Doing it at: 53%
Catnip: Italian Stallion, A Foreign Affair, The Nanny, Jane Eyre, Italian Pillow Talk, Banging the Boss, Lady Boner, Motorcycles, Sexual Healing
Shame Scale: Zero. Zero shame.
Fantasy Cast: All the people we were thinking of for this one came up shy. But this all pretty much nails it.
What do we taste like?: So sweet. Dolce.
What does he taste like?: Like the honey tones of scotch and of faded smoke and mint
It’s time for twenty-four-year-old Amber MacLean to face the music. After a frivolous six months of backpacking through New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia, she finds herself broke on the Mediterranean without enough money for a plane ticket home to California. There are worse places to be stuck than the gorgeous coastline of southern Italy, but the only job she manages to secure involves teaching English to two of the brattiest children she’s ever met.
It doesn’t help that the children are under the care of their brooding older brother, Italian ex-motorcycle racer Desiderio Larosa. Darkly handsome and oh-so-mysterious, Derio tests Amber’s patience and will at every turn—not to mention her hormones.
But when her position as teacher turns into one as full-time nanny at the crumbling old villa, Amber finds herself growing closer to the enigmatic recluse and soon has to choose between the safety of her life back in the States and the uncertainty of Derio’s closely guarded heart.
Cleone: We love Karina Halle. Mary and I think she’d be fun to get drunk with and *semi* stalk her on social media. So, we’d been greatly anticipating this release.
Mary: I have the hugest fantasy friend crush on Karina Halle. She has a gorgeous instagram feed that’s a joy to follow, and it’s nice to feel like you know something about the person writing the stories you love. And her books sound like love letters to places we really want to visit. The travel writing is incredibly evocative, and this one transported me straight to coastal Italy.
Her heroines are the most relatable women ever, they remind me of some of my closest friends – with the lusting and the swearing, and their life choices in general, and Halle manages to capture the feelings of being in your 20’s like no one else. And Christ, she writes the hottest men. Karina – I love your taste in fantasy men! We’d have so much fun texting each other! Do you want to join mine and Cleone’s group text? We send each other funny screen shots, and creeper pics of hot meter men and kindergarten teachers and playground dads. I think you’d love it. Also – I feel like I can say this Karina, because I don’t know you IRL: your husband is kind of a fox.
C: Karina, if you’re reading this and Mary’s fangirling is creeping you out, I can promise to keep her 100 feet away from you at all times.
M: I was really looking forward to this book. It’s the follow-up to Where Sea Meets Sky, which was fantastic (emphatic recommendation from the Bookshame Ladies). This book picks up with Amber, after she leaves Josh and Gemma in New Zealand.
C: Amber has been backpacking across Europe, staying in hostels and keeping a travel blog, trying to prolong returning to her life in the states for as long as possible. She’s made it to Positano, Italy (google it, Italy is beautiful and we should all move there), where due to funds she finds she can travel no more. She doesn’t even have enough money to buy a plane ticket home. Amber is spunky, and funny, and hapless at times. I liked her immediately:
And so here is Positano. I’d been so busy closing my eyes and praying that I’d never really gotten a good look at the town.
It’s fucking charming.
C: Girls who swear copiously are girls after our own hearts.
M: I can’t really relate all that well to people who don’t say fuck.
C: Amber decides that she needs to get a job to either A: buy a ticket home or B: try to prolong her trip for the two more months she’s legally allowed to stay in Europe before she gets deported. She doesn’t want to go home because her parents are toxic assholes, she has a degree that she doesn’t know what to do with, and traveling is just so much more fulfilling.
After the weirdest interview set up of all time, Amber ends up on the Isle of Capri at the rundown Villa dei Limoni Tristi (the house of sad lemons — its has a ring to it, no?) meeting with her potential employer, Desiderio. Who is glowering and mysterious and fucking gorgeous.
M: There are so many quotes I want to include in here. I’m really holding back. Amber is just the perfect heroine, and there was something on almost every page that made me chuckle or swoon.
Please don’t look at his junk, please don’t look at his junk, I beg myself. My eyes have been known to have a mind of their own around the male species, especially when tight-isn pants and/or big appendages are involved.
M: Girl, we feel you. We are notorious bulge watchers. I actually had to remember not to open new tabs on my laptop in front of my husband for a week, because “dicks in grey sweatpants” was showing up on my frequently visited pages, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it off. It was an important reminder to remember to only look at weird porny shit on my phone. (And for the record, I was only googling it to show something to Cleone. It’s not pervy if you share it with your friends, then it’s just funny. Fact.)
C: Mary told me just before we started reading that Racing the Sun is inspired by Jane Eyre, one of my all time favorite books, and if Derio is Rochester he’s the Michael Fassbender version of Rochester. Rochester isn’t supposed to be classically dreamy, but we like him that way.
M: He’s gorgeous and mysterious and cranky, except instead of a pale English complexion, he’s swarthy, with a motorcycle, swooping hipster hair, and the confidence to wear a speedo. My perfect Rochester. #Swoon.
We adored this book, and there are mild plot spoilers in this review, insofar as we’re going to discuss the plot direction, but not give away big secrets. If you haven’t read it yet and want to remain unspoiled, scroll down really fast from one giant speedo bulge to the next (skip past the tiny bulge in our text screenshot, this review is very bulge-y).
C: Mr. Tall, Dark, and Brooding hires Amber to teach English to his twin siblings, who are his wards following his parents dying in a horrific accident that he just barely managed to survive. The current nanny/housekeeper tells Amber that she must not bother Derio, don’t talk to him unless spoken to, and never to go into his den. DON’T GO INTO THE LIBRARY BELLE.
