Reviewed by Helyce
Reese Crane has been groomed to be the next CEO of The Crane Hotels once his father retires. He’s wanted it badly for years and has done everything to prove that he is the man for the job. Unfortunately, the Board doesn’t agree and rumor is that they may not choose him as the rightful successor. It seems Reese’s private life, which has too often made its way into the public eye via social media, has left a poor impression of him with the Board.
Merina Van Heusen loves working in her family’s beloved Van Heusen Hotel. Alongside her parents, she grew up within its walls. Imagine her surprise when she arrives at work one day to find workers on site doing what they are calling “upgrades” authorized by the new owner, Reese Crane. Livid that her parents sold the hotel without even consulting her, she storms off to confront Reese Crane in person.
After their explosive confrontation, Reese, his dad and his brother concoct a plan that may just put Reese in a better light with the Board of Directors. And if they can get Merina to agree, everyone wins.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Jessica Lemmon’s contemporaries. I love her voice and she has a way of bringing that perfect balance of humor and conflict into her story. I loved all her bad boys in her Second Chance series, so starting this series was a no-brainer.
Right off the bat, we are introduced to Merina. When she finds out that her parents have sold their beloved boutique hotel to the Cranes of all people, she is simply furious. Without even waiting to hear the reasons, she storms off to confront Reese Crane, barging into his office demanding an explanation. Even in that state, however, she does not miss the fact that Reese Crane is one gorgeous, sexy, man. Not able to come to any kind of compromise, she storms out again. Reese doesn’t say much in their first meeting but Merina definitely makes an impression on him. Enough for him to decide on his plan.
I loved these characters. While a “fake” marriage to help one or both of the people involved get something out of the deal is a trope that has been done before, and I admit is not a favorite of mine, I was all in with this couple. Merina is an intelligent woman who adores her parents and loves their family’s hotel. She has a bond with the workers, some of whom have been there since she was a child. The thought of it being owned and changed into a stuffy modern hotel like the Crane’s are known for just doesn’t sit well with her. I loved how emotional she was and how she didn’t care at all that she walked out into the rain, her sole purpose to get to the Crane Hotel to tell Reese Crane exactly what she thought of him.
It’s clear that Merina showing up and calling him out put Merina on Reese’s radar. He doesn’t realize it at the time, but it was her fiery personality and her emotional tirade that impressed him enough to choose her as his fake bride.
I think what I loved most about this setup was the fact that in spite of how these two meet and subsequently come together, they truly have a lot in common. Both of them come from families who own hotels, no matter that one is a huge conglomerate and the other a hotel on a much smaller scale. They both grew up knowing that one day they would take it over and each of them looked forward to the responsibilities and challenges. They were both passionate about it and that comes through in every scene.
I also really enjoyed that Merina and Reese, while supposedly putting on a ruse to fool the board, actually make the reader feel them falling in love. The author does such a beautiful job of making you feel the connection these two have, and not only in intimate moments. While Reese is a little slow to realize it on his end, Merina knows early on and you can’t help but feel the emotional tug of war in her heart. Having been burned badly in the past, both of them are guarding their hearts.
Of course, nothing is ever just smooth sailing and conflicts of the usual kind appear to cause distrust and cause Merina to question everything she’s feeling. Reese screws up as well, but thankfully, does redeem himself in time.
Secondary characters round out the story and provide humor and support in equal parts. Reese’s brother Tag is a rather big presence and is the hero of the next book in this series, The Billionaire Next Door, which I do look forward too.
Jessica Lemmon has it down when it comes to contemporary romance. A perfect balance of everything that makes a well rounded story come to life for the reader.