waitress Lily, he knows he has no business being around her. When the temptation becomes too much he finds himself scorching up the sheets giving her the freedom and acceptance she's been longing for. In return he finds someone who looks past the labels and is drawn to his kind heart and protective nature. Kincaid's edginess mixed with his sweetness drew me to him like a moth to a flame and I'm still dreaming of his quiet control.
Lily once had everything until she let her boyfriend know she liked a bit of kink. After that she was without a job, a home, and friends and ran far away to waitress while waiting to return to her old life. Believing her desires to be unnatural she keeps them to herself but with each of Kincaid's visits she sees glimpses of a kindred spirit. Though life keeps knocking her down she always gets back up with her strong spirit on display. She and Kincaid ultimately find a bit of peace in a world that makes them feel like outcasts. Lily is a nice girl with a big heart who longs for more than what she has now. With her inner frustrations mounting she's looking for release and Kincaid provides that. In return she brings acceptance to his life that others have condemned him for.
This is a steamy story from start to finish teeming with sexual tension. There's a lot of inner dialogues that allow readers to get to know the characters better but I wish the characters themselves had talked more with each other. The author tells a lot more than she shows but I still found myself caught up in the emotional journey of these two emotionally bruised people and recommend it to readers who enjoy a bit of steam with lots of heart and soul.
My rating for this is a B-
*I got this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.
USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people sometimes do stupid things, and how love can make it all better. She wrote her first steamy romance before she was old enough to understand what all the words meant and has been perfecting the art of hiding pages and screens from curious eyes ever since—a skill that’s particularly useful now that she’s the mother of two school-aged children.
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Thank you so much for hosting Serena and TURN UP THE HEAT!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for hosting me and Turn Up the Heat!!ReplyDelete