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Too Hot To Handle by Tessa Bailey

Updated: Apr 15

Too Hot To Handle

by Tessa Bailey

Published by Forever

Book 1 in the Romancing the Clarkson's series

When rescue looks like a whole lot of trouble . . .

The road trip was definitely a bad idea. Having already flambéed her culinary career beyond recognition, Rita Clarkson is now stranded in God-Knows-Where, New Mexico, with a busted-ass car and her three temperamental siblings, who she hasn't seen in years. When rescue shows up---six-feet-plus of hot, charming sex on a motorcycle---Rita's pretty certain she's gone from the frying pan right into the fire . . .

Jasper Ellis has a bad boy reputation in this town, and he loathes it. The moment he sees Rita, though, Jasper knows he's about to be sorely tempted. There's something real between them. Something raw. And Jasper has only a few days to show Rita that he isn't just for tonight---he's forever.



Fire that destroys business, grief


Too Hot To Handle is the first book in the Romancing the Clarkson's series, and is written by Tessa Bailey. This is actually my first read from her as well. The series is about the four Clarkson siblings, who have drifted apart throughout the years. Their mother, who passed away a year ago, left a journal, asking them to fulfill her final wish, which was for them to jump in the Atlantic Ocean on New Years Day, a moment that changed her own life. Too Hot to Handle focuses on Rita, the oldest daughter in the family, and professional chef, like her mother, and Jasper Ellis, small town bar/restaurant owner, and well known playboy.

The story itself is interesting and original. I am not a huge fan of love at first sight, or even lust at first sight, and this story has two people falling in love by the end of three days. That being said, I did like the story mostly. It flowed really well from chapter to chapter, between Rita and Jasper's POV's. I feel like if there was more time for the story to grow, and for the characters to get to know one another, it would have felt more believable, and less ... creepy. I hate using the word creepy. Don't get me wrong. Rita's and Jasper's chemistry is great on page. The sexual tension, and sexual intimacy they share is insane. Tessa Bailey can write some pretty impressive dirty talk. But because this all happened in three days ... that is A LOT of intensity to show towards a stranger. A LOT of trust to put into a stranger.

Rita's character is okay. I always saw the whole emo style as more of a teenage/college student thing, so it's weird to read about a professional adult looking that way. It was interesting that it was Rita who was so adamant to complete their mothers final wish, when in a way, she was the most damaged by her mother, although not intentionally. Her mother picking her to teach the art of cooking, being who she was, put a lot of pressure on her, that took the joy out of it. Jasper is an interesting character. I liked his backstory of being the town whore, until waking up after a bender, and hearing the women in the town talking about him as if he was nothing more than a walking sex toy, causing him to do a 180, and become celibate until he could find a woman who would take a chance and give him more than sex. Jasper fell hard though. Rita did as well, but she is definitely the realist of the two. He became intense right off the bat, and at times, if I was in her shoes, I would have been running for the hills, thinking I was going to end up chained in his basement. If I ignore that they were essentially strangers though, Jasper says some pretty romantic things ... and insanely dirty things. I mean ... wow. This is definitely a book for adults.

In the end, I enjoyed Too Hot Too Handle. The story is unique, and isn't just about the relationship between the couple, but the difficult relationships between siblings. Each character has very different personalities, which made each part of the book feel fresh. The romance itself is probably the most intense I have ever read, because of how fast it happened, and the things Rita and Jasper said and did with one another (like light choking ... like I said ... that's a lot of trust to have in a stranger). The sex was insane, the dirty talk was crazier. It's a fun read.



Rita: "Oh, motherfucking Christ, Belmont. I burned down Mom's restaurant."

Belmont: "Yeah. What she doesn't know won't hurt her."

Rita: "And they call me the morbid one."

Belmont: "She might be dead. But her sense of humor isn't."

Aaron: "You smell like the ocean."

Belmont: "You smell like the blood of taxpayers."

Rita groaned up at the sky.

Meet the fucking Clarksons.

