Saturday, March 3, 2012

Say No to Joe? (Visitation, NC #1) by Lori Foster

Joe Winston has a routine with women: he exists; they swoon; roll credits/ With his smoldering looks, macho style, and irrepressible charm, Joe can have any woman-- except the one he really wants. Secretly, Luna Clark may lust after Joe, but she's made it clear that she's too smart to fall for him. He can just keep holding his breath, thank you very much. But now, Luna's inherited two kids who need more than she alone can give in a small ton that seems hell-bent on driving them away. She needs someone to help out... someone who can't be intimidated... someone just like Joe/ Becoming an instant family wasn't exactly what Joe had in mind, but hey, it's a start, and you can't blame a guy for trying every angle. After all, where there's a Joe, there's a way... straight into a woman's heart. 

Type: Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 out of 5
Rating: 4 out of 5

I really enjoyed Say No To Joe? It's a heartbreaking story with some really sweet moments and a nice bit of humor to go along with it all. Luna has just become the guardian for two young kids in North Carolina and needs Joe's help dealing not only with them but a town that is being unreasonably hard on the kids. She's avoided him for months and he can't wait to jump in and help since he thinks it's his perfect chance to seduce Luna. Finally! 

Joe and Luna have a fun, snarky, teasing, I-really-like-you-but-you-annoy-the-hell-out-of-me relationship going from the very start. He drives her nuts, she drives him crazy. Joe wants Luna something fierce and she'll have none of that even he does make her want to swoon from time to time and despite how they first met months earlier....
Joe hid his grin. "A little grab-ass is not accosting." At the worst of times, Luna could amuse him. And now he finally had her where he wanted her.  
Her mesmerizing eyes shone with annoyance and disbelief. "I barely knew you, Joe. I brought you a sandwich, and half a minute later you had your hands all over me." 
Despite his aches and pains, the memory warmed Joe. Locking onto her gaze, he said in his defense, "You have that kind of bottom, honey. All round and soft." 
Her color deepened. "Of all the stupid, sexist--" 
"It's irresistible," Joe insisted, and meant it. "It begs for a man's hands. It--" There looked to be an explosion imminent, so Joe wisely let that go for now and instead distracted her. "And for your information, no. I didn't get beat up by a woman." He snorted. "How absurd is that?" 
"I dunno." Her body vibrated with tension. "I'm ready to beat you up."
 I definitely fell for Luna during this first part of the book. Joe's been pretty much unable to do anything for himself after having the ever-living tar beat out of him and none of the women that are always fawning over him have done anything to take care of him. She's furious about can't believe no one's been there for him. He may drive her crazy but she starts fretting over him. Getting him fed, pain meds, showered. She's a natural born caretaker. Joe, Lord help him, he just can't help himself. He can hardly move and he's still egging her on and trying to hit on her.
Her concerned gaze skimmed over him. "Are you able to move much?
Now we're talking. "The hips work just fine, honey. Course, it'd probably be easier if you did all the-- hey, c'mon now, Luna, I was just teasing." He barely managed to hold in his laugh. "Don't storm away." 
She pivoted on her heel and stomped back toward him. Joe braced himself, waiting for the blast of her ire. She surprised him by drawing a deep breath, then another. And one more. 
He sighed. She was such a volatile, passionate woman, which made tweaking her temper fun. He raised a brow. "Got control of yourself?" 
She gave a sharp nod. 
The little liar. She wanted to bludgeon him. "Good." He patted the side of the bed next to his hip. "So tell me about this 'needing me' stuff. I'm all ears."
When they finally make it to North Carolina to meet the kids my heart just about broke. Willow and Austin have fallen through the cracks since their mother died two years earlier. They've been passed from one unqualified guardian to the next. Left on their own, emotionally neglected, verbally abused by the very people who should have been helping them through their loss and comforting them. Protecting them. The women "watching over" the kids were just pathetic excuses for humans and I was outraged right along with Luna and Joe. It's disgusting that anyone could be so unloving and cruel to innocent children. Joe and Luna are in the kid's corner as soon as they arrive and start defending them. Was pretty fantastic to see. Luna and Joe are two people you can't help but love. They're wonderful individuals with morals, kind hearts and passion. It was fun to watch free spirit Luna, life long bachelor/bad-ass Joe who never wanted kids and two young feisty children who have a hard time trusting become an insta-family and find something with each other they didn't know they really needed. 

