Are You Lonesome Tonight?
by Wendy Etherington
(Harl.Tempt. #958, $4.99, R) ISBN: 0-373-69158-0
****
Francesca D’Arcy has a problem.

She’s got a crush on her best friend, Tony Galini. Has had for more than ten years. And now that they’re business partners, working together every day, she can’t stop thinking about him. Fantasizing about the curve of this butt. His broad shoulders, and the strength of his arms. His hands stroking her hair, caressing her face ...

She could envision dropping besides him, pulling his snug black t-shirt from his jeans, rolling up the soft cotton to reveal the sprinkling of jet-black hair against his olive-toned skin, his washboard abs, his broad chest -- (page 1 ... yes, she already wants to rip his clothes off on the first page!)

Her hormones are on overdrive, and she knows it. A simple, friendly kiss on the tip of her nose leaves her tingling all the way down to her feet. She dreams about getting tangled in the sheets with him, both of them hot, naked and panting.

But it can never happen, Francesca forces herself to admit. Firstly, they have only two weeks left before the grand opening of their new resort hotel, a project she desperately wants to succeed. Second, she doesn’t want to ruin 20 years of friendship. And then there’s the fact that Tony’s idea of a long relationship is three months. He likes to love ’em and leave ’em.

When Tony accidentally ends up in her room late one night, their relationship undergoes an irreversible change. Author Wendy Etherington crafts a sexy scene where nothing happens and everything happens all at once. She blurs the line between fantasy and reality, and makes Are You Lonesome Tonight? a steamy and exciting romance.

Etherington’s characters shine. “Ches” is a modern businesswoman who still believes in fairytales; she wants happily ever after with “The One.” Tony is a something of a playboy with a trust fund. No one but Ches believes he can be anything more, and he desperately wants to be worthy of her faith in him. In the hands of someone else, they may have ended up as your stereotypical hero and heroine in a predictable friends-to-lovers story. Instead, they’re so well-written that you can’t help but enjoy their interaction. They tease and tempt each other -- and the reader -- with their banter and, try as they might, can’t keep their hands off each other.

More than that, they have depth and dimension. Without flashbacks or drawn-out memory sequences, Etherington manages to make us understand the history between them and how much they’ve shared over the years. The third-person narration shifts from his perspective to hers, and allows readers inside both of their heads -- and hearts. Ches doesn’t know, but we see Tony struggle to control the new feelings he has for her. He’s jealous, excited, tortured and desperate all at the same time.

Added to the mix are an entertaining cast of secondary characters, including a snooty, demanding critic and a temperamental chef who looks like Ricky Martin. These extras come to life on the page and, even though they mainly serve to enhance the plot, they’re fun to get to know.

So, the question becomes: Are you “lonesome” tonight? If so, I have a recommended read for you…

--Melissa Amy


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