Aaron: "Remember when I got the job working for Senator Boggs? Mom threw that cocktail party and invited three of my ex-girlfriends, who quickly figured out there'd been some relationship overlap."

Aaron crouched down and tugged a wedged picture of Miriam standing in the French countryside from beneath a charred produce crate.

Aaron: "She laughed as I ran out the door."

Rita: "We were all laughing."

Aaron: "Thanks. She called me later that night and said, 'There's your first lesson in politics, son. Everyone you've fucked over shows up at the same party sooner or later.' She was right."

Rita: "Anyone know where we are?"

Aaron: "Hopefully near a bridge, so I can throw myself off of it."

Peggy: "Didn't he negotiate his way out of shop class in high school?"

Rita: "No, that was Ethics. Kind of gives him plausible deniability as a politician."

Aaron: "Do you have any idea how much shit I had to eat over that at work?"

Rita: "Oh, stop. You eat shit for a living. It's your job."

Rita: "What were we thinking? We'll never make it to New York without a murder being committed."

Aaron: "I heard that. Should we check your luggage for knives?"

Aaron: "I have some very powerful men listed in my contacts. Feel free to annoy my sister, but bring her back alive."

Rita: "You might not recognize me, but I'm famous for what I can do with a knife."

Jasper: "I hate to disappoint you, but this isn't the first time a woman's threatened me with a knife."

Rita: "Yeah, but it would be the last."

Jasper: "Yeah, there's a bar. Although the Liquor Hole is more like a honky-tonk."

Rita: "Liquor. Hole. As in, lick her -"

Jasper: "Mmm."

Jasper: "I didn't get near enough time with you, Rita. If you don't show up tonight, don't be surprised if I come looking. And if I have to come looking, I'll be twice as determined to get that kiss."

Rita: "W-what kiss?"

Jasper: "The one I want to give you right now. Tonight, beautiful."

Peggy: "Oh, leave off, Aaron. That man was wicked hot. I doubt many girls would pass up a chance for a ride."

Belmont and Aaron's expressions mirrored their disgust.

Aaron: "Your brothers are literally right here, in the room, Peggy."

Peggy: I meant a ride on his bike. Mostly. Either way, I'm twenty-five years old. I've been engaged to four different penises. Innuendos will be launched at will."

Aaron looked as though he wanted to argue, but he visibly shook off the urge and refocused on Rita.

Aaron: "Far be it from be to give you a hard time -"

Peggy snort-laughed.

Peggy: "He said hard time. Right after I -"

Aaron: "Please stop."

Aaron: "Okay, let's talk about Gerard."

Peggy: "He ate my hamster."

Rita: "That is hearsay and you know it. He didn't have motive or opportunity to eat your hamster, Peggy."

Aaron: "He so had motive. You broke up with him because he wasn't vampiric enough. That was your Twilight phase, remember?"

Rita: "I hate you."

Belmont: "I liked Fluffy. He was good company."

Peggy started to cry.

Aaron: "That's my cue to leave."

Rita: "If this is about Jasper -"

Peggy: "Oh, it is. If we'd pulled in a few minutes later, he would have been pulling out."

Rita: "You really meant what you said about innuendo."

Rita: "That payphone didn't hide much. They saw you ...

Jasper: "They saw us."

Rita: "Well. But you -"

Jasper: "Started it. Is that what you were going to say? That's the oldest excuse in the book, but I'm going to let you use it. You know why?"

Rita: "Why?"

Jasper: "Because I want to finish it, too. And you can catch more bees with honey."

Rita: "Am I the bee in this scenario?"

Jasper: "You surely are. And I reckon you sting when provoked."

Jasper: "I'm sorry I put you in that position, ma'am."

Rita: "No, you're not."

Jasper: "No, I guess I'm not."

Jasper: "Are you coming back to my office so we can get to know each other better? Or do you want to be carried?"

Rita: "Don't even try it."

Jasper: "I'll ask you again later, when your knees are feeling weak."

Jasper: "I want to treat this tiny bud between your legs so special that she pays attention when I walk into a room. I want her to remember my tongue so well you have to excuse yourself when you see me coming because she needs a rubout."

