When I reviewed Serena Bell’s So Close (Tierney Bay #1) earlier in 2020, I remarked that it was set in the same locale as a 2015 book that I had read and loved by this author called Turn Up the Heat. At the time, it was no longer available in stores but I’m happy to share that it has now been re-released. I decided to read it again to see if it held up to the high regard I gave it before. (Spoiler alert – it does!).
When Lily McKee’s relationship in Chicago failed, she ended up with no plan except to lick her wounds and try to save up some money to salvage her dream of opening her own restaurant. Staying with her sister in the small town of Tierney Bay on the Oregon Coast and waiting tables at a dingy diner keeps her going as she sorts out what to do next. With time on her hands, she can’t help but notice the sexy mystery man who starts to take up residence in one of her booths. Kincaid Graves has his reasons for being quiet and reserved, but he isn’t immune to the glances he gets from Lily and what starts out as an innocent flirtation heats up quickly as they discover that they share a sexual penchant they can freely indulge in with each other. But what starts out as sex becomes something deeper, a relationship that will only stand a chance if secrets are told before they come out on their own. Will Kincaid tell Lily the truth about his past before it’s too late?
This is a well told story of two people coming from different circumstances, and learning to trust again. It hooks you right from the start and though Kincaid’s circumstances are revealed to the reader fairly quickly (no spoilers here), it’s a secret that he keeps from Lily. Waiting for her to find out (and wondering what she’ll do with the news) gives the reader the conundrum of wanting to turn the pages faster while savouring the buildup at the same time.
Lily is a friendly and sweet woman who loves to cook, and the most difficult part of her job at the diner is that she doesn’t have the freedom to create and improve upon the dishes on the menu. The one time she tries to make something for Kincaid she gets in trouble from her boss, but Kincaid stands up for her. Outside of her sister, Lily doesn’t get that kind of support from anyone and it starts forging bonds of trust between them. From there the sexual tension leads them into an erotic affair where issues of consent, bondage and rough sex all come into play.
Kincaid comes across as a tortured hero on a mission of revenge and finding the truth at all costs, a mission that is hampered by his growing feelings for Lily. He is strong, loyal and protective and he falls hard for Lily despite his best efforts to keep himself emotionally uninvolved. Lily has made it clear she’s only in Tierney Bay to make some money so she can find a new job and a new place to live in Chicago, and even if Kincaid wanted to, there are reasons that he can’t follow her there. They go into this relationship knowing it’s only temporary.
Shame and guilt plague both Kincaid and Lily for various reasons. Sharing and overcoming their perceived inadequacies takes some time but helps them grow closer, as does the bond from their sexual experiences. I love the way the story plays out, and once we get past the inevitable conflict and on to the well-deserved happy ending, there is a really sweet epilogue that brought tears to my eyes. Fans of gritty, sexy, emotional romances should definitely give this one a read.
Buy it at: Amazon
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