Ever killed time at a coffee shop before meeting friends for dinner? When the hero and heroine of Ms. James' latest fantastic novel decide to do just that they find more than just a delicious caffeinated beverage waiting for them inside. Readers will find something pretty awesome waiting inside for them too.
Special Agent Vaughn Roberts has the wooing of women down to a science. That is why when he watches the obvious first date of a couple in a coffee shop he knows exactly how it’s going to end – epic fail for the guy who is boring the beautiful auburn haired temptress sitting with him. She had captured Vaughn’s attention the minute she walked in the door – and he wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste. When the date ends exactly as predicted and the man leaves the shop, Vaughn goes in to make his move.
Sidney Sinclair just wants to meet a nice guy. The marrying kind. The family kind. So why does she always attract the ego maniacs or players? Which is how she pegs Vaughn just moments after she meets him. He’s a kid in a candy store, with Chicago being the store and attractive women the city over being the delicious delights he likes to indulge in. In spite of his excellent – and probably often used – pickup lines, Sidney gives him the brush-off and a piece of her mind. It feels good to unload the pent-up frustration she feels towards all players on this one. And the good news is, she won’t have to see him again. Ever.
But Sidney rejoiced a bit too soon. The moment she joins her sister and sister’s boyfriend for dinner she realizes there is another guest – none other than the man she had just blown off in the coffee shop! Reminding herself it will be just for the one night, she girds her loins for battle and joins the table. It is there that Vaughn and Sidney receive the biggest surprise in a night full of unexpected little events – his brother and her sister are getting married. And they want them to be the maid of honor and best man!
Being best man and maid of honor at a shotgun style wedding that is doing its best to disguise itself as something else means that Vaughn and Sidney have to spend a lot of time together. They meet each other’s family. They meet each other’s friends. They plan events together and coordinate all manner of little things. And as they get to know each other the fire between them ignites. First it's stolen kisses. Then more heated exchanges. But how can they possibly act on all their feeling when neither of them are what the other wants and their actions could hurt the people closest to them?
Typically, relationships with a hero and heroine at odds with each other aren’t my cuppa. I prefer conflict to be exterior to the relationship and for the hero and heroine to present a united front against it. But James does a fabulous job of setting this conflict up. There is no genuine hostility between Vaughn and Sidney. It’s never that they don’t like each other, just that while both feel attracted neither feels the other is what they are looking for in terms of a relationship. Sidney had pegged Vaughn perfectly – he was always looking for the next good time. And since that was the case, looking-for-a-relationship Sidney was the last thing Vaughn wanted, and vice versa. The two engage in some playful zinging, neither letting the other have the upper hand in their verbal teasing but it never goes beyond the teasing. No one ever goes for the throat.
To me, that set the perfect tone for the book. It is a playful, sweet confection with a serious case of love in the center. This was necessary since Sidney and Vaughn are in a precarious situation – their actions may well have lasting effects on the brother and sister for whom they are standing up for at the wedding. Before they take any large steps in their own relationship they have to be extra sure that the footing is firm and there won’t be some kind of ripple effect. Normally I would have thought that impossible to pull off but Ms. James did a great job of convincing me that these two could – and did – do it.
Another great reason this tone works for the book is that both characters need a bit of tweaking before they are ready to become a couple. Sidney had been burned badly by a player in the past. She needed time to see that behind Vaughn’s “play hard” attitude was someone who could commit to the people he cared about. Vaughn needed to see the exact same thing. For years he had known he was nowhere near ready to settle down. Meeting Sidney showed him that settling down didn’t mean giving up fun but taking fun to a different and more meaningful level. He needed to know that commitment wasn’t about finding someone to settle down with but rather, finding someone who made you want to settle down.
It helps that the characters are perfect for each other. Both are hardworking, both family oriented. They are confident, secure people. Both are ready for a committed relationship, even if Vaughn isn’t aware of that. And both of them fit into the best definition of nice – it’s not that they are boring, it’s that they are caring, genuine, and kind. Funny too. I don’t think I have emphasized that fact about the book but it put a grin on my face by the end of the first chapter and it pretty much only left when I was using my mouth to laugh out loud. Then I went straight back to smiling.
Should I add this book isn’t a romantic suspense but straight contemporary? I normally love the author's suspense novels but in this case, I didn’t miss it because the romance was just so great.
Fun, sexy, sweet and delightful – this book is the whole package. It is everything you could possibly want in a contemporary romance.
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