Peggy: "Look at us. Talking about boys and whatnot. We're early-stages Thelma and Louise right now."

Rita: "Funny you should mention that, because I'm thinking of driving off a ledge into a fucking canyon."

Rita: "This is starting to feel like Gilligan's Island."

Jasper: "Which character does that make you?"

Rita: "Probably Gilligan, since he's the one always screwing up. I'm sorry about last n- "

Jasper: "No. No, no, no. If you apologize I'm going to walk right out into that desert and dig a hole for myself."

Rita: "That's pretty dramatic."

Jasper: "I'm feeling more than a little dramatic over you, Rita. And you're a Mary Ann, to be sure. She was always my favorite."

Jasper: "Pity doesn't belong in the same breath as kissing Rita."

Jasper: "Now don't go breaking out the childhood picture albums, Rosemary. Unless they're the ones where I'm naked. Even as a kid, I had a great ass."

Jasper: "Jesus God, you're cute."

Jasper: "Here's the thing. I swore off women. But then you came pedaling into town with this mouth, those eyes and they way they see everything ... and fuck yes, I want to kiss you. I want to do all manner of things to you."

Rita: "If you just said a bunch of things I liked all the time, I wouldn't believe the good stuff when you say it."

Jasper: "Believe this, Rita. I think you're gorgeous as sin, and I need your mouth on mine."

Rita nodded, meshing their wet lips together in the process.

Rita: "I want to believe that. You might have to help me."

Jasper: "Thank Christ."

Belmont: "You do something to your hair?"

Sage: "I got bangs."

Belmont: "Bangs. I don't think I like them."

Peggy gasped.

Peggy: "Bel -"

Belmont: "Any longer and they're going to hide your eyes. Could be any day now. Could be any day that they're hidden from me."

Sage: "No, I won't let them be."

Rita: "I'm just not used to wearing skirts."

Jasper: "I'm not used to you wearing skirts, either."

Rita: "You're not used to me wearing anything."

She squeezed her eyes shut.

Rita: "You know what I mean by -"

Jasper: "I know I'm thinking about you naked now."

Jasper: "Oh, beautiful. You answer your empty-motel-room in a tiny little skirt and now you're blushing at me? If I wasn't already planning on masturbating you, that blush would have sealed your fate."

Rita: "Those women should regret not getting to know you. And you will get respect with this lace. I know you will. You had mine before you even unlocked the door."

Jasper: "It's pretty obvious I want to strip you naked, fuck you mindless, and leave you whimpering in a pile of sweaty sheets, no idea if you want round two or a week to recover."

Jasper: "You ruined the sky for me today, Rita. It's flat-out mediocre without you up against it. I reckon it always will be now."

Jasper: "Jesus, I'm about as smooth as a pothole."

Aaron: "Something to do with Jasper, isn't it? Jesus. I don't even want to know."

Rita: "Well I'm going to tell you, anyway. He's fucking ... wonderful. And I ruined it by having sex with him."

Aaron: "You must be doing it wrong."

Rita: "I'm doing everything wrong. Everything."

Aaron: "What did you expect to happen, Rita? Maybe you'd settle down in this population-twenty dust bowl and have little flannel-wearing babies? If that's what you want, I feel sorry for you."

Rita: "Don't."

Aaron: "Figure out what you want and find a way o achieve it. No one can do it for you."

Peggy: "I can give you advice as one of the Golden Girls. Your pick. Do you want Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, or Sophia?"

Rita: "Why can't you talk to me as yourself?"

Peggy: "Do you want me to?"

Rita: "I'll go with Blanche."

In an almost perfect impression of Blanche:

Peggy: "Rita Clarkson, there will be time ti weep ... but not when there's still time to take it deep. Get over to that bar and give him a lasting memory. And make sure to set up the camera on your good side."

Rita: "I've already given him a lasting memory - it was just a shitty one. Nice Blanche, by the way."

Peggy: "Thanks."

