Talk Me Down
by Victoria Dahl
(HQN, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-0-373-77356-5
Amazing what a talented writer can do with a fairly simple idea, and the one behind Talk Me Down is simple indeed: a bestselling erotic-fiction writer returns to her hometown to check out the guy who inspired her entire career. I picked it up, expecting nothing more than scene after steamy scene and very little story in between. I was wrong. Victoria Dahl's debut contemporary novel is hot and refreshing and great fun to read.

Molly Jenkins left Denver for a sleepy Colorado mountain town with one objective in mind: hook up with Ben Lawson, the object of all her private fantasies and the model for the sexy heroes she writes about under a well-hidden pseudonym. Her high school heart throb is now the town's chief of police and still as hunky as ever. It is not long before she is plotting very different scenes for him.

Ben is a bit reluctant to follow where Molly would go. Because of a major incident in his youth, he cringes at the possibility of getting caught in a public scandal. With all the mystery surrounding Molly's profession (not even her brother knows where her money comes from), he worries that scandal is where any relationship with her will lead.

Molly's determination and Ben's lust override his concerns, and they embark on a very hot affair. Before they can consider a lasting relationship they must deal with her Denver past, her secret profession and her threatening stalker.

So what was so great about this rather ordinary story? The main characters, for one. Molly is a sassy wise-mouth with a trunk-sized chip on her shoulder. This may annoy some readers, but I loved watching her stand up and talk back when the going got tough. And I loved watching quiet, shy and somewhat staid Ben fight off his attraction and lose even more.

Then, there is the cast of secondary characters who help bring the book to life. O.K. so the bad guy and especially gal are annoyingly clichéd, but aside from them I recognized the people in this sleepy mountain town: the town drunk who bums a ride; the snoopy town journalist who looks after his grandchild; the sexy but sleazy river guide desperate for some attention when there are no tourists in town; the woman garage owner who is certain everyone thinks she is a lesbian. All recognizable stock characters, perhaps, but all detailed enough to be more than dull background information.

Finally – and this is what sealed the deal for me – the sex comes with a lot of good laughs. Nothing like banter, quips and clever one-liners to spice up bedroom action and ward off the purple-prose blues (not that there's much of that between these pages). I might add that the humor extends outside the bedroom and does great things with a couple of girls-night-out scenes.

On the minus side, Molly's life in Denver does not have a very authentic ring and the resolution to the stalker story is a little bit facile. Then again, as Molly reminds us over and over again, this is fiction. Anything can happen and I, for one, am very glad it did. I will be keeping my eyes open for more Victoria Dahl productions of this kind.  

--Mary Benn

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