(ARC Review) This was a wonderful addition to one of my favorite series in the Smartypants world. I sure do love these Erickson boys.
Vali Erickson is a typical middle child, often overlooked due to his brothers’ career choices and big personalities. He moves to Green Valley to lick his wounds after his last relationship ends spectacularly, where he meets Maggie, the sheltered, inexperienced local girl with a secret. Maggie is the local gossip columnist who’s also used to being overlooked. Home schooled, she’s never travelled far and still lives with her parents and works in their store.
She’s inexperienced due to lack of opportunity rather than a determined choice, and I really enjoyed the progression of their relationship. Maggie starts to shine when given the space to do so, and I loved watching her come out of her shell. Vali was the perfect man for her, gentle, patient, kind and caring. There’s tons of sparks between the two, and Vali guided her through her new feelings perfectly.
It’s pretty low angst, with lots of steam, heart, and a lovely HEA.
Vali Erickson is the classic middle child—misunderstood, underestimated, and overlooked. He’s fine with it. Really. The overlooked part is actually serving him well during this phase of life.
He’s in Green Valley in an effort to fly under the radar and regroup after a life-altering blow to his heart and ego. The last thing he’s looking for is a woman to warm his bed until one throws him to the mat and rocks his world.
Margaret O’Neal is an only child who has led a sheltered life. She’s used to being a wallflower. Her ability to blend into the background is what allows her to maintain her anonymity as a gossip columnist for the Green Valley Ledger.
Since the Ericksons moved to town, she’s never felt more inspired, especially with the newest addition. Vali Erickson is the definition of eye candy—devastatingly handsome with muscles for days—giving her plenty to report about.
The more Maggie observes, the more she finds herself wanting things she’s only read about in romance novels.
Admiring Vali from afar is good enough for her until their paths cross and she finds herself trying to stay afloat in uncharted territory—no labels, no promises, and WAY out of her comfort zone.
Will this arrangement be what finally breaks her out of her shell, or will her heart be a casualty of the Viking Invasion?
‘Eye Candy’ is a full-length contemporary romance, and can be read as a standalone. Book #3 in the Fighting For Love series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.
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Standing outside the Green Valley Community Center, I’m getting a little antsy waiting for Maggie. I really hate not picking her up at her house for a date, but she insists it’s better this way. I’ve told her I didn’t care if she lived on the outskirts of town or Timbuktu, I still wanted to pick her up but she just laughed and redirected our conversation.
I have a feeling she doesn’t want to formally introduce me to her parents as the man she’s dating, especially after my one and only visit to their feed store. I guess I understand. I didn’t really make the best first impression but that’s on me. How can I redeem myself if she refuses to introduce me to them?
Maybe I need a do-over visit to the store.
Before I can formulate a solid plan, my attention is pulled to the parking lot where I see Maggie walking toward me, looking sexy as fuck. I lean back against a column and enjoy watching her come to me. She’s so striking with how she carries herself and I don’t think she even knows it. Her height and voluptuous curves paired with her long, dark hair and wide smile command the attention of everyone around her.
And she’s mine.
For now, anyway.
When she’s close enough for me to touch, I slide my arm around her waist and pull her to me. Capturing her mouth with mine, I claim it, not able to hold back any longer. Even though we made out in the parking lot of Genie’s on Friday, it’s been too long since I’ve been able to see her… touch her… taste her.
I want her so fucking much. I want to learn her body and watch her fall apart over and over. I want her to explore my body and have her way with me, any way she wants. I want so much but realize now is not the time or place for my dick to be running the show, so I slowly and reluctantly pull away.
Maggie’s lips are swollen and her eyes are dazed as she looks at me and whispers, “Wow”.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, beautiful.” I kiss her forehead, allowing my lips to linger so I can have one last taste before we walk inside.
“Same to you.” She bites down on her bottom lip, fighting back a smile as she shakes her head. I’d give anything to know what she’s thinking and to replace her teeth with my own. Those luscious lips have made an appearance in every dream I’ve had for the past week.
And as much as I want to make her come again, it’s not going to happen in the parking lot of the community center. My instincts tell me Maggie’s a virgin. Even though I don’t have a lot of experience in that arena, I know one thing for sure, I want every orgasm I give Maggie to be better than the one before.
I want all her firsts to be worth the wait because she definitely is.
“So, tell me about the jam sessions. I hear they’re pretty famous,” I say as I grab her hand and lead her to the building’s entrance, needing to distract myself so I’m not sporting a semi as we walk into the community center.
“They’ve been happening for a few years now and they’re pretty fun. Typically, they’re held on Friday nights and people from all over come to enjoy good music and even better food. You like bar-b-que, right?”
I look at her like she’s lost her mind. “Woman, I am from Texas. Of course, I like bar-b-que.”
She laughs and squeezes my arm as we step inside, where we’re instantly greeted by a friendly welcoming committee. After we get the rundown on where to find the festivities, we make our way to where the food is and Maggie continues our conversation.
