Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“‘Family…’ She put her finger under my chin. ‘…is what you make it. Blood or no blood, you choose who you surround yourself with — now take a look around you, my dear — you’re surrounded by love.’”
Now, you’re probably thinking, Professor Romance, why are you pointing us to this quote when this is a romance, and this quote isn’t steamy, $exy, or romantic? Well, if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll realize that I look for the deeper messages inherent to romance. Yes, I can tell you all the great romantic qualities of Rachel Van Dyken’s Avoiding Temptation:
- Slater, as the hero, is an interesting combination of gorgeous, arousing, compassionate, and quirky. Of Knox, Leo, and Slater, I think he’s the most relatable. He will still steal your breath (or at least the breaths of the women in the story), but he has all of these great Slater-isms. My personal favorite is his issues with hair. I swear, when Van Dyken has Slater tell us his personal struggle with hair in the shower or sink, I died a little simply because I too have the same quirk. It was as though Van Dyken placed a little bit of me in her character. There is a reason he is the “best friend” of the Pleasure Ponies. He has the ability to empathize with the people who need it. In Avoiding Temptation, this person is Tatum, Finn’s little sister. When he is being true to himself, you will adore him as a hero.
- Tatum is a heroine whom you can’t help but fall in love with. As Slater tells us, she’s brave and independent. But she is also a survivor. While we don’t get all of the specific details of her journey, Van Dyken provides enough of it that, once you move beyond her initial insistence to seduce Slater, you will admire her journey. She is also funny, and she antagonizes Finn and Slater in ways that provide some comic relief within the story.
- For Tatum and Slater, this is a slow-burn romance. Yes, they “fool around;” however, it takes most of the story for them to finally consummate their relationship. When this moment finally comes, to be honest, it’s a bit anti-climactic. I think the story is best when these two are struggling with their attraction for each other. That is one of the best parts of this romance.
As you can see, this story has many of the qualities you love in a good romance. However, there are two other aspects of it that draw you in more deeply, that make it a Rachel Van Dyken original.
- For one, the relationship between the Wingmen Inc. guys is probably the best part. We get a little bit of Leo in this one, and he torments Slater in all the ways that make the Pleasure Ponies a Van Dyken favorite. Even more, Finn and Slater’s relationship is special. Over the course of Seducing Mrs. Robinson and Avoiding Temptation, these two seem like the most obvious friend pair. They rib each other mercilessly, but they love each other more. There is a particular scene with these two that will make you laugh out loud. Everything you love about the Pleasure Ponies is here in Avoiding Temptation.
- The overall message is bigger than the romance or the relationships between the guys. In this book, Van Dyken shows us the power of the people in our lives. Finn and Tatum have horrible parents, but they have people in their lives who love them as a family should. Whether it’s Slater helping Tatum heal from her trauma, or Finn and Tatum’s extended family stepping up to love them when their parents are emotional vampires, Van Dyken is suggesting that we can make our own family, finding love in other places. That the people who have our best interests in mind don’t have to be blood-related, but family can be fulfilled from other places. It’s this message that adds depth and breadth to a story that Van Dyken wrote for her fans. She could have easily kept it simple, giving us exactly what we love about the Wingmen Inc. guys. Instead, she developed significance in Avoiding Temptation that challenges our own thinking about families.
Rachel Van Dyken’s Avoiding Temptation has everything you love about her romantic comedies. Slater’s characterization will make you laugh out loud and sigh with contentment. Tatum’s ability to “give as good as she gets” will show you the power of women to challenge men. The fun storyline of “denying your attraction to your best friend’s younger sister” coupled with the depth of understanding about the construction of family adds a layer that shows us Van Dyken’s range. If you’ve read any of the books on her booklist, you know her brilliance lies in her ability to take a story with some humor and wrap it in a message that connects with her readers. If you’re a fan of the Pleasure Ponies with Wingmen Inc., Avoiding Temptation should be an easy one-click choice.
In love and romance,