My eyes widen. This is starting to sound like Beauty and the Beast. Oh my God, am I Belle? Is he an Italian Beast? Did I just stumble into the best scenario ever? My inner nerd is having heart palpitations.
M: Even though he’s ornery as fuck, Amber is crushing hard on Derio.
C: Its an eternal mystery why girls fall for the boys who are mean to them, and why we want to fix the broken ones, maybe something messed up in our faulty lady DNA?
Man, can this guy glower. I’m not sure whether to be scared or turned on. Or both.
C: The twins are kind of awful, and Derio is locked in his mysterious study ignoring everyone, it’s pretty lonely for Amber at first. She doesn’t even speak enough Italian to converse with her charges if they decide to go all Italiano rapido on her. We obviously know that they’re going to fall in love, but its a slow thaw.
M: Derio spends most of his time being secretive, but the few interactions that Amber does have with him are hot as hell.
“Does no one tell the Italians that smoking is bad for you?” I ask.
He smirks at me. “They do. We just don’t care. We like all of the bad things.” He inhales, his nostrils flaring, then breathes it out. ” Smoking,racing, drinking, sex. All bad. All very good.”
C: Sigh. Sold.
Our big turning point comes when Derio, Amber, and the twins go to the beach, Amber is scared of heights and buries her face in his shoulder for the ride up. He comforts her. She not so covertly smells him, he smells like musk and sage and lemons. She thinks he’s sniffing her hair. It’s all very slow-burn and swoon. And then they get to the beach and he strips down to just a speedo.
M: A speedo. I had no idea that this was a thing that does it for me until this book, so from the bottom of my heart Karina, Thank You.
M: While they’re out on their little beach jaunt, Derio is sweet and playful, basically a completely different person from the broody recluse he is at home, and it makes it so easy for us to fall for him. Plus, again, that speedo tho.
I turn around, about to ask Derio and his penis whether this is the place to go in the water, but he strides to the edge of the water and does a perfect swan dive off.
C: The kids play a prank on Amber, she falls into the sea, he saves her from drowning. The sexual tension amps up to a million.
Once Derio plucks her out of the ocean, things start to speed up between the two of them, lots of banter and flirting and finally a kiss:
“I need to kiss you,” he says, and it’s the smartest thing he’s said all day. “Please.”
C: Halle is especially talented at writing a good first time scene, I’m reading Sins and Needles currently, and you guys it’s worth the price of admission just for that backyard scene. Racing the Sun was no exception. They couldn’t resist each other a second longer and went at it impulsively, on his desk. In the forbidden study. Now we know why she couldn’t go in there, its where the boning happens.
Once they’ve had sex once, Derio becomes incredibly tender with her. He has no qualms about them being a couple immediately, even if this might feel a little rushed to Amber, and the hot sex continues all over. ALL OVER.
M: We really can’t stress enough how hot this book was, and not in an erotica way, but more in a slow burn, fuck I want that in real life way. I found myself trying to brainstorm ways to turn my goofy ginger husband into a fierce Italian Stallion.
M: Really, you guys. This book was doing it for us so hard. We read a bajillion dirty books every week, so the ones that give us genuine tingles are such gems.
C: Derio was doing a fantastic job being a completely hot, romantic book boyfriend, we loved him. Until he wasn’t so great. I was reading well ahead of Mary (she was on a getaway, ruining all of her electronics in a short 24 hour wave of destruction), and felt it was my duty to let her know that major groveling was going to need to happen to make this ok. Usually Mary is the one who requires the guys to walk a million miles on their knees, but without being spoiler-y, Derio’s fuck up was egregious to me.
M: I won’t tell you what he did, but it was something C and I both reacted to in a very visceral way, because we’ve both been in very similar situations, and the impotent rage that Amber was feeling brought up all the bad memories.
Have you ever gone to bed angry? I mean so angry that it’s physically painful? It’s probably the worst feeling in the world. Your face is red and your body is hot and your heart races like it’s trying to puncture you with each beat. Your skin pulses with rage and all you want to do is sleep and forget about it. But you can’t. Not right away. And when you do, the anger seeps into your bloodstream, ensuring you’ll feel no peace even after you close your eyes.
M: God I know that feeling, way to put it into words, Lady. This seriously took me back to the worst freaking place.
C: If you remember your Jane Eyre, then you might be able to figure out an approximation of how Racing the Sun ends. Luckily there is no book approximation of St. John (that dude is the worst, he’s the original man-splainer wet drip) and the HEA is supremely satisfying.
C: Coincidentally our reading Racing the Sun coincided with the news breaking that Ben Affleck had apparently been screwing the nanny. Mary got inspired:
M: I KNOW that I am not the only one of you who used to watch The Nanny. Just wait, it’s going to come back in an ironic “Married With Children” way, when Fran Drescher lands a role on some popular show like Modern Family, and everyone remembers that she exists again. And I will not hold back with the I told you so.
Seriously though. This book was delightful. My favorite Karina Halle book so far. We gave it an A+, and we like to think we’re pretty stingy with those. We’ll hand out all the other grades for giggles and creativity, but we’ve got motherfucking standards for those A+’s.
I’d recommend this one to pretty much anyone. It would make the absolute perfect Gateway Book for your friend who confesses that she really wants to like The Goldfinch, but keeps falling asleep, and you think that maybe she should give romance novels a shot. Or anyone going on a beach vacation. Or your stay at home mom friend who’s got a birthday coming up. And consider buying it in paperback because you’re going to want to lend it.
C: We think everyone should read all the Karina Halle, we can’t imagine that you’d be sorry, check it out: