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Hot Coco by Cindy McDonald
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Hmmm... where to begin? I guess I'll start my review of Hot Coco by saying that I'm not really sure what genre it's supposed to be. Some readers and book websites seem to have it categorized as Contemporary Romance, but it really isn't. While there's lots of lusting and relationship turmoils, the story doesn't focus on one main couple, following them through to their HEA. In fact, none of the characters who are pursuing relationships even get an HEA. By the end, the few couples who do end up together have more of an HFN vibe. Even though this book is definitely targeted more to a female audience, there's too much comedy for it to be a true women's fiction book, and yet it also isn't really chick lit either because of the lack of a single female character's perspective. So, what is Hot Coco? Well, to me it contained enough lust and drama to rival any soap opera, but at the same time, it has enough over-the-top slapstick moments to rival any romantic comedy. In the end, I decided it reminded me of Desperate Housewives in book form, except that instead of being set in American suburbia, it all takes place in the wonderful world of horse racing.

Based on the cover blurb, I got the mistaken impression that the story was going to be primarily about horse trainer, Mike West, and horse owner, Coco Beardmore, but these two characters ended up being just two players in a huge ensemble cast. To start, there is the West family: dad, Eric, sons, Mike and Shane, and daughter, Kate, who are owners of Westwood Farms, a horse training operation. Eric is a widower. He and Mike, who was the oldest and already grown when his mom died, raised the two younger sibling alone. Eric is thinking about getting back into the dating pool and is interested in Jen Fleming, the pretty nurse who runs medical services at the racetrack, Keystone Downs. Jen is equally interested in him if not more so. Eric was one of my favorite characters. I viewed him as an attractive middle-aged man who was very much a gentleman with a caring side. I loved how he patiently taught Margie how to read and write. Oldest son, Mike, divorced his ex-wife after she cheated on him, but he hasn't entirely gotten her out of his system. Still, that doesn't stop him from going after the sexy Coco when she brings her horses to his stable. Shane, the youngest, is a bit of a youthful player, while middle child and vet assistant, Kate, appears to be a good girl with a crush on local police detective, Carl Lugowski. I believe these two met in the first book of the series, Deadly.com (I don't know much about that though, since I haven't read it yet.), and will become more involved in the next book of the series, Dangerous Deception.

On the opposite side of the tracks, there are the O'Conners, who are essentially classic caricatures of hillbillies. Dad, Doug, is a crusty old codger, who views Eric as something of an enemy, although why that is, I'm not entirely sure. Doug's wife left him years ago, so he raised his daughter, Margie, alone. In a subconscious effort to keep Margie with him, he keeps a pretty tight reign on her life. As a result, she's illiterate and still unattached at 33. She spends her days taking care of their rundown shack of a house, and mucking out stalls at the stables. She's an excellent cook though, and a bit of a dreamer, who loves looking at her mom's old romance novels even if she can't read them. Margie was my other favorite character, probably because she's the underdog and because she grows and changes the most throughout the story. The only thing I didn't really like much was the way many of the other characters treated her because of her looks. I fully understood the first time the author described Margie that she wasn't particularly attractive, but to have several other characters, including Mike, Shane, Mike's ex, Ava, and others continually going on about how ugly Margie was seemed a little mean-spirited and over the top. The one person who truly seems to appreciate Margie is the O'Conner's stable hand, Scott, but then he went and did something outrageously stupid in an attempt to keep her. For a guy who was supposedly quite intelligent and simply stuck in his job due to generational poverty, his actions made no sense whatsoever and turned a nice, sweet character into a bit of a jerk, which was somewhat disappointing.

Last, but certainly not least, is Coco Beardmore, who epitomizes the phrase, “ditzy blonde.” She's rather short on brains and her father is a wealthy tycoon, which makes her something of a Paris Hilton wannabe. Coco appears to have a thing for older men, having already been married to one who was old enough to be her father. She's also accident prone in the extreme. She should have a hazard sign tied around her neck, because everywhere she goes and everything she does, she leaves complete disaster in her wake. However, we do eventually find out that perhaps some of her klutziness is tied to self-esteem issues, because when she finds the right man, who adores her crazy antics, she seems to calm down. Coco's horses are every bit as wacky as she is. One is a peppermint addict and mischievous escape artist who unlatches his stall every night and releases his buddies too. Then they proceed to “party” by trashing the barn and grounds. Another one sits down in the starting gate and refuses to race. All these guys were definitely good for some laughs.

There are several other characters too, but in general, we don't get to know any of the characters, main or otherwise, particularly well due to there not being any deep POV. The book is written in rapid-fire POV changes that were sometime difficult to follow. Occasionally, I couldn't figure out who was thinking or saying certain things, even after re-reading the passage. Every single character gets their own perspective, so it typically shifts every few paragraphs. I was also somewhat disappointed with the lust-crazed nature of several characters. Even when they were dating one person, they usually couldn't get another one out of their mind, so during the brief moments of introspection, it often seemed like the only thing they thought about was sex. Although I should point out that it was all thinking and no doing, as there were no explicit love scenes to speak of. The technical aspects of the writing could have been a bit better too. I found several typos and incorrect or awkward word choices, just enough to be a bit distracting.

