Tiffany Reisz is a new-to-Miss-B author writing in a category Miss B doesn’t usually read. Miss B. likes her candles and avowals of love with only the mildest of love scenes. Harlequin’s soon-to-be-defunct Blaze line is more ero than Miss Bates likes, BUT Reisz is an author Miss Bates wanted to try. However, Miss Bates knew Reisz’s erotica would not have been her cuppa. Miss B. thought the waning Blaze, a category from which she’s only read Sarah Mayberry’s marvellous romances, would be – well, less erotic. And it was: one woman, one man, yes explicit love scenes, but an HEA to end and some tender, falling-in-love moments. Miss B’s experiment didn’t leave her with a desire to snap up every Blaze title out there, but it wasn’t distasteful either … at least not when she started to skim the love scenes.
Reisz’s Her Halloween Treat isn’t terribly Halloween-y (Miss B. prefers her holiday roms super-holiday-y, as anyone who follows her annual Christmas rom-review extravaganza can tell you) nor heavy on plot. Jolene “Joey” Silvia returns to her family’s cabin in Lost Lake, Oregon, to attend her brother’s wedding. She’s been happily living and working in Hawaii as the marketing manager of Oahu Air. But coming home now, in light distressing recent events, is comforting. After two years with her boyfriend, Ben, Joey discovered his marriage and cheating heart. Their break-up has resulted in self-doubt, hurt, resentment, and anger. Joey finds in Oregon cabin-country the comfort of familiarity and a gorgeous handyman, her childhood friend and brother’s bestie, Chris Steffensen. Chris is funny, loving, sexy, and still very much in love with his teen-age crush, Joey. They renew their friendship and take it one step further to “between the sheets”. Joey is emotionally gun-shy, but Chris is patient and honest and gives her the space and love she needs to risk her heart again.
Even though Reisz’s Her Halloween Treat is tropishly run-of-the-mill, it has stylistic qualities that Miss Bates loved. Reisz is a master-prose-writer. The writing and nuance with which she portrays Joey and Chris’s increasingly-deeper relationship convinces the reader of their love despite the sex-overemphasis. But it is Reisz’s wry wit that Miss Bates most enjoyed. It was evident from the opening page, as Reisz introduces us to her heroine:
Jolene. Who did that? Who named their daughter after the most notorious other woman in country music? Once she’d learned who she was named after, Jolene became Joey and there was no going back. And yet just two days ago she’d learned the ugliest truth of her life – she’d been sleeping with a married man. For two years.
Spare, sadly poking at her character, yet, the allusion to the country song makes the opening paragraph. One of Miss Bates’s favourite exchanges comes when Joey and Chris are getting reacquainted, talking about Chris’s work:
“You picked the color?” she asked.
“I did, yeah.”
“I love it. I wouldn’t have thought a color so dark would look great in here but it does.”
“Dark warm colors work best in low-light rooms.”
“Did you learn that in trade school?”
“Pinterest.” She stared at him.
“What?” he said. “It’s my job.”
Again, witty, spare, and slyly allusive to popular culture. Yet, Reisz’s writing talent doesn’t end there. She can do poetry too, evidence this paragraph about Joey’s musing on what Chris has done for her in the two weeks they spend in and out of bed:
Chris really could work magic. For a couple of hours last night he’d made her sadness magically go away. It came back but for a while it was gone, and that was quite a trick. And it was almost Halloween, a season for tricks and treats and a little dark magic.
Reisz adroitly connects her titular Halloween with the ability to bring joy and connection and love to another person. Moreover, in Reisz’s pop culture tricks is an 80s-themed wedding scene and a reference to Dirty Dancing that had Miss B. howling with laughter. In the end, despite the excessive love scenes and resultant skimming, Miss B. did enjoy everything outside of that in Her Halloween Treat, and with her scandalized reading partner, Miss Austen, she says the romance is evidence of “real comfort,” Emma.
Tiffany Reisz’s Her Halloween Treat is published by Harlequin. It was released on September 20th and is available at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.