“I know you’re from Texas, which is why I asked. Texas bar-b-que is very different from Tennessee bar-b-que. Some even say your version isn’t bar-b-que at all.”
I jerk away from her in shock. “Them’s fightin’ words, Miss O’Neal,” I say, laying my Texas twang on thick. “Now, take me to this high-and-mighty food so I can judge for myself.”
Thirty minutes later, I’m slumped in my chair, fighting the urge to unbuckle my belt and jeans.
“So, what’s the verdict?”
Maggie’s expression is smug and I want to kiss it right off her face but I’m too full to move right now. So instead, I give her a shrug, trying to play it off. “It’s alright, I guess. If you like that kind of thing.”
Her laughter fills the room and I’m mesmerized. It’s quickly becoming my favorite sound, second only to the sounds of her orgasm. Shit, I cannot be thinking like that right now, when I’m too stuffed to try and hide a boner.
“One of these days, I’ll fix you some Texas bar-b-que,” I vow.
She scrunches up her nose, and while the look on her face is absolutely adorable, it’s not quite what I was hoping for. “You’ve had my cooking before. Do you doubt my skills?”
“It’s not that,” she starts. “It’s just that Texas bar-b-que is mainly smoked meat, not cooked over an open flame, and you put your sauce on the side!” Her hand covers her heart to illustrate the horror of her words.
“Listen, good meat is good meat, I don’t care where it’s from. But, it’s only fair that you try my meat since I just tried yours.”
The words are out of my mouth before I realize how they sound, and when I look at Maggie’s face to get her reaction, I’m pleased to see the same dazed look from earlier. She’s also blushing something fierce, which tells me she’s just as dirty minded as I am. Well, maybe not quite as much, but close.
“Hey,” I say to get her attention.
With flushed cheeks, she meets my eyes. “Yeah?”
“You gonna take me to one of the music rooms so I can finally dance with you?”
Her shoulders relax and she gives me one of her mega-watt smiles. “Are you sure you’re up to it?”
“Absolutely. Besides, I need to burn off some of this food.”
Maggie giggles and grabs my hand, pulling me out of my chair and leading me to the first music room we find. There are five or six musicians playing some good ol’ honky-tonk music, which is exactly what I need right now.
I twirl Maggie around before pulling her flush against my body. “Let’s dance.”
And, dance, we do. We two-step, we waltz, and we even jitterbug a couple of times before we’re worn out and need to take a break.
We leave the room and enter another with a band playing bluegrass music. I’m a little surprised to see both of my brothers, along with their significant others, on the dance floor. Bluegrass is not a genre of music we listened to much back home but it’s a slow song and I completely understand the draw of slow dancing with a woman. So much so, I grab Maggie’s hand and lead her onto the floor close to my siblings, so we can join in the fun, as well.
What a sight this must be, watching three big-ass dudes from Texas slow dancing to bluegrass music in a refurbished classroom.
“Oh, good, Cletus is playing. He’s so good on the banjo,” Maggie tells me.
“You know Jenn from the bakery, right? Well, that’s her husband.” She uses her head to point in the direction of a man with wild hair, playing a banjo as if it’s the easiest thing to do. Not gonna lie, I’m kind of envious of his long beard. I’ve never been able to grow my beard out like that.
It doesn’t take long for me to get lost in the feel of Maggie in my arms again. She fits perfectly, her soft parts molding to my hard ones, and if it feels this good while we still have our clothes on, I can’t fucking wait to be this close to her while naked.
Maggie’s head is on my shoulder as we sway to the music, so she doesn’t see when Tempest waves at me. I look up at Tempest and watch as she mouths, “Have you asked about New Orleans.” Drawing my eyebrows together, I give a small shake of my head in reply. She’s obviously not happy with my answer because her eyes are now narrowed and her hands are on her hips.
Not wanting to get into it right now, I roll my eyes and sway our bodies so that my back is now facing Tempest. I’m sure I’ll pay for this tomorrow but I don’t care.
It’s not that I don’t want Maggie to go to New Orleans with us, with me, because I do. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s too soon for us. Of course, I wouldn’t have any expectations regarding the physical side of our relationship but it’d be our first weekend getaway as a couple, and to me, that’s a big deal. Road trips can either make or break a couple and the fact we’d also be with my family, as in my entire family… well, it kind of scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to pressure her or freak her out but, on the flip side, making that trip without her would fucking suck.
I will ask her, but not tonight.
Tonight, I just want to hold her in my arms for as long as she’ll let me.
About Jiffy Kate
Jiffy Kate is the joint pen name for Jiff Simpson and Jenny Kate Altman. They’re co-writing besties who share a brain. They also share a love of cute boys, stiff drinks, and fun times.
Together, they’ve written over twenty stories. Their first published book, Finding Focus, was released in November 2015. Since then, they’ve continued to write what they know–southern settings full of swoony heroes and strong heroines.
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