On the upside, the author definitely knows the horse world, and really brought this aspect of the story to life. While I don't know much about horse racing, it has always seemed to me that there are some rather eccentric people in that world, so the bizarre, quirky characters of Hot Coco seemed tailor made for the setting. I also can't deny that this was a fast-paced, entertaining story, which aside from the POV issues, was an easy read. Anyone who has a taste for outlandish soap operas in book form should enjoy this one.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  mom2lnb | Feb 12, 2013 |
Hot Coco by Cindy McDonald
4 STARS
I was thinking that the story would go one away and it went in a total different direction that I thought it would. I was drawn into the lives of the characters. I like how most of them grew and changed. I wanted to see what would happen next in thier lives.
Coco Beardmore is a beautiful rich klutzy woman. Things are always happening around her. She needs a different horse trainer the one she has wants her horses out of his barn.
Mike West is a trainer with his family. He sees the beautiful Coco and agrees to train her horses without asking his father. Both Mike and Shane like Coco's looks.
Margie Oconner works for her father in his barn. She has a crush on Mike West. Margie is a plain women and shy. She does not have a lot of skills of how to attract a man. She also needs to learn to read.
Doug O'Conner is a horse trainer. He is a hard man but will stand up for his daughter. Thier place is not well maintained.
Eric West is Mike's father and boss. He is not too happy to have Coco around with her trouble horses. I really ended up liking him a lot.
Coco's troubled horses are funny one sits down at race time. Another flips over backward.
I really enjoyed reading this book and would love to read more books by Cindy. She keeps your interest in her characters and wants to see what happens next in thier lives.
I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley.
Publisher: Acorn Book Services (May 30, 2012) pages 202 ASIN: B0087SUA2K ( )
  rhonda1111 | Dec 26, 2012 |
Horses, racetracks, sexy and sultry characters and massive misunderstandings are the major components in the contemporary read Hot Coco by Cindy McDonald. I thought that the story was going to center on Colette "Coco" Beardmore given the title, and it does . . . for a while. Coco is attracted to Mike West, Mike is attracted to Coco but he's also still attracted (sexual attraction) to his ex-wife Ava. Ava is in a relationship with Carl, who is attracted to Ava's ex-sister-in-law Kate. Mike and Kate's father, Eric, is attracted to Jennifer and vice versa. Eric is also generously donating his time to teach Margie, another trainer’s daughter, to read. Margie starts off infatuated with Mike, begins to date a co-worker, and then thinks she's in love with Eric. Whew! Confused yet, I was and I read it!

The basic premise for Hot Coco is what attracted me to this book, but it didn't take long for the premise to fall flat. Coco and Mike are the major characters for about three or four chapters and then the story goes off on numerous tangents. To put it bluntly, Hot Coco is a "hot mess." There doesn't seem to be a main storyline or major characters throughout the story. Characters may be major in a few chapters and then become extremely minor in others. There is no main story to pull everything together other than the setting of the racetrack and training facilities. Ms. McDonald appears to have had a great idea for a story that centered on mutual attraction that is confounded by the klutziness of one of the characters. Unfortunately that story was over within a few short chapters and the remaining storylines just seem like filler. Hot Coco is a fast read but it simply didn't work for me due to its lack of storyline and major character development. ( )
  BookDivasReads | Nov 6, 2012 |
This book, which is, I believe, the first in a series is about the people who run, work at and train horses at the stables at race tracks. It shows the owner, both of the horses and the stables. The workers who do the day to day jobs.

You have Coco Beardmore, a woman who has everything, good looks, brains and money, who is also a total klutz and walking disaster area. You have the West family, Eric the father, Mike and Shane the sons and Kate the daughter, who run one of the higher end training stables. Ava, Mikes ex wife who loves to try and control people and stir things up and Margie O'Copnner, a young lady whoes father runs one of the lower end stables, who has a secret, she can't read or write. It sets up the characters, their day by day lifes as they try to work, love and overcome lifes obstacles.

Si if you are looking for a book with details about racing stables or one with a lot of sex and action, this book is not for you but if you are looking for a book that is a good way to enjoy a lazy day or two just reading an entertaing story it is.

NOTE: I received a copy from the author/publisher for an honest review.

This review will appear in Net Gallery, LibraryThing, Goodreads and if available, Amazon ( )
  Richhayes | Sep 8, 2012 |
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Epigraph
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
--Oscar Wilde
Dedication
For my husband, Bill, thank you for your loving support always. You are my best firend and the love of my life.
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The early morning mist cradled Keystone Downs Thoroughbred Racetrack.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0985726717, Paperback)

HOT: Coco Beardmore. NOT: Coco’s calamities. HOT: Mike’s fantasies. NOT: Mike’s reality. Let’s face it, everyone knows a beautiful woman who can’t walk through a room without tripping over the coffee table, or turning every situation into a total debacle. Trainers at Keystone Downs have been dumping Coco Beardmore and she’s landed in Mike West’s lap. The problem is that Coco is a complete klutz! Her driving skills are a real bang—into Mike’s horse trailer. Her sultry seduction will set the room on fire—the kitchen that is. What’s more are her Thoroughbreds: one flips while being saddled, one sits down like a dog in the starting gate, and then there’s the one that’s an escape artist. It’s enough to drive a normally calm and collected Mike West to the very edge. Mike’s not the only one having problems with women. His father Eric has taken on more than he can chew, and he’s about to get spit out by two women: One that he’s in love with and one that thinks he’s in love with her. Oh yeah, things are hot around Westwood Thoroughbred Farm… and someone’s about to get burned!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:45 -0400)

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