Jasper: "I haven't given my confession yet. The Suburban has been fixed since Wednesday. You could have left two days ago."

Rita: "Wait, what?"

Aaron starts swearing and Belmont starts growling.

Jasper: "I couldn't let Rita up and leave me so fast. You understand. I'm not sorry about bribing the mechanic. Hell no, I'm not sorry. But, God, I'll be sorry to watch you go."

Jasper: "Thanking me for wanting you around is like ... water thanking a man for taking a drink ... on the hottest day of the year.

Rita: "Maybe it wasn't intentional, but keeping my family in town these two days ... you might have started something you'll never fully realize. You've got so much. Someday some - "

Jasper: "Don't say it. You say the words someone else and it won't be pretty, Rita."

Jasper: "I've got one night with you and I don't intend to waste it. I went two years without sex, Rita, and that lack barely registered most days. But one full day without being inside you? And it feels like I've gone a fucking millennium without coming."

Jasper: "This is what's going to pass for conversation tonight. Small talk is going to be my tongue flicking against your clit until you cry out my name like a swear word. My headboard slapping the wall is going to be our heart to heart. And that gorgeous body riding my dick is going to be our nighttime prayers. You with me, Rita?"

Jasper: "You knock that shit off right now. I'm trying to savor you, not jackhammer your brains out."

Rita: "Do it. I need you. Hard like before."

Jasper: "Hard like before, yes. But this time you'll look me in the eye while I'm ringing your bell. You understand me? And at some point tonight, I"m going to make love to you. The kind of sex that takes an hour of slow rocking and pumping. The kind where we wrap our fingers together, then twine them around the headboard. And I whisper things in your ear I can't say in the light. Promise me."

Rita: "I promise."

Rita: "If what you're doing is wrong ..."

Jasper: "You don't want to be right?"

Rita: "You have a lot of flannel,"

Jasper: "I'll have to pick a different get-up now. You look a damn sight better in it than me."

Jasper: "If you made me any hotter, Rita, you'd singe off my damn eyebrows. I'd have to draw them on with a Sharpie or something. Not even Rosemary would be seen with me in public.

Rita: "No, I wouldn't blame her."

Jasper: "So you just keep those eyes above my beck until I tell you otherwise."

Rita: "You're taking this very seriously."

Jasper: "Woman, I don't fuck around with souffles."

Rita: "Oh, me, either. I almost stabbed someone over a souffle once."

Jasper: "Knew you were a smart-ass when I spotted you on the side of the road."

Rita: "A smarter man would've kept driving."

Jasper: "No. No. If you were stranded on that road every day, from now until eternity, I would stop, every single time. I would replay the last few days over and over again, trying to change the outcome."

Rita: "The outcome?"

Jasper: "Yeah. There might have been something I could have done differently along the way. Something to make it impossible for you to leave. I'd do it over until I got it right."

Peggy: "You're not behaving like a woman who spent the night getting the bejeezus boned out of her."

Rita: "Where do you come up with this stuff? How does one usually behave when they've had the bejeezus boned out of them?"

Peggy: "Hmm. There's usually some gloating. I could really go for some gloating."

Rita: "Gloating. I think towards the end, I bypassed Jesus and actually glimpsed the three wise men."

Peggy: "Oh, no fair. I've only had three-wise-men sex once."

Rita: "Well, it is the trickiest kind of sex, due to the wise men being very barn-animal adjacent. You don't want to go quite that far."

Belmont: "Do you have intentions?"

Jasper: "Intentions for what?"

Belmont: "My sister."

Jasper: "I do. But you might have noticed she has intentions of her own."

Belmont: "You could try and change her intentions to match yours."

Belmont: "She does things in her own time, my sister. You have to let her."

Jasper: "Read me the specials."

Rita: "Um. There were some great items. I just added some spice, I guess you could say. The strip steak is already on the main menu, but I thought as a special, we could encrust it with blue cheese. Serve it with baby spinich and ..."

Jasper rested his hands on wither side of her hips, tracing the curve of her neck with greedy lips.

