Berkley / November 6, 2012 / $15.00 print, $9.99 digital
Juliet Lamprey is having the time of her life running her successful bakery, TART, when Gideon Carter comes back into her life. Returning home to help his grandfather run the family on the farm, Gideon is back for good. When they meet again, the spark between them is immediate, and it isn't long before the former childhood friends play catch up in bed.
That's not good news for local lawyer Cal Whaley. Though the sexually open but strictly monogamous Cal has loved Jules for a long time, he's hardly ever taken it further than friendship. When he sees her start to fall for Gideon, he knows he has to make his move or risk losing her forever.
Who would have anticipated that all three of them would connect on such an intimate level? The trio's scalding liaisons take them places they've never dreamed. But such an intensely passionate and unusual relationship comes with equally as complicated emotions, and when Jules must suddenly leave town, she wonders if she'll have a choice to make when she returns.
After you're done admiring the lovely cover, explore inside—there's much to admire there as well. Lauren Dane has a talent for writing interpersonal relationships. I noticed it first with the group of friends with her Brown sibling books. In fact, Tart, part of the Delicious series, is a spinoff of the Brown series. Once you start, you're entirely drawn in, and want to know what happens to each character, and see him or her happily settled.
With Tart, the interpersonal relationship are key, because it's a menage. What I love about Tart is that the triad of Gideon, Jules, and Cal all work together. Most erotic romances with menages, the focus is one a couple, and a third who is accepted in. Here, all three of them are in a relationship together and that's what makes it special. It could be Jules and Gideon, Jules and Cal, or Cal and Gideon—but the point is they want all of them in it.
What also distinquishes Tart from the rest is the way it developed. Jules and Cal have been dancing around each other for years. But nothing happens, and Jules meets Gideon. They're in a relationship, and Cal has his wake up call, as it were. He and Gideon were friends, already, so they're all compatible. It's as easily solved as Gideon saying “I like cock too" (perhaps a little too pat), but that works for them.
There's also a maturity to the characters. Jules, Cal, and Gideon all have moments of introspection, and support and discussion from their extensive friend and family network. They're thoughtful, and adult, and it's how you want people to be. Ms. Dane writes the type of book where you wish the characters were real, so you could be friends with them. (It doesn't hurt that obviously everyone is ridiculously good looking, and generally well off.)
As you see—it's not all about the sex (although there is plenty of it, and it's good)—it's the whole package that makes a book for me. And Lauren Dane provides it.
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