This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Indie/Self Published
Released on December 14, 2013
I read this one as part of the Red Hot Lovers box set and enjoyed trying a new to me author whom I’ve had my eye on for a while. I loved the surprise of finding the entire story narrated by the hero and the wry humor, slow-developing ‘friends to lovers’ romance, and the well-drawn setting of small town island life.
This was book two in the series, but I was able to easily read it out of order though I definitely plan to get caught up on this series after meeting the first couple and the additional characters for the other stories.
The book opens with rugged handsome logger, islander born and bred, and relationship shy, but trying, John Day waking up to the smell of smoke. He soon discovers that his neighbor who is away has rented out her lakeside cottage to a city girl who has some trouble with the wood stove. She is skittish and has just been through a divorce so he backs away carefully not wanting any of Diane’s drama.
But then again, he has some of his own brewing when his girlfriend who was planning a divorce after being separated from her husband is now dangling him along as she is not completely done with her Ex. John is honest and can’t do the games so he steps back.
He thought he would feel more pain over that, but he’s busy enjoying his easy friendship with Diane. They shelve the mutual attraction to preserve the friendship they both need more. John shows Diane the wonders of island life and she proves that she has some depth unlike his first impression of her city girl side. Things start to veer toward seriousness, but then John remembers that Diane only has the cabin until May. Is there a chance she would stay? John really want to think so, but usually everyone leaves.
The story is one of those deceptively simple ones. It’s fun and its flirty, but there are some tough issues brewing under the surface- marital fidelity, guilt, grief, relationship longevity, and life choices. The pacing is gentle and slow and does drag just a little. There isn’t much conflict through most of the book though there is foreshadowing of what is coming. These two take things slowly and I approved of this considering she’s coming off a painful divorce and he has to extricate himself from a dead end situation with a gal leading him on. It does start to heat up near the back quarter of the story and whew, things get hot both in the bedroom and out of it as they have to figure out if they want something together.
John is a blend of the confident flirt who knows he’s attractive in an earthy, blue collar sort of way, but he doesn’t see himself as a guy that a woman would want a relationship with. He compartmentalizes any thoughts that threaten to disturb his calm though he is respectful and loving toward his tender-hearted aunt who worries about him. John loves the island and his life there, but he can’t believe that Diane would give up the bright lights and comforts of the city. He was an interesting and engaging, multi-faceted character.
Diane was a bit less known because she didn’t narrate, but I didn’t mind. She is closed off, hurting, and her ex did a number on her confidence. She doesn’t make it easy on John getting through, but she does let him. She wasn’t rude or ugly, but she was set on not getting into a relationship or even sex with a guy since she felt so vulnerable and bruised. He helps her blossom and heal. It was nice to see her respond to love even though neither character seemed to realize that they were falling.
The setting and background characters were perfect. Island life was well depicted. There was beauty, warmth, and fun without the glamour. John’s friend, Tom, was a quirky character and funny as all get out.
All in all, I enjoyed this slower paced story that was engaging with the hero’s wry humor and friends to lovers romance. Contemporary Romance fans should take a look if they’re into small town, spicy, slow-developing romance.