Jasper: "Keep going."

Rita: "Keep ...? Going?"

Jasper: "Yes, keep going."

Rita: "Fried Kobe meatballs ... served with spicy mayonnaise. The-they - we - glazed them with teriyaki sauce."

Jasper: "You're making me hungry, beautiful."

Rita: "Maybe I should stop."

Jasper: "Don't."

Rita: "Oh, God. Okay."

Jasper: "Stay, Rita."

Rita: "What?"

Jasper: "Stay in Hurley, Rita. Don't leave me. Sit here every day and read me the specials menu. This place - Buried Treasure - it became half yours when you walked inside, and we both knew it."

Rita: "Jasper. I don't -"

Jasper: "Please, just don't act surprised. I won't be able to stand it. You can't be surprised when the last few days have given me life. Act upset or happy or storm out. But I can't handle surprised, like maybe you didn't even consider me for a second."

Rita: "I've considered you. Of course I have. Just stop talking like that for a second, stop stealing my breath when I'm trying to catch it."

Jasper: "No. I don't want you to catch it. I want it to stay lost and I want to be the man who steals it. All day, every day. Forever. Stay with me right here."

Rita: "How can I set them on this journey and desert them? How can I burn down my mother's life's work and disregard her final wish? I'd be a terrible person. I wouldn't be the person you -"

Jasper: "Say it. Say it. You know how I feel about you. Say the words."

Rita: "Let me think. Give me a secon -"

Jasper: "No. Come on, then. You won't say the words, do the deed. Use that body that makes me fucking crazy and show me what we already know."

Rita: "So good."

Jasper: "It's so good because I love you, Rita. It's good because you love me back. Fuck the amount of time it took. When it's right, it's right. We're above time."

Jasper: "Hey. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and find you on the side of the road again. My own version of groundhog day. Maybe I'll get a second chance to do it all over again.

Rita: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry ... I know this was my idea. But I think I might have found a home with that man. The one I'm meant for. Oh, God, I feel like I'm dying. I hate it."

Aaron: "It was Mom's idea, Rita. That's why we're here. You don't have to take responsibility for it. We would have found out way here somehow, all right? And ... if you finding a home is all that comes from this trip, it was worth it. I think maybe there's more for us four on the road, but the road ends for you here. You and your flannel-wearing babies."

Sage: "Don't you want us to drive you back to town?"

Rita: "No. I have to do this myself."

Aaron: Rita, you failed gym class three times. You can't run for shit."

Her laughter rang out in the night as she turned and ran. Toward Jasper. Toward her life.

Rita: "I love you, too. I love you, too. I want to stay right here with you. I don't want to leave. I'm sorry I even tried."

Jasper: "Okay, beautiful. It's okay. No, it's not okay, actually. You damn near killed me. I'm not recovered yet."

Rita: "Keep saying things like that. I deserve them."

Jasper: "No. I don't want you feeling guilty. I don't want you to feel anything but glad you came back to me. Not now, not ever."

Rita: "I never really left. My heart stayed here the whole time."

Jasper: "It must have crossed paths with mine. It left town when you did. You brought it back. You're ... staying?"

Rita: "Yes."

Rita: "After thinking I might never see you again, I've never been more sure I can't go a day without you. Take me home."

Jasper: "I'll take you to our home. I'll read you the specials until you fall asleep. I'll tell you I love you between each one."

Rita: "I love you, too. Did I mention that?"

Jasper: "Did you? I'm feeling a bit of amnesia coming on. Might need to hear it again..."

She chanted it against his neck the whole way home. Their home.

Jasper: "When I saw you on the side of the road, Rita, I saw my wife. I knew."

Rita: "The way you looked at me, like no one else was there. No one has ever looked at me like that. If you had kept driving your bike, right out of Hurley ... just kept going. I would have held on tight and let you take me."

Jasper: "Feel that, Rita? That's the grip I've felt around my heart since you got here. Don't ever let go. Please."

Rita: "Never. I never will."


Check out the rest of the Romancing the Clarkson's series below!

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