I started to read I Want Candy and just couldn't get into it. So I checked out Cheri On Top from the library and read it (I'd give COT 4 stars) and really enjoyed it, then went back and picked up I Want Candy again. This time, I liked it because I had a much deeper understanding and appreciation of all the secondary characters and their back stories so the entire book made a lot more sense. (So my suggestion is to read Cheri On Top first.)
However, there were three things that really disappointed an otherwise outstanding book:
1) While I thought the sex was hot, the language used to describe it was often fairly pornographic. Plus, it was especially jarring as much of it came out of the mind or mouth of a character (Hero) that was portrayed as a very tender, thoughtful, cautious and soulful individual. I have read plenty of really "hot" sex scenes in books that were just as graphic but not nearly as vulgar. So this is a real shame.
2) The author failed to flush out what made Turner tick. His character was achingly incomplete in my opinion, and it was especially noticeable when compared to what we learn about Candy's background, Cheri's background, even JJ's background (hero from Cheri On Top.) I really enjoyed meeting Turner in Cheri On Top and learning a bit about him, but was anticipating that we would really get inside his head in I Want Candy. But we learn very little about what makes Turner tick, just a lot of facts about him -- he's a black sheriff in what seems to be practically an all-white town, is bi-racial and grew up with a white father and black mother; we learn he is devastated by his wife's death (who was african american, which played an important aspect in one of the back stories); he feels torn between job and family; and we learn he is hot and horny for Candy. That's about it - we learn absolutely zilch about his feelings of being bi-racial, or if he had any struggles growing up or how it defined him. The only thing that might give us a hint of what he thinks is that starting in kindergarten, his three best friends are white, but then, it wasn't really clear if there were any other people of color in his town except for those in his immediate family. That's about it --- the author did not even make a cursory attempt to explore this aspect of the story line. We learn of one noticable time when Turner was hurt by racism, but otherwise, he seems to let it all slide. We get no real sense of how he sees himself fitting in with the rest of the world.
3) Which leads to my final disappointment --- there is really no attention made to the fact that they are a bi-racial couple living in a small hick town in "hillbilly" country in North Carolina. You would think the environment they live in would affect them yet it is almost entirely ignored. (We learn much more about the impact of living the high life in Tampa had on some of the characters than what it is like being a bi-racial couple living in the sticks in the middle of the South.) Yes, they receive a few snide remarks, but that's about it. In general, no one thinks twice about it -- especially none of the main characters. The only hint we get of how complicated their relationship might be is towards the end when it is revealed that the mothers of the two lovebirds had feared for their safety when they were in high school together, but were less worried about it now. Huh?
Anyway, I thought the author used too light a brush when it came to the race relations aspect of the book, which also made this a less than complete story. Turner and Candy deserved more.