In the final installment of Victoria Dahl’s new contemporary romance series, readers finally get to see Eric Donovan’s relationship. This month’s Real Men Will pairs the too-in control oldest brother of the Donovan clan with the sexy Beth Cantrell. But will they be able to make this mismatched romance work?
Morgan: Things do not start off well between Eric and Beth.
Whitney: Or maybe you should say that they start off way too well. Because this couple begins with a bang, literally. (Pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist!) I mean, their relationship starts with a one night stand.
Morgan: Although they both live in a small community and are bound to run into each other again, these two don’t think of this when they meet up at an out-of-town business event. In fact, Eric isn’t thinking about much when he tells Beth he’s Jamie Donovan, using his bad boy brother’s reputation to engage in some distinctively un-Eric behavior, a no strings attached night of passion.
Whitney: Real Men Will picks up six months later when Beth discovers that her wild night with a Donovan brother didn’t take place with Jamie, but instead she actually slept with Eric.
Morgan: Well, Jamie is supposed to be the adventurous one, the one with the reputation for fun. And Beth had heard of him but never seen him until their night together — so it wasn’t like she had any idea that Eric wasn’t who he said he was.
Whitney: But after Beth visits the Donovan Brewery and meets the real Jamie, Eric has to admit that it was the uptight older brother, the one who never does anything wrong. And then Eric has several really angry people to deal with.
Morgan: Beth thinks that Eric’s lie is totally unconscionable. But I didn’t see any real harm in it. She gets really mad at Eric for using another name, but because it was a one night stand, this seems kind of par for the course to me. Now I may not know the proper procedure exactly, but my understanding was that these sorts of trysts are supposed to be kind of anonymous. It’s not like they are starting a real relationship or anything, so why does the name matter? If they wanted to start a relationship or date, then she could be upset, but it didn’t seem to ring true and this takes up a LONG part of the book.
Whitney: You know, I really loved this. Whether or not Dahl meant to, I felt like she was taking a stand for the legitimacy of choosing to have a one night stand. Yes, you are engaging in casual sex but no, this does not mean that you should be lied to. Eric had absolutely no reason to lie to Beth except that he was afraid — too cowardly to own up to the fact that he was a person who wanted to make a sexual connection. I was totally with Beth on this one and thought that she could have shut him out of her life indefinitely. I mean, the poor woman already has trust issues to begin with.
Morgan: I guess she also has a different attitude because she runs the White Orchid, the hottest sex boutique in town. And this isn’t a sleazy “video store” it’s a beautiful shop designed to help people get the most out of their sex lives.
Whitney: Exactly! She’s already in this mindset that sex is not a bad thing (yay, Beth!) so when she discovers that Eric lied about his identity, her good memories of their night together are tainted. She was able to relax and “loose herself in the experience” with Eric, which is not typical for Beth.
“Her whole adult life had been dedicated to helping women find sexual fulfillment in their lives, any way they — legally — could. She’d studied sexuality and anthropology along with women’s issues in college … And yet she couldn’t translate all that useless information into sexual satisfaction for herself.”
Morgan: You know even though I didn’t like what a fuss she made about Eric’s identity, I did really like the way that Dahl dealt with the relationship that Beth and Eric end up having (even though neither of them mean to get involved in something long term).
Whitney: These are two very, well uptight isn’t really the right word, so I’d say, closed off people. But they are both looking for a connection and when they find it with each other, it’s impossible to deny. Even though neither of them feels quite comfortable with the relationship at first. I mean, Eric hides behind his brother’s name — but Beth’s not exactly truthful when it comes to her sexual history either.
Morgan: She feels a bit like a fraud. I mean she’s all for helping people achieve sexual nirvana, but she doesn’t have that much practical experience herself.
Whitney: However, she’s much more educated than Eric is about sex —
Morgan: Because of the boutique she runs, Beth is up to date with all of the different types of toys and techniques used during sex, even if she doesn’t have a whole lot of personal experience with these things.
Whitney: You know normally I don’t like books with virgin heroes or even less-experienced heroes, like Eric. But I really loved the way that Eric responded to Beth. She is more knowledgeable but instead of putting him off, this just makes him want to up his game. Yes, he’s a bit insecure but not enough to stop seeing her. I think this sends a really fabulous message about sexual empowerment — there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like!
Morgan: Sing it, sister!
Whitney: Sexual satisfaction aside, I have to say I think that this was my favorite story in the series. It had the most twist and turns, and really let each Donovan sibling shine (even though it was clearly Eric and Beth’s book).
Morgan: You know, I don’t think I can choose just one as my favorite. Each Donovan has their own issues that stem from their parents’ deaths and has drastically affected their lives. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to unexpectedly loose your parents whether you are 14, 16 or in your early 20s. And Dahl really brings this to life as each sibling reacts in different ways: Tessa with people-pleasing, Jamie and his totally rebellious attitude and Eric, who shoulders all of the responsibility of the family's business and raising his siblings.
Whitney: There’s no denying it, Eric pushes himself too hard, for too long. I mean he’s doing everything to make up for the fact that he was adopted and doesn’t consider himself a real Donovan brother. Which is insane, because without him his siblings totally would have fallen apart.
Morgan: Learning that he was adopted really came out of the blue for me, that Eric was only Jamie and Tessa’s half-sibling. But I think that it wasn’t mentioned before because none of the other siblings felt it was important.
Whitney: Exactly, it was heartbreaking that he had been caring around this huge issue, one he never forgot, which wasn’t even on his sister or brother’s radar.
Morgan: So our verdict on the series?
Whitney: I’d call this the “gotta read” contemporary back-to-back series of the Fall. I’m pretty happy with that statement.
Morgan: Agreed, and with contemporary reads covered, our next Dish will feature a historical series that mystery fans will definitely want to check out!
Let Morgan and Whitney know what you thought of the Donovan Brother’s series — and whether or not you’ll be picking up Tessa, Jamie or Eric’s tales in the future. And if you want to read along, next week’s Dish is about Carol K. Carr’s India Black and the Widow of Windsor.