Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Perfect 10:

MAI TAI'D UP – Alice Clayton 
A Perfect 10 
Cocktail Series , Book Four 
Gallery Press 
ISBN-13:  978-1-4767-6671-3 
December 2014 
Contemporary Romance 

San Diego, California – Present Day 

Chloe Patterson is sitting in her mother's house getting primped for her wedding that afternoon to Charles Preston Sappington, but the knot in her stomach is getting bigger and bigger.  Chloe has tried to convince herself their marriage will be good, but all she fears is it might be end up like one big nothing, and the best she can expect is to possibly be content.  Chloe has limited sexual experience, and Charles is the only man she has been with, but from what she has seen and heard from friends, he is extremely small. If only he was huge maybe she'd at least have that, but no.  As a former Miss Golden State, Chloe is used to smiling and looking happy, and it isn't until the wedding planner notices she is unhappy that she decides to do the unthinkable.  Chloe gets in her car and leaves, and the feeling of a weight being taken off her shoulders has her convinced she's made the correct decision.  Mother is aghast and cannot comprehend what has gotten into Chloe.  When her father offers the family ranch in Monterey to move to, Chloe is excited, especially when she contacts Lou Fiorello, who has a company called Our Gang who rescues pit bulls.  Chloe had been involved with taking dogs to hospitals, and Lou offers her a reprieve of something to do with her life.  At a small restaurant for dinner after she arrives in Monterey, she sees a man in the bar mirror with strawberry blonde hair, a gorgeous smile and beautiful baby blue eyes.  He soon goes, but leaves her with lustful thoughts. 

Lucas Campbell is a veterinarian in practice with his father and soon plans to return to Belize as a volunteer vet for 12 weeks.  He saw Chloe in the restaurant, and later as she came to their office to talk to his father who is also involved with the rescued pit bulls.  Lucas is just getting over being left at the altar by his fiancée, who by the way was also in local beauty pageants.  Who would believe those coincidences?  Lucas tries to keep to a friendship with Chloe, and seems to be doing good, until right before he leaves for Belize and gets the shock of his life. 

As Chloe and Lucas work together with the pit bulls and he shows her around the area, she comes to enjoy his sense of humor and personality that matches her for silliness.  Chloe is careful to keep things friendly between them, but gradually has dreams of more.  Lucas is slowly getting over his broken engagement and enjoying Chloe's company.  As Chloe opens a new Our Gang branch at her father's ranch, she begins to feel as if she is finally doing something with her life.  In the back of her mind, though, is the idea that Lucas will soon be leaving for his volunteer work.  Right before he leaves, Chloe reveals to him that she also left her fiancé the day of the wedding, just like his ex.  It wasn't at the altar, but Lucas can't get over that she lied to him all this time, especially after she found out what happened to him.  Will there be any way Lucas can forgive her, or shall she keep up with living her life for herself and making herself happy? 

This is my first experience with an Alice Clayton story, and let me tell you, her story is dynamite.  Told from Chloe's point of view, she is strikingly human.  Her family is wealthy, and her upbringing was definitely sheltered.  Being Miss Golden State and in beauty contests all her life at the urging of her mother has given her a sort of privileged upbringing, but leaving home and moving to Monterey Bay is totally unexpected for her.  Lucas himself is just getting over his ex, but from the moment he saw Chloe, Lucas was willing to explore their attraction to each other. 

Secondary characters always bring even more depth to a story, as they do here.  There's Lou, who invites her to work with his rescue pit bulls, and especially her mother and father.  Charles is the man she dumped on the day of the wedding, and it is Clark, her cousin, and watching him flirt with his girlfriend that has her start to doubt about marrying Charles and her feelings for him. 

MAI TAI'D UP is a story brimming with laughter, second decisions, and the longing to have a great marriage, and not just one filled with lights and mirrors.  Chloe tells her story with such fun and we are drawn into how she reinvents herself.  I seldom give Perfect 10's, but Alice Clayton definitely has the touch.  Other stories in the Cocktail Series are WALLBANGER (February 2013), RUSTY NAILED (June 2014), and SCREWDRIVERED (September 2014).  I have not read the other books in the series, but this was a standalone book that I guarantee will knock your socks off.  You will not be able to resist her writing style and the wealth of hilarity and passion that she brings to Chloe and Lucas.  Definitely put MAI TAI'D UP on your reading list and give yourself a treat for the New Year! 

Carolyn Crisher

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