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flirting-in-trafficFlirting in Traffic, by Beth Kery

An erotic contemporary romance, Flirting in Traffic is my first exposure to Ms Kery’s writing. Published as an electronic book by Cerridwen Press (a division of Ellora’s Cave), it is marketed as a full length novel. However, at less than 140 pages, this story fits more comfortably under my definition of novella than of novel; other people’s mileages may well vary, of course.

Here is the blurb from the author’s site:

She went off like a red-hot firecracker on his foyer floor, then vanished.

Esa never intended to participate in her best friend’s unorthodox dating scheme – flirting with hunky construction workers in Chicago traffic. Her thoughts changed when she saw a long, lean slice of heaven strutting around the side of the highway. For him, she would be the carefree sex kitten her borrowed car with its suggestive license plates implied she was.

Though smarting from the wounds of a recent break-up, Finn can’t resist the tempting redhead driving the come-and-get-me car, flashing him contemptuous looks with those brandy-colored eyes. The lure of taming the feisty little kitten is just too great to deny…

The way the story is set up, Esa’s younger sister Rachel and her best friend Carla plot together to drag Esa into a night of flirting and drinking, one-night stand optional. At first, Esa is opposed on the grounds of how the whole thing is tawdry and cheap, plus she‘s not a slut-or loose, or a party girl, or something. For his part, Finn is equally critical of his own brother’s party ways and sexual escapades, but finds himself intrigued by a glimpse of Esa, so he shows up at the watering hole where Esa and Carla are meeting his brother Jess. Due to slightly contrived circumstances, Finn mistakes Esa for her sister and sexual hijinks ensue.

The “pretends to be someone else, which creates hurt feelings and provides conflict between protagonists” plot device is definitely not one of my favorites, but it can be pulled off. Mostly, it depends on the reasons behind the deception. In this case it just fell flat for me.

Esa’s self-justification is twofold: one, no man (let alone gorgeous Finn) would be interested in boring Esa under any circumstances, and two, Finn wants only a brief fling, and by hiding her real identity she is protecting herself from heartache later on. The first argument makes me shake my head and wonder at Esa’s emotional age. Hello, the man is not having sex with an idea in his head, but with the flesh and blood woman; how much more interested can he be, sex-wise? As to the second argument, if someone understands the logic behind it, please share it with me.

There were good moments in the story, and I enjoyed the hints of family dynamics-both Finn’s and Esa’s-but felt that in the end there were so many extraneous things going on that the relationship between the main characters was shortchanged. I mean, there is Carla and Jess, Rachel showing up, Caleb coming on to Esa, Molly and Glory, and Esa’s patients at the elderly home, and Julia, Finn’s ex-fiancĂ©e. Then there’s Esa worrying about Carla, wondering about Rachel’s motivations, while Finn is worrying about the family’s company, about his grandmother’s health, about his younger siblings.

So many threads in so few pages! By the end of the last page, I didn’t believe that these two really knew each other beyond the heavy chemistry and the fireworks.

Something beyond the writing that also may have factored in my lack of enjoyment were the multitude of typos and other editing issues throughout, from changing a character’s last name to things like breeching for breaching and goat for goatee (as in, shaving off his…).

With regret, Flirting in Traffic turned out to be a 5 out of 10 for me.

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