hot as heller coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Sheriff Declan Stone is not happy that there is a movie filming in his small town of Aster Valley, Colorado. Aside from the expected headache of all the added work for the Sheriff’s Department, Declan is annoyed to have Hollywood at his doorstep. Declan left LA for a reason and he knows what these movie types are like. When the gorgeous lead actor for the film, Finn Heller, mistakes Declan for his valet, Declan is officially over it. He has no patience for one more spoiled, entitled actor treating everyone poorly and wants nothing to do with the man.

Finn is a former child star trying to transition to adult roles. He isn’t really an action star, but the director has promised Finn a role in an upcoming Shakespeare adaptation, something that makes his heart sing. So he is doing his best to work hard and make the most of this opportunity.

When Finn and Declan are forced together for a ride-along so Finn can learn more about local law enforcement for the role, it gives the men a chance to spend more time together. It soon becomes clear to Declan that he totally misjudged Finn. He is not the spoiled, rich actor Declan thought. In fact, Finn is sweet, sensitive, and clearly struggling to deal with pressure from all sides, includes his mother who tries to manage his career, even as an adult. The unprofessional director who is taking risks with Finn’s safety on the movie isn’t helping either.

As Finn and Declan get to know each other better, it is clear that feelings are developing between them. Declan becomes a safe place for Finn amidst all the chaos of his life and Finn brings a joy to Declan that he has long been missing. But Finn’s life is in LA and Declan is a small town sheriff. Figuring out how to make things work between them won’t be easy, but it may just be worth it.

Hot as Heller is the third full book in Lucy Lennox’s Aster Valley series and returns us to this small mountain town. The characters do tend to appear in each other’s books, and Declan was a prominent side character in Sweet as Honey, but the storyline here is the most independent of any of the books and it should stand alone fine. However, I do think this book will be richer if you are familiar with the town, the people, and some of the backstory.

These books are sweet, sexy, and charming, and Hot as Heller is no exception. Things start off with a little bit of an enemies to lovers vibe as Declan is annoyed by the movie filming in town and all the related trouble it brings. Things start off on the wrong foot between him and Finn, and it just brings to mind all his worst expectations for Finn. But it doesn’t take long for the men to get to know one another and for Declan to realize there is so much more to Finn than first appears. Lennox does a really nice job developing both of these characters, showing us their vulnerability and how their connection really strengthens them both. Finn is a particularly interesting character as he is used to being treated as a commodity by everyone. To have Declan really see him as a person, and to want him for who he is, means so much to Finn. It gives him that strength to finally take steps to reclaim his life, to reach for what he wants, and to expect what he deserves. The guys are really sweet together, with a lovely tenderness that develops. At the same time, there is a great heat between them and Lennox does a nice job moving back and forth between the quieter moments and the more intense side of their relationship.

The conflict here comes in part from the fact that the men live far apart and have very different lives. But there are also some issues with regard to the movie production and how it is affecting Finn. There is some nice growth for him as he figures out what he wants and how to move forward. There are also some external conflicts that come from the movie filming in town and some of the craziness that accompanies it all. But mostly this story centers around the men and their developing relationship. That said, there is also a chance to interact with some great side characters, and all the MCs from previous books appear here, although in pretty minor roles. We also meet Declan’s good friend, Tessa, who is staying with him, as well as Declan’s new deputy (and Tessa’s love interest). Julian, the lawyer, also makes a reappearance, and it looks like his book is coming up too. I enjoy the nice found family vibe of this series, particularly among our main characters, and it is fun to see how far Declan has come with them since he came to town.

So I am really enjoying this series and find it sweet and charming. It sounds like there is more in store for Aster Valley (including an upcoming visit from the Marians and the Wildes!) and so I am really looking forward to continuing on with these books.

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