Annaliese “Al” Rosin is heading back to New Orleans from California when she spots a gorgeous redhead at the airport she would definitely like to meet. Al and Carrington “CC” Clarke have a great conversation at the bar and things get even more heated between them on their cross-country flight. However, after the women return to New Orleans, they realize that they are opposing counsel on a distillery sale, which puts a temporary halt on all the hot things the women had planned.
Working together on the acquisition does give Al and CC a chance to get to know each other better and really forge a connection. Both women value family, and they find that they have some friends and family in common. They also seem to click on every level, and keeping their hands off each other becomes increasingly difficult. But the women need trust, both in their professional and personal relationship, and CC has been burned before, making her wary. As things get increasingly complicated with their work situation, Al and CC need to figure out if there is a way to keep the personal connection that has developed between them.
Over a Barrel is the third book in Layla Reyne’s Table for Two series focusing on foodies and chefs. While I think the story between CC and Al generally stands alone, the book does have strong side character connections to other books in the series, as well as the shared world. Al used to be married to Ezra, one of the main characters in the second book in the series, Blue Plate Special, and she considers Greg and Tony from book one, The Last Drop, to be family. Miller and Clancy, from Dine with Me, are also part of her extended clan. All three of these couples appear here in side roles, along with Al’s son and daughter-in-law, and I’ll admit to having to remind myself at times as to who was who and how they connected. So I do think from a story standpoint this one stands alone just fine, but I think series readers may have an easier time keeping all these secondary folks straight.
The book kicks off with Al and CC meeting in the airport and having a steamy in-flight encounter. However, when they get home they quickly realize they are opposing counsel on a distillery deal (Al represents the buyer and CC works for the sellers). I appreciated that these women respect the ethics of their roles and put a halt on pursuing anything physical while they complete the deal (though there is plenty of flirting and heavily suggestive talk between them). Reyne does a great job building the sexual connection between Al and CC and the chemistry is great. I could really feel how much these women want each other and how wild they were driving each other, even as they had to stay pretty hands off. While things don’t get physical (aside from the plane) until later in the book, I could still feel the desire and heat between them. However, the story does set them up as a Domme/sub who share a voyeurism kink, and because they can’t actually get sexually involved until the case is over, we only get to see this play out in one (super sexy) scene. I wish we had been able to enjoy more of that, even if it was just the women solo and thinking about one another.
The legal side of the story gives a nice opportunity to see two smart, talented women at work. We get the right amount of detail on the legal elements to give the storyline weight and authenticity, without getting bogged down in too many specifics. Alongside that, we also get to know the women a little more personally, particularly their close relationships with their families. In addition to Al’s large extended family, CC is very close with her sister (who is the pastry chef at Greg and Tony’s restaurant). We get to see the women celebrate Chanukah together at Al’s family celebration, as well as having mentions of various Christmas activities, so there is a nice holiday feel here. I’m not sure it goes all in enough to call this a “holiday” story, but the holiday season is definitely featured and I particularly appreciated seeing Chanukah showcased along with Christmas.
The conflict here comes when things take a turn with the acquisition deal and it spikes some of CC’s fears due to the way things fell apart in her last relationship. I did want more explanation around her past, however. It was touched on, but felt very vague, and I kept waiting for the point where it was going to be explained in detail, but that doesn’t occur. Given CC’s past is a key part of the conflict, it would have helped to have that situation conveyed more clearly to better understand her struggles.
Overall, I found this a fun and sexy story about two smart, talented, and confident women. I particularly loved that Al is nearing 60 and is shown to be incredibly sexy and alluring. I enjoy this foodie series, especially getting a glimpse into all the delicious things they are eating and drinking. Having enjoyed the previous book where Al gets some page time, I was really happy to get her story here. This one is a great choice as we head into the holiday season, especially for fans of the series looking to get Al’s story or catch up with some of the other characters.