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Julie Garwood is the reigning queen of literary romance. I eagerly await her next novel because I am assured not only that it will be a romantic page turner, but that the book’s cover will make my day. Her last three romance novels have featured a tall, dark and handsome male silhouette that is chiseled, strong and sexy.

Sexy men come in all types, and when Garwood creates her male characteristics, she titles her books after them: THE IDEAL MAN who can SWEET TALK his way into being your one and only HOTSHOT. HOTSHOT is Garwood’s latest captivating page turner, a sizzling beach escape to end the summer romance season.

The MacBain brothers, twins Beck and Tristan, along with Finn, were all “handsome devils.” The eldest brother Finn had a passion for girls, swimming, football and having a good time. The boys were loyal to one another, swam together to build muscle to impress the girls, and always got into situations that required a little interference and grounding from their parents.

One fateful night, Finn was grounded while his family went out, which allowed him to rescue Peyton Lockhart, the little girl next door, from the family pool. A lifelong bond was formed that night that Peyton never forgot. Every year on her birthday, she wrote Finn a thank-you card. Finn was Peyton’s hero. She kept track of his life, one success after another. He won three gold medals in swimming at the Olympics and set new records, attended law school at Stanford, won triathalons, and was recruited by the FBI as a special west coast agent. When Finn created an athletic program for at-risk youth that was featured on “60 Minutes,” Peyton began calling Finn “Hotshot.”

"HOTSHOT is Garwood’s latest captivating page turner, a sizzling beach escape to end the summer romance season."

Peyton pursued her passion for cooking at Institut Le Jardin in Lyon, France, and landed a dream job at Swift Publications in Dalton, Minnesota, working on The Beautiful Table magazine. Her passion for cooking came from working at her Uncle Len’s resorts. Her favorite was Bishop’s Cove, a paradise on the beach in south Florida. Despite Uncle Len’s offer to put her to work at Bishop’s Cove as the sous-chef at the new Leonard’s restaurant, Peyton optimistically took the job in Minnesota.

It didn’t take Peyton more than a few days to realize that her boss was a sexual predator. Garwood’s all-too-real scenes describing the helplessness, anger and fear that Peyton feels whenever she is around him are riveting. She quickly figures out with the help of an insider, Mimi, that Drew’s wife is an enabling partner in her husband’s scheme to take over her father’s company. Money equaled power, and Drew wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way.

Peyton narrowly escapes Swift Publications and the blatant advances of her boss. He is followed out of town by Drew’s henchman, who shoots at her car as she drives away on a brutally snowy night --- with a taped conversation that will expose Drew’s predatory sexual harassment.

The wedding of Finn’s brother brings Peyton and Finn face to face once again. When Finn sees Peyton, he doesn’t recognize her until the sexy woman walking up to him says, “Hello, Hotshot.” “She had gone from a skinny little girl to this beautiful woman with a devastating smile.” While Finn was garnering successes and awards, Peyton had turned into a temptress. Being the hotshot FBI agent he was, he was the only person to notice the bullet holes in Peyton’s car. When she tells him about her escape from Swift Publications and why, Finn puts Drew’s demise into motion.

The attraction between Finn and Peyton is instantaneous and intense. The special bond she felt when she was a little girl made Peyton think that Finn somehow “belonged to her.” Peyton cannot help herself, and a quick kiss ignites the passion between them.

Fate intervenes again, and Uncle Len makes Peyton and her two sisters an offer they can’t resist. “I’ll give Bishop’s Cove to the three of you to run...” The sisters can combine their individual passions for cooking and decorating to make Bishop’s Cove a monumental success. Sun, sand, surf and uncontrollable passion: these are the things that make romance novels a pleasure paradise.

Finn tries to figure out how to maintain his single status, but is finding it so difficult to stay away from Peyton. Peyton had changed his life, and is as alluring to him as water is to an Olympic swimmer. Her plans to add an entire swimming center with an Olympic-size pool at Bishop’s Cove is an enticing indication of her feelings about him. Readers will definitely believe in destiny upon turning the final page.

Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on September 13, 2013

by Julie Garwood