Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I’m such a skank. An incredible, awesome skank. I rock!!”
Johnny Devlin is known charmer with his devil-may-care attitude and smoldering good looks. A mechanic at Webster’s Garage, he has been chatting up a local bartender, Lara Valley, for years, but she hasn’t the time for him or his checkered reputation. When she is attacked at work, Johnny jumps in and saves her, earning a date in the process. What starts out as a no strings good time becomes much more in Johnny’s eyes and his heart. But unless he can convince Lara that he’s ready to stop his wandering ways, this test drive will end with no buyers.
I was so excited to hear Harte was writing a spin-off of her McCauley brothers series; focusing on the four mechanics from Webster’s Garage. Gorgeous, sexy, exasperating heartbreakers-everyone of them. Each book will focus on each one of these commitment phobic men and the one woman who gets their motors revving. Even though there is some character crossover between the two series, you do not have to read one to understand the other.
Test Drive is a humorous, playful, sensual, deceptive small town romance that starts out with a casual air of a lightweight contemporary only to deepen into a weighty story of love and growth as Harte digs deep into the lives and insecurities of our hero and heroine. As the first in a series, Harte takes her time setting up the world and introducing us to the inhabitants we will be encountering throughout. Witty dialogue, endearing complex characters, and a well-developed storyline keeps you entertained till the very end. Though not as erotically charged as Harte’s McCauley Brothers series, Harte keeps the heat factor turned up to high.
Heavily character driven, this installment is firmly built around our protagonists Johnny Devlin and Lara Valley. Johnny is one of the mechanics at Webster’s Garage. A well-known player, Johnny has dated most of the town’s women and never had the urge to settle down. Charming, witty, and gorgeous, his smooth moves hide a vulnerable heart of gold. Johnny’s childhood was a constant revolving door of women coming and going. He learned early in life that no one ever stays so he keeps his heart intact by leaving first.
“Johnny had plenty of women who wanted a ride on the Devlin motorway.”
Lara comes from a lower middle class family whose lives have been spent living from paycheck to paycheck. Her older sister is twice divorced and working on her third. Lara is determined she won’t end up like her family and is currently studying to become a nurse while working as a bartender. Security is very important to her. Smart, funny, loyal, and extremely strong willed, Lara has her path firmly plotted and isn’t looking for anything or anyone to make her deviate her from it.
I liked Johnny and Lara-both as individuals and as a couple. I found their dance to romance entertaining, especially the part that Johnny has been asking Lara out every week for 4 and ½ years. When Lara finally says yes, Johnny feels like he has won the lottery and this foreshadows Johnny’s unconscious intentions to treat Lara differently. He plans dates-looking forward to the next one before the current one is even over. He falls head over heels and is so adorably confused over it.
“You have baggage. I get it. Hell, we all get it. Don’t even get me started on Sam. But if Liam and Del can get over their shite, what makes you so special you can’t get past yours?”
Lara too falls hard, wrestling with the small voice in her head that wonders how serious he is. It takes a lot of trust on both sides to for them to open up fully.
Wonderful witty dialogue reveals their attraction and opens the doorway for a deeper understanding of each other. Johnny has a well developed ego that would usually irritate but actually comes across as boyishly disarming. As you learn more about his background, you see it is a coping mechanism for his feelings of abandonment. Lara gives as good as she gets. She has a bite to her humor that is amusing.
“How about we keep this low-key, so when you move on to the next bimbo who can’t say not o you, it’s not such a jarring transition.” For me.
“Now Lara, you’re the only bimbo that matters.”
Harte does a wonderful job of facilitating the romance amongst the backdrop of their personal issues. The humor flows through effortlessly; helping to keep the story on track and provide entertainment. Legitimate concerns are addressed and nothing is skimmed over or rushed to make the story more aesthetically pleasing. It’s an emotional journey for them both of them. Nothing is perfect and we aren’t sure till the very end if either will be able to accept the gift they’ve been given. Their high octane chemistry is fueled by with some deliciously erotic play and plenty of dirty talk. Both Johnny and Lara have quite the naughty mouths and minds and aren’t afraid to make their sexual desires known. I love when a couple has fun together in and out of bed and this couple has that in spades.
Her fantasy-Johnny’s head between her legs, in a garage, on top of a red car.
The cast of secondary characters are just as fun as the protagonists. Such energetic individuals whose personalities and narrative all add to the overall dynamics of this story. We met some news faces and see a few old ones who help to bridge the two series. I loved seeing more of the body shop boys and of course Del and her father Liam. I look forward to reading their stories. They are a gregarious, happy, nosy bunch whose affection for one another beams off the pages. A quick ending wraps up mostly everything up and leaves us secure in Johnny and Lara’s relationship. Fans of sexy, sun, small town romance contemporaries with a strong sense of family are sure to love Harte’s latest venture. I am looking forward to book two-C