A while back, I read the first book in this series about three lawyer brothers and thought it was heartwarming and adorable. James Knightley, the youngest of the brothers, now gets his turn. He was a fun flirty type in the first book and now he is paired with a woman who might be considered his polar opposite. The story is gently-paced, long slow-burn on the romance, and offers up a bit of suspense to round it out.
This is book two in the Sweetest Kisses series. While it builds on book one, it would probably be alright as a standalone or out of order if the reader didn’t mind obvious ties to the first book.
Vera Waltham: single mom, concert pianist, widow, divorcee, and now woman dealing with a vandal thought to be her angry ex is rattled to her core to find another disturbing message on her answering machine and her tire slashed all while she had been right in the house working on her hand exercises on the piano. She can’t seem to make her best music anymore, but she can stay at peek condition. Only, now, she can’t focus and her daughter will be getting off the bus stop at the end of the long country drive. A knock at the door brings her lawyer, Trent Knightley’s brother with a copy of her restraining order that went missing. James sets her somewhat at ease, sends her in his vehicle to get her daughter and sets about changing her tire. He unsettles Vera in a new way when he hits it off with Twyla, makes her feel safe, and genuinely wants to help. So she pushes him out the door with enough coldness to see the hurt in his expression and Twyla eagerly talks about James so that she isn’t allowed to push him from her mind like she shoved him quickly out the door. This, too, makes her see just how broken she has allowed herself to become and how isolated she has kept Twyla.
James is the babe magnet of the brothers. He never had to lift a finger for women to hit on him and him to find some fun. But Vera, she is not like anything he has encountered. For the first time, his wiles do not work and he is rebuffed. It makes him take notice and take stock of his life. With each encounter, Vera takes over his thoughts and needs even if he can’t put a name on what’s going on. He deletes his ‘little black book document’ from computer and phone, he doesn’t answer the calls of other women, and he works hard to be there for Vera and Twyla. Slowly, but surely he gains a toe hold and then more. Vera’s ex denies being the one to hassle her and the lack of proof leaves the law’s hands tied meanwhile she is scared. Her fears are of more than the invasion into her life of the vandal, but of what is growing between her and James. He feels the same uncertainty and fear even as he sees her music coming back to life and feels satisfaction to have Vera and Twyla in his life.
Alright, this one developed slowly and haltingly since Vera had quite a bit to overcome. Her circumstances are unique. She is oddly still very sheltered and innocent even if she has had two relationships and traveled the world on tour as a pianist. She was discovered early by her first husband and her second husband had been her agent, both were much older and exploited her in their ways until she burned out. Like any gifted musician, that was and is her life and she struggles with the real world outside and even with connecting with her daughter. James is like a breath of fresh air. He accepts her quirky issues and her music. He surprises her by having his own gifts that include being a lawyer, a business accountant, farmer, and even a strong musical talent that is good though it doesn’t rival her own.
While I loved this story, I’m going to point out that there are a few things that won’t make it universally appealing. For one, the dialogue and mental monologues are not contemporary. If I didn’t know better, I would swear I was reading a historical- the turn of phrase, rhythm of speech, and lack of contemporary slang made it tough to settle into the story. Another aspect is all the technical music and classical music references that they not only use in reference to Vera’s career, but also just in thought as they picture their feelings and relationships. I got these just fine and even loved seeing how the author used the references to add color and unique way of description, but then again I took ten years of piano lessons from a classical musician so I understood what I was reading.
The romance was sweet and tender and I loved exploring it with this pair. They had a long ways to go before they met in the middle. At first, it seems Vera is the broken, wounded one and James the reforming womanizer, but generally stable one until the story progresses and shows that James has also been carrying around deep tears in his heart. James embraces his attraction to Vera even if he is uneasy about how far it will go, but she balks and pushes him away often. That doesn’t mean he forces himself on her. No, he backs away and gives her space. Vera’s emotions are all over the place as she works to figure herself and what she has with James out. She was jealous and angry over his ability to befriend Twyla because it forces her to see just how closed off she has been and even from her own child though she never realized it until seeing Twyla being normal with James and his nieces who are Twyla’s new friends. So she slowly heals and tentatively opens up to the possibilities of her first real relationship to a man that she can help heal, too.
All in all, this was a lovely story with a few quirks. Now one brother left, Mac, to get his story. I would recommend this one to those who like a little spice in their sweet, long road to love, and a goodly amount of character and relationship development with three sexy lawyer brothers and their family as the backdrop.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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