The Reluctant Nude

The Reluctant Nude - Meg  Maguire This was one of those books I read in one sitting because pausing for any length of time was completely out of the question. It's just a shame I started it at 11:30 at night. 3:30 in the morning hit like a ton of bricks.Not entirely of her own volition, Fallon Frost headed north from her life on Long Island to visit the Cape Breton studio of a world-renowned classical sculptor. A frequent professional adversary, and spurned would-be suitor, has made her a deal as irresistible as it is detestable. He'll give her the deed to her late foster mother's property free and clear if she sits for a nude statue for his collection. If she declines, he'll clear the property for commercial development. Determined to preserve the site of her few happy memories of a childhood spent in foster care, she's put her dignity on hold and fully intends to see to her end of the bargain.M.L. "Max" Emery finds the woman in his studio an intriguing puzzle. Every time she mentions the "fiancé" who's paying him an absurdly high commission for this statue, she stumbles on the word as though it were "a bit of gristle." She's refused all of the escape opportunities he's offered her, yet she's clearly unhappy to be posing for this statue, or him. She's all but made clear that she needs him and this commission, yet she responds to him with barely disguised dislike. After eight years of self-imposed exile, Max finds Fallon an irresistible challenge and a welcome change of pace.The story that follows is a deliciously-written, slow-burning romance steeped in emotion. Neither one of them enters into this arrangement terribly willing, and neither is looking for romance. Both have their worlds' knocked a bit off kilter by the other and don't quite know how to react to it. Their initial reaction is confusion, which works its way out in their verbal sparring. The more they talk, the more they begin to realize their attraction, and they begin to flirt. Finally their attraction manifests in passion, and it's all the more powerful for the long build up to get there.Watching these two talk and flirt was just a joy. I especially enjoyed Max's character. I liked that his speech was written in plain English, but with a unique diction and syntax that set it apart as slightly foreign. He was such a delightful mix of traits, as well, being both self-assured and incredibly vulnerable at the same time. I loved watching him unsettle and intrigue Fallon with his eccentricities as well as his earnestness.Although this is what I like to think of as a "talky romance," where the focus is on their conversations and the relationship that forms from them, I have to commend the author for how she wrote what sex scenes are present. They're flawlessly integrated into the character development in a way sex scenes rarely are. They go well beyond simple penetration, by which I mean that they seemed to reflect that sex is more than a bit of the old in-out. The focus on foreplay and just the sharing of pleasure between them amplified the uniqueness of the couple. Though they're not especially graphic or risqué, they were some of the hottest love scenes I've read.Only a very few things held this back from five-star status. For one, I thought Fallon's character was a bit lost and perhaps overwhelmed by Max's presence. There was a lot about her that was hinted at and then just never resolved. Secondly, the ending wasn't worthy of the rest of the book. 90% of the novel is steeped in realism and true-to-life conversation and behavior, then the ending shows up, straight out of Romancelandia. It's not a bad ending, and it's absolutely a HEA, but it was too convenient and too neat for the rest of the book. It's a small quibble, really, but there you have it.The book was such a sparking joy to read, that I want to just walk up to strangers on the sidewalk and tell them to read it. I can't wait to have my mom read it on her new Nook, and I only give her "conversion-quality" romances, since she's a romance genre doubter. It's just that kind of character-focused book that leaves you with a long-lasting impression. I won't forget Max or Fallon any time soon, that's for sure.