A Moment of Bliss
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I just love this area, so when I saw A Moment of Bliss featured an inn nestled in the Blue Ridge, I had to give it a whirl. While I’m more familiar with Virginia, this novel is centered on a fall wedding in western North Carolina. Although the story isn’t quite as perfect as the gorgeous setting, it’s still pretty darn satisfying.
Roark Bradley is the oldest of the Bradley siblings currently running the Honeywilde Inn. While he idolized the grandfather who founded the inn, his parents were fairly dysfunctional and he grew up pretty much raising himself and his three siblings. And he’s been responsible for the inn for a while as well. He’s not a bad guy, but readers will be able to figure out early on that Roark has carried way too much of a burden for far too long even if it’s only much later in the book that we learn more about what it has cost him.
The aging inn has had some lackluster visitor numbers and financially things are on the ropes. So when wedding planner Madison shows up dangling the prospect of a swanky wedding in front of Roark, it sounds like a winner of a business proposition. And even if Madison is uncommonly prickly, something about her just gets to Roark.
Upon reaching agreement with Madison, Roark learns this isn’t just any swanky wedding. This is the wedding of two popular band members and it has the prospect to draw the attention of celebrity watchers. The prospect of publicity for the inn excites Roark while Madison wants to focus on making things as perfect (and intimate and private) as possible for her clients, whom it’s obvious that she genuinely likes.
Because of the nature of the event, Madison has to move into the inn well before the big day to work on planning every little detail. And of course the Bradley family will be deeply involved in those plans, so she spends lots of time with them – especially Roark. There’s plenty of bickering between the couple early on in the story and while I sometimes got annoyed, I could also see the chemistry ratcheting up between them. What starts as a sometimes prickly business relationship quickly turns hot.
As the wedding date approaches, things between Madison and Roark not only become hot and steamy, but also more emotionally intimate. Both come from difficult backgrounds and both have built up walls that allow them to function as competent professionals even as they lack deep emotional ties to other people. Roark has his siblings, but Madison is essentially alone, and as their relationship progresses, the author does a good job of turning this from a sexy romp to an exploration of what this isolation means and how it has shaped her characters. Both leads have some awkward emotional moments, and these serve to deepen the relationship rather than just keep the plot afloat.
While the writing in some of the earlier chapters felt a bit disjointed at times, McGovern hits her stride as the book gets going and by the end, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the Honeywilde Inn. A Moment of Bliss is first in a new series, so I’ll be looking forward to return visits.