tessa bailey's romancing the clarksons series follows 4 estranged siblings as they cope with the aftermath of their mother's death and struggle to honor her last wishes. belmont, rita, aaron and peggy clarkson are all emotional wrecks, with abandonment issues, imposter syndrome, commitment issues galore. the series kicks off with too hot to handle, and follows the siblings' decision to take a road trip to new york from san diego in order to fulfill one of their mysterious mother's crazy last requests and jump into the atlantic from a pier on coney island at midnight on new year's eve.
rita starts the entire chain of events when she accidentally burns down her mother's restaurant. at loose ends, her culinary career in question she guilts her siblings into driving across the country with her. when they end up stranded in the town of hurley, new mexico not too long after their disastrous road trip starts rita finds herself attracted to one of the locals, jasper ellis.
as the one sibling who followed their mother's footsteps into the cooking world, rita can't help feeling like she never measures up. her younger sister, peggy, is the pretty one. her brothers remain at arm's length for reasons that we'll likely get to explore in their books. meanwhile jasper is trying to reform his reputation, he's been the town's go-to-guy for an easy lay. he wants something more out of life, out of his relationships. he wants something more with rita. of course his hesitancy to just jump her bones feeds into her deeply held insecurities. eventually these two get on the same page about how attracted they are to one another and whether or not sleeping together will mean they don't respect each other in the morning, but it takes a while to get there, at least it takes a while in words written. the actual time frame that the novel takes place in is over a course of days. which does make the whole thing somewhat unbelievable.
and this is a romance novel with a lot of family drama. the clarksons are super messed up. being in rita and jasper's heads most of the time was occasionally difficult. there's a lot of intense emotional baggage. and these are two characters who have major self-esteem issues. and while the occasional insecure heroine is certainly a romantic trope, having both leads saddled with these feelings of unworthiness can be kind of a downer when you are looking for something light-hearted and sexy. this book was sexy, but not light-hearted at all.
i'm scheduled to read aaron's story, too wild to tame next, and i'm hoping it's a bit breezier of a read. it's not that i mind deep emotional issues in my romances, but for some reason i just found too hot to handle to be a book i needed to keep putting down and reading other lighter fare in between.i tend to be a binge-reader so this is not normal reading behavior from me. it's hard for me to put into words what i found so difficult about this novel.