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Until We Touch by Susan Mallery

From the outside, ex-football pro Jack is charming, fun and more than a little good-looking, and his assistant Larissa can’t help the attraction. She’s determined to ignore her feelings until her mother outs her. This does surprising things to Jack, who has until now successfully kept others at a distance. But this is small town Fool’s Gold, California, where no one keeps their distance for long. Pretty soon, the Larissa’s massages take on a new tone, and Jack has to decide whether to risk the safety of his comfortable life and make a play for a relationship that could mean more.

Look up Susan Mallery on Amazon and check out her books’ rankings. She’s written top seller after top seller, and this reading writer wanted to get to the bottom of how she does it. She writes for romance giant Harlequin, with a long history of fine-tuned lines that give romance readers exactly what they expect. And I think this is the key to Until We Touch, too: it’s exactly what I expected. Exactly. No surprises, no twists. The cover tells us that the book will be both sweet and sexy, and the story takes place in Mallery’s fictitious small town, with its usual appeal of warmth and familiarity. Both Jack and Larissa act exactly as their types should: closed-off alpha jock is sensitive underneath, and girl next door is quirky, sweet and sexy. I repeat: no surprises.

Genre readers often pick up books to be transported into another, less messy world, one where problems can be resolved in 400 pages or less. Some readers want to stay on the edge of their beach chairs the entire ride, through surprising twists and heart-stopping turns. Others want to know where they’re going. Can you guess where this book sits on the continuum? Mallery sticks with a tried-and-true formula, and it works well for her, over and over.

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