tl;dr: romance lessons bring two people together in a lovely (and dirty) explosion
Tyler Stone is the youngest of the Stone brothers, and apparently has always been the ‘screw up’. He dropped out of college, tinkers with cars on the weekends, and spends his time partying, playing video games, and boozing, all the while taking up with a variety of beautiful women who use him for his trust fund. By the time our story starts, approximately 6 months after Sweet Escape ended, Tyler’s ways have caught up to him and he’s in danger of having charges pressed against him for taking a girlfriend’s boat on a joyride and crashing it. His father has banished him to the corporate library at Sugar Rush, which turns out to be in chaos. He’s hating life when Kate Darling literally falls into his arms, startled by his voice when she’s on a ladder reaching for a book.
If you’ve read the previous two books, you know Kate already. She’s young, but she has a severe business-like manner. She’s extremely efficient and good at her job. She gets a bit of a backstory here, but it’s almost wholly unnecessary. Raised by a single dad, who is now remarried to a woman Kate seems to like just fine; but feeling like a third wheel, she decided to move clear across the country for the executive assistant job at Sugar Rush.
Kate wants to deny her attraction to Tyler, but when he comes on to her, she realizes that he has skills that could help her be more confident in her dating abilities. Namely, to catch the eye of a data analyst that consults with Sugar Rush. She agrees to help with cleaning up the library if he can give her advice about how to attract a man. Tyler fully realizes his attraction to her, feeling immediately jealous at the thought of her being more into someone else. He agrees to help her mostly because he really needs the library job to work out to avoid having charges pressed against him for grand theft auto.
I love this trope. It’s really another facet of fake dating, except both parties are only getting down in secret. A late night library information systems tutorial turns into a kissing lesson, which then transforms into an erotic sex lesson, after which Tyler exclaims that Kate doesn’t need sex lessons, at all. They continue to see each other, and Kate becomes more and more disillusioned with her data analyst, even after he finally notices her.
Sometimes the conflict that arises near the end of a romance novel feels contrived, but in this case, it didn’t. Luke, CEO of Sugar Rush, catches them getting down in the library, and that’s a clear violation of conduct policy. Kate is petrified that she is going to be fired, especially since she has just been asked to be VP of a new division the company is starting. Tyler wants to commit to Kate, but she has a hard time believing that he’s turned over a new monogamy leaf just for her. But the resolution was also incredible sweet and touching, with both parties reaching out toward the middle before they find their way back to each other.
The book is capped with an epilogue, which I greatly appreciated, so we get to check in with them a few months down the line, and see their new normal. They also aren’t instantly married with children, just still continuing along their romance, with promises of sexytimes later.
The plotting of this book was superior to the previous two, in my opinion. It clearly builds off of the characters that existed in the previous books (although I was expecting this one to be about Adam, the third oldest brother and a bigger part of the previous books. I don’t recall Tyler being mentioned much at all in the previous books!), and even the Lockheart sisters make brief but meaningful cameos. The Wild Child bakery is used sparingly but effectively. But it stands on its own just fine. I think there’s enough relevant backstory that one could start with this book and skip the previous two, which I felt were very much retreads, both of her previous works and each other.
One thing I did notice in this book, and it may be because this one was an advanced copy while the others were not, is that some of the continuity in scenes was slightly disjointed. Hands were places they shouldn’t have been, and I had a hard time placing characters in some scenes because they appeared to be in two different places at once. Some editing would easily clean it up, and it very well may be in the final product, since the previous two books are not like that at all.
I loved this book. I loved the My Fair Lady-esque trope (including its mention, and its porn equivalent!), I loved the characters of Tyler and Kate, and all the cameos from characters we’ve seen before. I mostly liked that it was a fresh story compared to other two Sugar Rush novels. Oh, and the smut was A+! It was all around engaging and wonderful, and I look forward to more books like this from Nina Lane.
Sweet Surrender is not available from libraries (yet!) but check it out here and purchase from your favorite retailer.
If you like sex lessons in your romance novels, Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a great one in Heaven, Texas.