Hot Review
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Now that the hectic holiday season is over, it’s the perfect time to unwind with a light, relaxing book—preferably a guilty pleasure, like a quirky comedy or a girly romance. Or maybe even a quirky romance—like Hot.

Julia Harper’s Hot tells the story of an unlikely romance on the run. When the First Wisconsin Bank of Winosha, Wisconsin, is robbed by a couple of guys in SpongeBob and Yoda masks, part-time teller and town librarian Turner Hastings sees the commotion as an opportunity. It isn’t until later, when FBI Special Agent John MacKinnon arrives to investigate the robbery, that anyone realizes that, during the confusion, Turner calmly opened up bank president Calvin Hyman’s safe deposit box and slid the contents into her bag before leaving the bank. Suddenly, the FBI’s tracking SpongeBob and Yoda and Turner.

As John tracks Turner, he finds that there’s more to the plain-jane librarian than meets the eye. For years, she’s been trying to find a way to clear her uncle’s name of a crime she’s sure he didn’t commit—and now she’ll stop at nothing to find her answers. Meanwhile, John keeps calling her cell phone, trying to convince her to turn herself in—and their relationship becomes more than strictly professional.

With a creative and even suspenseful story and a cast of quirky small-town characters, Hot makes for a light and entertaining read. Harper does an excellent job of creating tension between her two main characters. Even though they’re only communicating by phone, you can feel the tension between them. And while the payoff may be tame for romance regulars, it offers just a little bit of extra heat for readers who tend to stick with milder chick lit.

But Hot definitely isn’t for the realist. The situations are often far from realistic, and if you think about the details too much (as I tend to do), you’ll find yourself frustrated. You’ll ask questions like, “If Turner grew up in this small town, why does she think she can fool people into thinking she’s just a plain old librarian by putting on fake glasses? And why does it actually work?” Though Harper develops most of her characters quite well, she does leave a few loose ends. She also develops two characters way more than she should. Yoda and SpongeBob (a.k.a. Nald and Tuna Fish) are annoying characters—and although the chapters that Harper spends tracking their getaway were clearly meant for comic relief, they’re overdone, poorly written, and almost entirely unnecessary. Instead of adding to the story, they take away from it (my advice: just skip those chapters—you won’t miss much).

Despite those nagging little flaws and a couple of irritating characters, though, Hot still has plenty to offer—as long as you’re willing to suspend a little belief. With its solid tension and its light, entertaining style, it’s a fluffy but fun guilty pleasure that’ll help you through the January blahs.

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