Griffin Montgomery helps people. As a teenager, he kept his best friends alive after their soccer team’s bus crashed in the Alps. Now, as a Coast Guard search and rescue pilot, he saves lives with reckless abandon—until he goes too far and earns a lengthy suspension. Working on the Naked Men projects keeps his mind busy, but Griff’s itching to get back in the action. That’s when he finds his latest rescue mission: a pretty wallflower who’s stuck in her comfort zone.
Chloe Widmore doesn’t take risks. As a professional letter writer, she gets enough excitement out of expressing other people’s emotions. So when the hottest man she’s ever seen invades her coffee shop, Chloe surprises herself with how much she wants to be with him. Routines make her feel safe. Griff makes her deliciously unsafe, in so many ways. But falling for him is one risk she might just have to take . . . whether she’s ready or not.
Nothing bonds a group for life like a near-death experience and that’s exactly what happened to the so-called ACS’s, or as they like to think of themselves, the Naked Men. As teenagers, Griffin, Knox, Riley, Logan, and Josh were good friends, but after surviving a horrific crash in the Alps, they were brothers for life.
Fast forward a lot of years . . . .
Griffin Montgomery has spent his life helping others. First, he led his friends out of the Alps and toward safety when they were teenagers, and now he works for the Coast Guard as a search and rescue pilot. Griffin is known for his daring rescues and though they make for dramatic and newsworthy moments, they often get him in trouble with his superiors. His latest rescue was not only dramatic and newsworthy, but just enough to get him grounded and on leave. Which is precisely how Griffin finds himself in a cute little coffee shop hitting on the nerdy girl with all the pens and the smart mouth.
Chloe Widmore is the very definition of cautious. Thanks to a horrifying event while in college, Chloe has spent her adult life in the smallest, most controlled and ordered environment she can manage. She works from home (or the coffee shop!), she limits her circle of friends, and she never travels beyond her comfort zone, ever. Griffin Montgomery is the hottest man Chloe has ever met, he’s charming and intelligent, outgoing and sophisticated, and far, far more experienced than Chloe, in so very many areas.
On the surface, Chloe and Griffin have little in common except their shared tragedies and wicked fierce attraction. Initially, Griffin sees Chloe as nothing more than another notch on his considerable bedpost, but that impression fades quickly. With her sharp wit and even sharper tongue, Chloe challenges Griffin in ways no other woman ever has. He’s interested in Chloe and before long he even develops feelings for her, but all that comes to a crashing halt when Chloe drops her little bomb, she’s a virgin and wants Griffin to be her first. With the speed of a cheetah, Griffin hauls ass back to his friends where he unloads the whole mess. Because of their collective aversion to relationships, help from his friends is probably the least likely kind of help Griffin needs, but with their bond, he has no one else to turn to.
The Bottom Line: Risking It All is a solid start to Christie Barth’s Naked Men series. I won’t even lie, I though this book and its title were going to go in a whole other direction and when it didn’t, well, I was still totally satisfied and hooked. Griffin and Chloe are both strong characters, and while this is, at its heart, a romance, the story is also about Griffin and his friends. I totally dig how Barth unloaded the whole story of the ACS’s in the very beginning rather than dragging it out, bit by bit throughout the reads. Their story informs the reader and very much informs the relationship Griffin and Chloe are trying to build. There are some naughty moments in this read, some serious moments, and some seriously funny moments between the ACSs. In fact, though I liked the romantic aspect of this read, I liked the dynamic between the men far more. So much so that I immediately dove into book two, Wanting It All.
After narrowly surviving a bus crash in high school with his best friends, science geek Knox Davis resolved to become so successful that he could have anything and everything he wants. Now he’s über-wealthy, a huge business success, and a notorious ladies’ man. Knox refuses to limit himself to one woman, but when his latest conquest—a blond beauty from the Alaskan bush—challenges his superficial ways, Knox begins to see the world through her eyes, and finds he likes what he sees.
A nurturer at heart, Madison Abbott wants to put down roots. She left Alaska to meet Mr. Right—and to track down Logan, the half-brother she’s never met. Instead, she finds Knox. Although the sexy-as-sin bachelor may not seem like marriage material, Madison’s starting to think that Knox is The One. But Knox refuses to settle down, especially once he learns that Madison is his best friend’s little sister. Now it’s up to her to convince Knox that she’s everything he really wants.
Holy Hell!! Darcy Owens is a woman after my own curse word laden heart!!
Since she was ten years old, Darcy Owens has been in love with her best friend, Sean McKenna. For a decade, Darcy has sat aside and watched as Sean has dated his way through the greater Boston area without ever stopping to look and see the woman right in front of him. Knowing Sean is dense beyond belief, Darcy has satisfied herself with simply being his foul-mouthed, hilariously blunt, always there when he needs her, friend. Yeah, it sucks being friend zoned.
Sean McKenna is the consummate good time guy. If there’s a party to be found, a beer to be drunk, or a woman to be hit on, Sean is there. While he may play harder than most, Sean also works hard. Sean has dedicated his life to building his contracting company and making it nothing short of a roaring success. He works with a partner (who is also a mentor) and between the two of them, they are ready to tackle a huge, reputation making project. If Sean, his partner, and the company are going to pull this off, they’re going to need an interior designer and Sean just happens to know one.
When Sean brings Darcy into the hotel project he finally begins to see her as something more than his forever friend. Trouble is, he still isn’t quite seeing her as a woman, but as a girl who has some really cool skills he needs to get a job done well. It isn’t until another man on the project starts sniffing around Darcy that Sean finally opens his eyes and gets a mind-blowing look at the woman before him. What he sees scares the holy hell out of him and he must make Darcy his. All he must do is overcome several problems including: 1) Darcy’s emotion-laden speech laying out her precise feelings for him, 2) her not telling him about being a card-carrying member of the virginity club, 3) the whole “what if we wreck our friendship” problem, and 4) Sean getting the hell over himself, being a man, and owning up to his feelings for Darcy. Should be simple!
The Bottom Line: Darcy makes her big, bold, sassy presence known in The Best Part of Me and just rolls on in bigger, bolder, and sassier in Not in My Wildest Dreams. Since they were ten years old, Darcy and Sean have been perfectly paired. They have always been there for one another, always supported one another, but never crossed the line from friends to lovers. Darcy doesn’t push the issue until she is forced to and Sean is just too dense to see what’s right in front of him. Though the struggles these two go through aren’t pretty they sure do strengthen and solidify Darcy and Sean as a couple. In fact, I think as the series moves forward, these two are going to become the center of the group and I am all kinds of excellent with that scenario. Onward and upward, Jamie Hollins. I’m ready for the next book in the McKenna series.
CHRISTI BARTH earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance, including the Naked Men and Aisle Bound series. Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.