Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Charming is for nice guys, and he hadn’t felt nice for a very long time.”
Natalie Cooper was Truly’s golden girl. She married the town’s football star right after high school and had what seemed to be the perfect life. But all the pom poms and pageant crowns in the world couldn’t have predicted her husband would be accused of embezzlement and run off with a 20 year old replacement, leaving Natalie holding the bag.
Blake Junger has been sent to Truly to deal with his demons once and for all. He doesn’t want or need a blond goddess or her equally cute daughter messing up his life. But fate often gives us what we need rather than what we want. And Blake soon learns what he wants is right next door.
I adore Rachel Gibson’s contemporaries. Often filled with humor and delicious chemistry, she also imparts a sense of realism into the story as she builds the relationship between two people who aren’t looking for love. A steady comfortable pacing allows readers ample time to get to know our protagonists with just enough backstory to intrigue without overwhelming. Add in a couple conflicts, some crazy friends, a cute puppy and little girl, and few heartfelt moments and you have a classic Gibson read.
Fans will remember Blake Junger from Run To You (Lovett, TX #4) which was his brother Beau’s story. Blake and Beau are exact twins though I found Blake to be more gregarious and charming of the two. Blake is a security specialist who hires out his skills to certain organizations (civilian and government) who may be in need of his expertise. Suffering from PTSD and alcohol dependency, Blake comes to Truly, Idaho after a stint in rehab to try and combat his demons on his own. Happy for the peace and solitude, he finds his tranquility interrupted by a pint size distraction.
“You said two bad words.”
“And you’re trespassing.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means you’re in my yard.”
“I know it’s your yard…I saw you move in.”
Blake’s famous charm doesn’t help him in the least when the child’s mother appears and doesn’t find him amusing at all.
“Are you drunk?”
“No. Haven’t had a drop.”
“Then you don’t have an excuse. You’re just a . . . a . . .” She paused to cover the girl’s ears with her palms. “A raging asshole.”
Blake, not one to let an attractive woman get away, tries to pour on the charm only to find Natalie isn’t interested. She doesn’t trust attractive charming men after what her husband did to her and she has a child to think of. She is also facing the prospect that her ex husband Michael is finally coming home for good.
Blake and Natalie were fun protagonists – individually and as a couple. Gibson gives plenty of time for them to form a friendship before jumping into bed and I enjoyed their humorous interactions. Strong, intelligent, and completely honest, there was no manufactured conflicts. Neither had any problems telling the other how they felt or what they needed. It also helped both were in their 30s and offered up a mature emotional base. Strong support systems in the form of Natalie’s best friend, Lilah, and Blake’s brother offer comedic moments and some needed advice whether it’s wanted or not.
“He looks at you like you’re sex on a stick. His eyes got so hot, I’m surprised your clothes aren’t singed.” [...] “Now pull your stick out and get in there,” Lilah said, suddenly sounding like a football coach. “Take notes. Take pictures. Take one for the team and tell me everything.”
Blake’s dirty mouth makes for some hot chemistry between he and Natalie as he has no boundaries and likes to tell her in great detail everything he wants to do to her.
“Where do you want me to kiss you first? I’ll give you options, and we don’t have to do anything you don’t like. I can start at the little warm spot just below your ear where you taste like flowers and skin. Then I take off your shirt and pop your nipples in my mouth.”
“Or I can start at the inside of your knees and eat my way up your thighs to your honey pot.”
Gibson doesn’t offer instant solutions or try to bamboozle the reader with the notion that falling in love fixes everything. Blake has to acknowledge his problems and want to change for himself. Natalie has to learn to forgive her ex husband. I loved that Gibson doesn’t make Natalie’s ex husband a villain in order to facilitate Blake’s and Natalie’s relationship. Micheal paid a heavy price for his actions and has come home hoping to salvage a relationship with his daughter and his ex wife.
The ending is satisfying as our couple comes to terms with their respective pasts and look towards the future. Gibson again weaves her magic is this delightfully smart and entertaining romantic contemporary and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.