Susan Andersen forsakes the "Baby" titles in her latest contemporary romance, but despite that change, readers are in for the same enjoyable experience of Baby Don't Go, Baby I'm Yours and Be My Baby. This time, our dynamic duo is Dru Lawrence and J.D. Carver. Dru, along with her Aunt Sophie, Uncle Ben and 10-year-old son, Tate, run the Star Lake Lodge resort in eastern Washington. They are a close-knit group, whose love and loyalty help compensate for the things missing in Dru's life, namely parents who care for her and a father for Tate.
Dru is not thrilled to learn that Great Aunt Edwina, an absentee part-owner of the Lodge, has died and left her share to J.D. Carver, one of her former foster children. All of Edwina's charges were troubled youth, so there's no telling what kind of character this guy has. But Sophie and Ben convince Dru to give J.D. a chance.
The timing of this unexpected windfall couldn't be better for J.D. Carver. He is happy to put some miles between himself and Seattle, where there are a few guys who wouldn't mind seeing him dead or out of commission. As a construction foreman, he blew the whistle on a shady deal that could have resulted in injury or death. It was the right things to do, but it put a lot of men out of work. So he figures he'll check out Star Lake, lay low, and decide what to do next. He has mixed feelings about his former foster parent,
Edwina, who cared for him but then accused him of a crime he didn't commit. That painful lesson in his youth taught him that relationships were destined to cause pain, so he remains aloof now.
Then Dru and J.D. meet, and logic flies out the window. They're both wildly attracted to each other, but Dru is determined not to get hurt, and J.D. knows better than to get involved with a "good girl." Even when they do give into the attraction, J.D. holds back, afraid to trust that he's found people who genuinely care about him. Then the trouble he left behind in Seattle catches up with him at Star ake. Will J.D. stay and let the Lawrences help him, or will he take off to protect them?
This isn't my favorite Susan Andersen book, although it's hard to pinpoint the reason. There's lots of action, humor and sizzle between the lead couple, as well as strong secondary characters. I particularly liked Aunt Sophie, who's enduring that "change of life," and has moments of sheer bitchiness. Her menopause is mostly played for laughs, but there's also a serious side as Sophie searches for medical intervention that will ease her symptoms, with the support of her loving husband, Ben.
If you like sexual tension in your romances, you've found a great source. There's lots of heavy breathing, verbal and physical foreplay, and long love scenes that feature enthusiastic sex between two consenting adults. I appreciate the fact that Andersen portrays Dru as a woman who enjoys making love, not a guilty, reluctant semi-virgin who has never experienced fulfillment before J.D. came along.
I didn't care for Dru quite as much as other Andersen heroines (notably the take-charge security expert Daisy Parker of Baby Don't Go). She's a great mother to Tate and she fights hard for J.D.'s love. But she has an annoying habit of throwing her generous breasts around whenever she wants help from a guy. Frankly, that's not my idea of a modern woman getting ahead the right way. I will admit that she does an
excellent job of kicking butt when J.D. is in danger. For his part, J.D. is the traditional bad boy who isn't all that bad, and it's wonderful to see him slowly realize that he can have the love he never admitted he wanted.
I guess my slight disappointment stems from a nagging suspicion that Susan Andersen is capable of producing something even better than this - a novel that truly engages all of the emotions and lingers long after the last page. However, I'm giving All Shook Up four hearts because it's definitely a step above most contemporary romances. As long as Ms. Andersen keeps releasing these crowd pleasers, I'll remain a fan.