Review: Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis (2018)

Heartbreaker Bay, Book #6

Heat Factor: There’s innuendo and sexy kissing in the first 90 pages

Character Chemistry: Eh

Plot: Bad Santa, Alpha Male Posturing, and some other stuff

Overall: DNF

Now that I’m officially in my *late 30s* (insert gasps of horror here), I’ve decided that life’s too short for me to power through books that I am *not* feeling. In this case, I don’t think the book is inherently bad (the prose was lively, the opening was interesting, and the characters seemed to like each other), but it was not for me. 

Two reasons:

  • There is a huge mismatch between the cover and the content
  • There is a huge mismatch between the ethos of the book and what I find pleasurable in reading a romance

Let’s talk about the cover mismatch first. 

Based on the cover image—a couple kissing lovingly but frankly pretty chastely kissing in front of a snowy mountain lodge—I’m expecting cutesy, small-town energy. Based on the blurb, I know that Molly and Lucas are tracking a Bad Santa together, so I knew there would be some suspense, but figured it would be more comical than dangerous. Basically, I expected light shenanigans. 

What did I get? We’re looking at full-on romantic suspense set in San Francisco. There is no cutesy, snow-covered mountain lodge in sight.

And the Bad Santa? Connected to a crime lord, long presumed dead, who liked to cut off people’s thumbs. Yikes.

There is some joking (some of which is funny, and some of which is…not—more on that in a moment), but there is also a lot of angst about the main characters being completely closed off to love because of their tragic pasts. Oh, and also: a super duper alpha hero and his super duper alpha friends who like to hang out wearing their tactical gear just for fun. 

Look, the cover mismatch is not Shalvis’ fault, but it is seriously jarring. However, if I have vibed with the ethos of the book, I could have overlooked it. (See, for example, my discussion of I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm, which has the *worst* cover—but I still loved it.)

So, the ethos. Let’s start with the super duper alpha hero. He’s ex-DEA, and now works for a private investigations firm that seems to primarily work with uncovering insurance fraud…but insurance fraud that involves SWAT-style invasions of warehouses? Like, is that even legal? I’m pretty sure PI’s can’t serve warrants? Anyways, he’s always wearing this tactical gear, and Molly, our heroine, finds this very very hot. I, on the other hand, do not. In fact, I find his whole vibe distinctly unpleasurable to read about. 

Especially Lucas’ whole thing where he’s convinced that Molly’s older brother would literally shoot him if Lucas and Molly had some hanky-panky time. The over-protective and too much up in his sister’s life older brother is the *worst* kind of best friend’s sibling romance. 

And then we have Molly, who at “the ripe old age of 28” has decided to swear off love and commitment. Women in their late 20s who have decided their life is over is a whole mood that I don’t love. And in this case, Lucas has a similar vibe of “I’ll be alone forever” going on, because he blames himself for the death of his fiancée eight years ago. The combo? Uggggggghhhhhh. 

And finally, we come to the humor. Some bits were zippy. (Maybe “SMH” *should* mean Sex Might Help!) And then there was this: 

She took another muffin and sighed. “I wish everything was as easy as getting fat.”

They all agreed on this very sage comment and then went back to their respective jobs. 

If you could see my face right now. I don’t know if I have the capacity to unpack how harmful this shit is on so many levels, so I’ll just drop it right there and close with my earlier sentiment: this book and I are not made for each other.

TL;DR: I probably won’t pick up something else by this author. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Militaristic private investigators (and other members of law enforcement)

Books set in the bay area (no rustic mountain lodges here!)

Best Friend’s Sibling Romances (don’t worry! many of them don’t have gross overprotective brothers)

3 thoughts on “Review: Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis (2018)”

  1. I’m so glad you referenced I’VE GOT A DUKE TO KEEP ME WARM. I fell for that deceptive cover and actually vented about it on Instagram. Thanks for the warning for this book as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like Kelly Bowen’s books all have terrible covers that don’t accurately represent the tone of her books at all—which is a shame because I really like most of her stuff.

      But yeah, the whole marketing a romantic suspense as a gentle holiday romance is…something.


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