It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog or my twitter, or even people who have met me in person, that I love Victoria Dahl’s novels. Do a search for her in my lookitupdooblidob to the side and you will find many mentions of her. So when she told me she was writing a male librarian – YES! a male librarian – I ordered her book when it finally came out and bit my lip in anticipation. Would he even come close to the hotness that is Richard Hindon in Lillian Peake’s The Library Tree. This would not be a difficult task.
I had my reservations. This book was perhaps too close to my own professional life. From the outset, I need to say that I mean no disrespect towards any of my current and former male colleagues, but I have never thought anyone in the LIS sphere to be particularly attractive. So the absolutely amazing, hot, sensitive, buff, amazeballs librarian Gabe MacKenzie in this book truly felt like a fantasy man. He didn’t feel real. He was so far from real that he started to edge toward a paranormal romance hero (this is as close as I can get to this month’s TBR challenge for SuperWendy) – he could climb rockfaces, he creates digital (*snort*) magic in the library, he has a talented tongue in the bedroom and a sexy trim beard as his mild superpower to help him out. He is a figment of Victoria’s imagination! No such man exists! This was becoming such a reading block for me, I decided I needed to discuss this travesty with my husband. Here is our exchange:
Me: You know this Victoria Dahl book I have had on my TBR shelf and I haven’t let anyone else read it before me as I needed to pop the cherry on those pages?
Me: Well this book is fab but I have one problem with it – the male librarian.
Huzbah: waits for me to continue speaking
Me: This guy is nothing NOTHING like anyone I’ve ever met in libraries or library school. Apparently, all the chicks in his MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Studies for the unitiated) adored him…
Me: And he was getting it on with the women in his course.
Me: Like, AS IF! There were no hot guys in MY LIS course.
Huzbah: staring harder
Me: And as if any chick in an LIS course would go out with someone from their own course. My disbelief is keeping me from enjoying this book. No man like this exists!
Huzbah: We met in an LIS course.
telling silence ensues
Huzbah: Enjoy the rest of the book. I’ll read it after you.
turns back to watching John Oliver
Soooooo…….that having been resolved……and as I am now remembering that, yes indeed, hot guys who are sensitive, smart, sport a trim beard and can rock climb (or repel in Huzbah’s case), amongst many other things, can actually attend LIS schools and even end up working in libraries. (In my defence, Huzbah was two years below my at university and we met in electives. I still don’t really consider him as being in my core year. And, he often states that despite having LIS qualifications he has yet to exercise his right to work in the industry). I returned to reading Taking the Heat and absolutely adored it.
A quick 101: Veronica Chandler is an advice columnist in her home of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Having spent several years living in New York City, she is happy to be away from the big city. She feels out of her depth in the advice role she has fallen into and is terrified that she’ll be found out for the fake she imagines herself to be as she feels her sexual inexperience along with a number of other self-perceived inabilities undermine her.
Gabe McKenzie is from New York City, which he underplays for he too isn’t a big fan of the city. He is a librarian who has been brought in to start an e-book service for the local library. He transfers to Jackson Hole because he is a bit of a nature lover and wants to have regular access to rock-climbing. Gabe knows that he is in Jackson Hole for only a year as he has the responsibility of taking over his father’s successful chain restaurant business.
For her work, Veronica has been asked to do a live stand-up version of her advice column in the local watering hole and this is where she first meets Gabe. She is so nervous she over-imbibes and starts admitting to him secrets that she has never revealed to others – like the fact that she is 27 and still a virgin. This drives the plot and, unlike many of Victoria’s previous books, they do not consumate their relationship with penetrative sex until well into the novel. However, in her trademark style, Victoria Dahl doesn’t need to have her characters have penetrative sex to burn the pages with beautiful and descriptive scenes. She builds the sexual tension and her detailed eroticism (often pushing my reading boundaries) showing the strong connection between Gabe and Veronica. This sexual tension, this sexual compatibility is the difference between friendships and relationships. Without the sexual attraction, you have friends that get on. With it, you have that ever important connections that brings the romance reader to their genre – discovering how this couple will have the potential to stay together. For Veronica and Gabe, it is not their sexual congress that challenges their relationship. It is Gabe’s own relationship with his sisters and parents, his sacrificing his own desire to be a librarian, to live outside of a big city so as to be the good son which creates problems between these two perfectly matched characters.
Anyone that follows Victoria Dahl on Twitter would be aware of her strong, feminist approach to life, relationships and society. Victoria is able to show her perspective on life, not in a proselytising form but managed thoughtfully through Veronica’s advice to her own writers. She shows a keen sensitivity to the issues that affect people throughout their lives, from the bullying they may have received at school or to intimate relationship problems. Further to this, Veronica’s virginity loss ends up showing that it meant nothing, her character was strong and determined with and without it, she was insightful to people’s problems regardless of her own sexual experience.
This novel is one of my favourite for this year. I could relate to and understand both the heroine and the hero. I loved the deep understanding for library work that Victoria Dahl depicts and I love the way these characters came together. I feel that I had a fully immersed reading of Taking the Heat which for me means that I did not take notes while I read. I did not use post-it notes to highlight favourite lines or interesting sections. I have not used any specific quotes from the novel and I didn’t do any of the close reading behaviours that I sometimes do because this book was so good, I forgot to pay attention to details. I lost myself in my reading. It was so good, I luxuriated in a shallowread.
I bought my own copy of Taking the Heat through an online vendor after having searched two bricks and mortar book shops in Sydney during her release month. My only disclaimer (though to be honest, I should say namedropping) is that Victoria Dahl and I have followed each other on Twitter for many years, we have twitter chatted over all these years and I did get to meet her (whispers: and I touched her hair, took a photo of her jugs and hugged her goodbye) during the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Canberra earlier this year so I cannot, in any way, vouch that this review is objective.
PS For a wayyyyy more insightful review, you should read Miss Bates Reads Romance’s thoughts. She remembered to take notes.