There are some pretty funny moments when Joe and Luna are dealing with suddenly being in charge of the kids. Trying to get 9 year old Austin's foul language under control, sneaking out of the house at night, having  the kids walk in on them when they're having a moment together. For someone who has never wanted kids Joe does a pretty damn good job being someone that the kids can look up to and dealing with some awkward situations. 
Willow appeared ready to choke her brother. "I have a mouth, rodent, so quit speaking for me." 
Austin turned to Joe. "Rodent is a good insult, too, huh?"
"Sure, according to how you use it. Your sister says it to you with affection, but if you say it to some bully, then it'd sound hateful enough." 
Austin chewed that over. "Okay." His brow scrunched up with suspicion. "But I don't think Willow meant it nice, either." 
"No, I didn't" 
Hoping to soothe her, Joe said, "Whatever it is I'll get it. Just tell me." 
Joe stalled. Tampons. But she was only... well, fourteen. He had no idea when young ladies needed such things. He said, "Uh...' 
"I know," she all but wailed. "I'm sorry. But there aren't any here, and you're already there." 
"Yeah, of course." He glanced at Austin. "No problem at all, hon." He swallowed. "Any particular kind?" 
Hell, he could kick ass on felons, play bodyguard and bounty hunter, so surely he could buy a stupid box of tampons. 
Joe was my favorite thing about this story. I'll admit I'm all but smitten. There's just something about him. He's big, tough, intimidating. And gets taken to his knees, hard, by two young kids and Luna. I loved seeing him battle with emotions he wasn't used to experiencing. When everything came together for Joe after they were threatened by a trespasser and he claimed his family I just couldn't help but smile. 
Joe stepped in front of them, blocking it from their view. "All of you listen to me." Three pairs of eyes locked on his face: hopeful, expectant, still dark with anger and fear. Protectiveness erupted , so strong Joe wanted to shout with it. He drew one breath, then another, but Jesus it didn't help. 
"You're mine now," he told them, and he knew his voice was hoarse, trembling with furious conviction. He hadn't meant to rush Luna, to spill his guts so soon. He'd meant to give himself time, to give her and the kids time. But he couldn't hold it in. "All of you. I protect what's mine. No one is going to hurt you, and no one is going to run us off. I'll find the son of a bitch, I swear it. And when I do, he'll pay."' 
Luna's eyes, narrowed with rage only a moment ago, now softened with an expression far too close to concern. She gave a reluctant nod and spoke very softly. "All right, Joe." 
He had an awful suspicion she agreed more to soothe him than because she believed what he said. 
Willow swallowed, nodded, then gave him a trembling smile. "All right," she said, agreeing with Luna, and she, too, seemed to want to comfort him. 
Austin launched himself forward, hugging himself around Joe's knees and hanging on tight. Joe almost fell over. He felt as though he'd been stomped on already, his muscles, his mind, his deepest emotions. Hell, he hadn't known he had deep emotions until the kids and Luna had dredged them from a dark, empty place.  
He wasn't all that steady on his feet, and Austin hit him with the impact of a small tank. But it was more the punch to his heart than the impetus against his legs that threw him off balance.
Joe touched the tangled mop of blond hair. "Austin?" 
Austin squeezed him, then said against Joe's knees, "Okay." He finally tipped up his face to give Joe a crooked, admiring grin. "I sure like it when you're disrespectful." 
That ridiculous comment lightened Joe's mood, and he laughed. "Rodent."
Ack. I know, lots of quotes. Lots of gushing. But I just loved them all and couldn't help but share. I loved this family coming together even if it was in a rather unconventional way. There were so many moments throughout the book where I got a little choked up seeing Luna and Joe helping the kids through their pain. Just being there for them when no one had done that in so long. It was heartwarming and each time had me falling just a little more for them. 

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