Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Life’s most urgent question is what are you doing for others?” The heroine of this novel takes that advice to heart, giving everything that she has for those around her. Just like in real life this doesn’t turn her into a doormat; instead it turns her into someone admirable, strong, and resilient.
Dr. Faye Buckner arrives at Temecula, CA and the spectacular Drakes Wines Resort and Spa looking for some much needed R and R. Faye worked for the Peace Corp, spent time in Africa, landed in Haiti right after the earthquake, and is now headed to San Diego to start a free clinic for the impoverished of the area. Feeling she needs a break before she starts to give of herself yet again, her mentor has prescribed a vacation. Faye’s best friend has prescribed a fling, complete with mind blowing sex.
Faye isn’t so sure about the latter but she sure is excited about the former. Her first response to the resort is a bit of shock. The opulent luxury around her is a far cry from the tent villages which she has been serving recently. Her second response is pleasant surprise as she feels her long-dead libido respond to the handsome man in front of the elevators. The two make eye contact and she begins to wonder if that fling will become a reality when her bubble is burst. She quickly dismisses him as a player when she sees him approached by a very beautiful pregnant woman.
Dexter Drake normally goes for sophisticated beauties so he is surprised by the reaction he has to the lovely but wholesome young lady waiting at the elevators in his families resort. His sister keeps him from stepping forward and introducing himself but that doesn’t make him forget the encounter. He is delighted when he runs into the young lady once more, this time polished to perfection and at attendance at his great grandfather’s 100th birthday party. The two share a dance but their encounter is cut short once again when he is stolen away by another woman. Faye is certain she has seen the last of Dexter. All that changes when his great granddad Papa Dee passes out at the high point of the party. Faye races to his side, administers CPR, and helps the ambulance attendants get him ready for the ride to the emergency room. She then follows the family there and becomes a huge help in establishing his care.
The Drakes are extremely grateful to Faye for her help at the party and the aid she provides once Papa Dee comes home. Taking advantage of her proximity, Dexter makes his move and takes her for a date. The two enjoy a perfect evening but Faye draws the line at letting Dexter “tuck her in.” He surprises her by being okay with that and the two begin a relationship. But how long can that relationship last when Faye gets to San Diego and begins a very different kind of life than what the resort world offers?
There is a lot to love about this novel. For me, one of the biggest things to love is the wonderful way the author handled the difference in financial circumstances between Dexter and Faye. Dexter comes from money. He owns several cars, lives in a fancy home and can afford to wear or do anything he wants. Faye comes from a middle class family but most of her life has been spent among the deeply impoverished. “Rich” to her is the American middle class. Seeing people live like the Drakes is almost beyond comprehension. Yet one of the greatest things is that Faye does not judge Dexter for his wealth. She makes a few comments about the opulence and luxury but they are mild and polite. She is pointing out facts, not preaching. She does make one comment that I think will be very relevant to their future, and to paraphrase it she essentially says he sees money and wonders what he can do with it, while she sees money and wonders who she can help with it. The author shows us that neither is inherently right or wrong and she does that by allowing Dexter to both keep his stuff and change his world view just a bit. The Drakes have always been charitable, but Faye moves them more toward generously charitable.
Another facet of the book I enjoyed was the interaction between the two personalities. Faye is practical, ethical, thoughtful and shy around men. Dexter is an outgoing, outrageous “player.” He is drawn to Faye’s plain way of putting things out there and making them clear. He likes that she never plays games, that she always states where she stands and that she is extremely adaptable. She is comfortable in both his lavish world and her own far less luxurious one. Faye for her part appreciates Dexter’s open, playful sexuality and his ability to just let go and have fun. These two really do complement each other.
I liked the characters as individuals too. Dexter can be a bit brash and arrogant but he does it with a charm that keeps him enjoyable. Faye is just a fantastic character. Too often people like Faye are written as either saints whom no one wants to spend a moment around or dewy eyed doormats who are too good to be strong. Faye has the back bone needed to work in dangerous areas, a compassion for all humans that makes her so good at what she does, and a firmness in her conviction to serve that explains just why she can be exposed to extreme wealth without falling in love with it.
The possible love triangle was a positive note also. It was handled in a mostly adult manner. That Dexter got himself in a bit of a twist was, while a bit juvenile, also a really good character arc given his personality. For all his playing this is Dexter’s first real in-depth love relationship and he makes some newbie mistakes along the way. That certainly fit how his character was represented better than smooth sailing would have.
The big event at the end was a bit of an eye roller but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this romance novel. I am happy to recommend it to fans of the genre.