by Susan Donovan
Series: Bigler North Carolina #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 30, 2016
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Cops
Format: ARC, Ebook
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I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley.
Ten weeks in a swanky Arizona rehab center and Tanyalee Newberry, aka Taffy, is ready to give up everything that isn’t good for her—her forgery habit, taking (i.e., stealing) things that don’t belong to her, and, of course, men. But when her flight home gets rerouted, she finds herself in a hotel room with her smoking-hot travel companion. One night together is all it should have been. But passion is oh-so sweet…
Special Agent Dante Cabrera has been duped at his own love-’em-and-leave-’em game by this so-called Taffy. To forget she ever existed, Dante buries himself in his work…until a case leads him to North Carolina and, impossibly, right back to her. He has no business messing around with this felonious femme fatale, especially one who could be in more danger than she thinks. But Dante also knows there’s more to her than great looks and hot nights—a soul-searching woman who wants to amend her past sins. Is he ready to take their desire to the next level…and steal Taffy’s heart?
Stealing Taffy by Susan Donovan is book #3 in her Bigler, North Carolina series. Although this book works as a standalone–I haven’t read the first two books in the series–the plot borrows heavily from the preceding books, so I suspect they’re best read in order.
Tanyalee Marie Newberry is a true Southern belle. She’s also a convicted felon who forged her granddaddy’s signature on loan documents and hacked into his bank account. Additionally, she slept with her sister’s boyfriend, tricked him into getting her pregnant, and convinced him to marry her. Then, when she miscarried, she lied to him about it. When he found out, he divorced her.
Tanyalee is clearly not a stereotypical romance heroine. In fact, she has just returned from a stint in rehab for her unhealthy relationships, compulsive spending habits, shoplifting, and love addiction. On her return flight, she meets a handsome and mysterious man named Dan Carnes. Tanyalee introduces herself as Taffy (her childhood nickname) and concocts a fake story about her life, unwilling to tell the truth about who she is, for obvious reasons. The two of them hit it off immediately and when their flight is diverted, they end up spending a sexy night together.
Dan is actually Dante Cabrera, special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration. That’s not the story he tells Taffy, of course. They have explosive chemistry, but when Dante wakes up the next morning, he’s alone. Taffy has bested him at his own game, leaving nothing but her charm bracelet behind to remember her by.
Back home in North Carolina, Tanyalee is on a mission to make amends to all the people she has wronged in the past. There are quite a few people on that list, but first she has to find a job and start fulfilling her community service hours. It turns out that Dante is working a case out of the Asheville field office. He and Tanyalee run into each other unexpectedly and the sparks fly between them all over again.
There’s quite a bit of plot going on in this book. There’s Tanyalee’s desire to redeem herself and transform into a better person; Dante’s work and some demons from his past; Tanyalee’s tenuous relationships with the people she has hurt, especially family members like her grandfather and sister; and a local girl who Tanyalee is determined to befriend. On top of all this, there’s an undercurrent of suspense with the drug case Dante is working.
Right away, I liked the author’s writing style. It’s comedic, but I never felt that she humiliates the heroine. Speaking of which, Tanyalee is difficult to like because of her past transgressions; however, she has such a good heart at her core and that really comes out to shine throughout the story. Even though she has made some awful mistakes, she’s the type of character you actually want to root for because she sincerely is remorseful and wants to change. Likewise, Dante has a lot of baggage in his past. So in a sense, he and Tanyalee are perfect for each other because they have unique insight into each other’s lives and understand each other on a deeper level.
I would have liked the book more if there hadn’t been quite so many conflicts going on simultaneously. At times, I found it hard to focus on the relationship between Tanyalee and Dante because of all the drama happening on the periphery of their developing romance. On the other hand, I loved the parts where the romance is at the forefront and would have liked to see more of that.
The small town setting, bolstered by its many characters, is both heartwarming and comical.
I would recommend Stealing Taffy to anyone who enjoys a small-town romance with a fair dose of comedy mixed with poignant moments and a dash of suspense. Overall, I enjoyed this author’s writing style and will look for her books again in the future.
Rating: 3.5 stars