Reviewed by Helyce
I am a big fan of the “crushing on my best friend’s brother” theme; add in the fact said brother is a sexy race car driver and I’m sold.
Derek’s career in racing started when he was young, and as he’d proven himself a winning driver, he rose up through the ranks. His father is very much involved in the business side of racing, but Derek is looking for ways to end that part of their relationship. He sees his chance when a new sponsor shows interest in investing in him. Signing on with Thomas Oil could make all the difference and Derek could finally cut all ties with his father for good.
Lily has just ended a relationship and lost her job, all at the same time. Sure, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to be dating her boss, but at the time, it didn’t seem to be an issue and she was still on track with her 5 year plan. Unfortunately, that plan is toast now, and she is back at square one, starting all over.
Lily and Derek grew up together in the little town of Penny Ridge, Georgia. Lily and Derek’s younger sister are best friends and Lily has crushed on Derek since she was a pre-teen. She’d always admired him from afar, knowing that he’d always only seen her as his sister’s best friend. When Derek learns that Lily is heading home, he offers her a ride on his private jet. But Derek has an ulterior motive to this meet. He needs Lily to agree to being his fiance so he can focus on the business side of his meeting with Thomas Oil. The owner’s daughter, Serena, has made it clear that she’s interested in Derek, but he doesn’t want the sponsorship under those circumstances. He wants it to be strictly business. So he hatches the fake fiance plan, and needs Lily to agree.
From the beginning, I was drawn into this story. Lily and Derek meet for lunch in the city before heading home. At lunch, Lily realizes that her ex is at the restaurant with a woman from the office. Lily and Derek pretend to be lovers and Derek is convinced that this plan of his can work. So he explains it all to Lily and she agrees. What else has she got going on after all? A weekend at a billionaire’s estate with Derek sounds fun. And in the end, maybe she can use some of Derek’s contacts to get back on her feet. They lay out some ground rules, buy a ring and are off.
I liked Lily-she ran with this little scheme and set out to have fun with it. It was a great way to shake off her recent failures and regroup. Spending time with Derek at a beautiful mansion, dressing up and relaxing was a great way to get over her breakup and come up with a new plan. But she was fooling herself that all of it was just pretend. She might have always just considered her feelings for Derek a “crush” but spending time with him like this, even under the ruse of an engagement, stirs up feelings that she really couldn’t ignore. She’s not a kid anymore and being this close to Derek, touching him, kissing him-it doesn’t feel fake at all.
I struggled a bit with Derek. We get the impression that Derek wants to cut ties with his father and we have to assume that it has to do with his childhood. The fact that his father left his mother and hurt her badly seems to be the main reason. Yet, in order to build his racing career, he included his father on the business side. Money is money when you’re trying to make your dream come true, I guess. Derek is also a self-proclaimed bachelor. He does not envision himself ever marrying or having children. This also, because of what happened with his father growing up. But chemistry is something that cannot be denied and the pretending quickly takes on a different feel.
And this is where things changed for me. Once they are home, and their family gets involved, they realize the scope of their plan and see how many people are really involved and who could potentially be hurt. But instead of coming clean, Derek convinces Lily that they should keep up the ruse until everything is secured. Initially, I was okay with this, until the only one who seemed to be sacrificing anything is Lily. Derek is here and there, racing and going about his business while Lily is home…waiting. Even after Derek realizes that he might actually have feelings for Lily, he sticks to the original plan. Lily is forced to take the tough love approach to guard her heart.
I liked Derek and Lily together. They definitely had chemistry and their relationship was believable. There is humor and witty banter and when they could just shut out everything else and just be with each other it all worked really well. But as it usually is with lies, people do get hurt-even when you’re trying to do everything right. Derek was hard headed and refused to believe in his own happiness-even when it was staring him straight in the face. And though he redeems himself in the end, the back and forth of it all weighs the story down a bit.
I did like this author’s voice, however. Her characters come to life on the page and there is a balanced mix of humor and emotion. The premise was interesting and we do get a good HEA, even though the hero took a while to get there. Secondary characters round out the story and I hope we get to see more of Serena and Shanna-both strong female characters who made an impression in this story.