Hot Winter Nights
If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with on a cold winter night, look no further than Hot Winter Nights. It’s a fun romp involving Christmas-themed intrigues and cameos from the whole Heartbreaker Bay gang.
While I haven’t kept up with the Heartbreaker Bay series, it’s an easy saga to jump into as each book stands alone. This one in particular hooked me, as it’s a friends-to-lovers scenario – which is one of my favorite tropes. I’ve read some of the other books in the series, but it’s been a little while, so I didn’t have a strong recollection of vibes between Molly Malone and Lucas Knight or a burning desire to see them with their own book. But from the first page of Hot Winter Nights, it felt like there was a shared history between Molly and Lucas that made me excited to see them finally getting their story – even if I hadn’t known I was waiting for it until now. Molly and Lucas work together at Hunt Investigations – Lucas as a PI and Molly as office manager – and when the book opens, Lucas is waking up in bed with Molly to the realization that their relationship is changed forever.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, like Lucas, that the two did more than sleep. In fact, Molly just helped him back to his apartment after he’d had a few too many drinks for his injured body to handle. He asked her to stay, which she’d considered doing anyway to make sure he was okay through the night, and by sleepy mutual agreement she ends up sharing his bed (platonically). When Molly realizes Lucas’ lack of memory has led him to draw his own conclusions, she decides to let him stew for a little while. Molly has had a crush on the man for years and has sometimes wondered if he’ll ever see her as more than just one of the guys. While she didn’t set out to mislead him into thinking they were intimate, there’s certainly a part of Molly that wonders if he’ll see her in a new light after this.
Lucas, like many other foolish romance heroes before him, long ago made a promise to Molly’s brother Joe (who is also a PI at Hunt) that has him reluctant to view her as a romantic prospect. Their (imagined) night together throws that out the window as Molly hoped, and has Lucas feeling both guilty and excited as he anticipates what his next move should be. He tries to back off, but fate decides for him when his boss Archer tells him to help Molly with a new assignment.
Molly is determined to take the next step with her career by joining the investigative team at Hunt. She already assists with lots of the computer work they do on cases, and has decided she’s no longer content as just office staff. Unfortunately, both her brother and Archer are resistant to this – the former because he’s classically overprotective, and the latter because he doesn’t feel she’s ready for it yet. Determined to prove her abilities, Molly secretly takes on the case of a Santa Claus defrauding his elven assistants in a Christmas village. Not all that surprised that Molly would go behind his back to get experience, Archer suggests that Lucas assist her so she doesn’t get in over her head. Lucas agrees, with the intention of simply offering assistance without telling Molly of Archer’s instructions, but after he walks in on a meeting between Molly and her clients, she makes things easy by approaching him for help. After putting up a token resistance, Lucas acquiesces, and the two settle in to work the case together. From there, the sparks start flying, and before you know it Lucas and Molly are in a real relationship.
One of the things I liked most about this book was Molly’s character. She’s imbued with a determination and persistence which, for the most part, come across favorably. Molly had a difficult home life growing up and sustained a crippling leg injury in her late teens. Despite the remaining damage, she stays in good shape and is ready for a job which requires good physical fitness. However, her determination to become a PI also seemed excessive at times, leading to her taking on more than she could ultimately handle with the investigation.
While Molly’s tendency to overestimate her abilities was annoying, at least she was in good company with Lucas. Only for him, it was less a question of PI skills, and more about his inability to gauge his level of attachment to Molly. Part of this is due to Lucas’ difficulty being emotionally vulnerable, which he does work through in time. He’s a good match for Molly, careful and attentive to detail while she jumps into situations; slow to build his feelings while she falls headfirst. They complement each other, which made me like them as a couple.
The one thing that really bothered me after I put the book down was how long it took Molly to tell Lucas that they didn’t have sex that first night. As I was reading it, the story flowed naturally and Molly’s teasing Lucas about what he ‘forgot’ felt like simple banter between friends. As I went back over the book for review however, it began to hit me that she left Lucas with this misconception longer than was really necessary. Lucas needed only a moment – if that – to prompt him into romantic feelings for Molly, so the misunderstanding didn’t need to extend beyond that. Lucas’ view of the situation as amusing rather than upsetting kept me from getting too annoyed, though.
While Molly and Lucas aren’t perfect, they are certainly likeable, and do a good job of making the shift from friends to lovers. Hot Winter Nights is another solid entry in Ms. Shalvis’ Heartbreaker Bay series.