Cute and sexy, “opposites attract,” contemporary romance
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Pages: 224 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Paul Watts is a thirty-something former cop and current owner of a highly successful cybersecurity firm located in his hometown, Charleston, South Carolina. Though Paul’s parents and his adopted, younger brother, Ethan, as well as the rest of the extended Watts family, fully supported Paul’s decision to follow his passion to catch criminals, his grandfather, Grady Watts, took it as a personal rejection. His belief has been that Paul’s duty is to succeed Paul’s father as CEO of the family shipping business. Grady’s resentment has created an emotional wall between Paul and his beloved grandfather that, years after the fact, Paul has not been able to breach. And now it might be too late. Grady has been in critical condition from a recent stroke, and he appears to have no will to live. Paul declares to himself that he would do anything, support anything, that would inspire Grady to fight his way back to health.
Shortly after making that vow, Paul arrives at Grady’s hospital room and discovers a beautiful, twenty-something stranger hovering over his grandfather’s bed, holding Grady’s limp hand and singing to him with the voice of an angel. Paul’s instinctive, suspicious-cop response is white-hot alarm for his vulnerable grandfather. The woman is inexplicably clothed in a colorful costume better suited to a Renaissance Faire than a hospital, and he wonders if she might be an escapee from the psych ward.
As Paul angrily demands that the weird woman justify her presence, Logan intervenes to reassure Paul and introduces the woman as his friend, Lia Marsh. After she flits away to keep an appointment elsewhere in the hospital, Logan explains to Paul that Lia is dressed as a Disney princess to entertain sick children in the hospital. He states that he has asked her, as a personal favor, to spend time with Grady and cheer him up, and this is not the first time she’s come by. Paul and the whole Watts family are aware that, even before enduring the dismal, stroke aftershocks of partial paralysis and an inability to speak, Grady had already been depressed. During the past few years, he had become increasingly obsessed with the fact that no one in the family has ever been able to locate his missing granddaughter. She is the child of his long-deceased daughter, Ava, and was placed in infancy in a closed adoption. But today, suddenly, Grady’s spirits are noticeably improved, and Paul is shocked when Logan informs him that Lia is the cause. No doubt due to mental confusion brought on by his stroke, Grady is convinced that Lia is his granddaughter, which has given him a joyful reason to get well.
Lia Marsh has spent her whole life as a nomad, traveling constantly with her single mother during her childhood, and then from age 18 onward, continuing on her own in the familiar gypsy existence. Her home is a quaint, retro trailer pulled by a truck, and she earns a living as a therapeutic masseuse, hiring out her temporary services at alternative-healing clinics around the country. She lives a low-stress lifestyle, free of emotional entanglements, and she also personally employs the healthful, relaxation techniques of meditation, yoga and aromatherapy, which she frequently teaches to her massage clients as well. Lia normally never stays anywhere more than a few weeks, but she has been delayed in Charleston because a recent traffic accident totaled her truck. It is taking a while to earn enough money to buy a replacement used truck that is in her limited price range.
Not wanting to halt or reverse the astounding progress in healing that Grady is making since connecting with Lia, Logan ardently insists that it is vital to Grady’s survival that the three of them, Lia, Paul and Logan, must play along with Grady’s delusion that Lia is his missing granddaughter for at least two weeks. Hopefully that will be long enough to give Grady a fighting chance to recover from his stroke and his depression. Lia loves helping people whenever she can, and she’s already grown very fond of Grady, but she hates the idea of deceiving Grady. Paul adamantly agrees with her resistance to lying. However, Logan makes such a persuasive case that the two of them grudgingly agree with his plea to carry on with the benevolent pretence. It isn’t going to be simple to pull off, though, because no one else in the family must find out what they are up to, since the rest of the Wells family loves to gossip, and one or more of them would be bound to spill the beans to Grady. Worse, to the dismay of both Paul and Lia, it soon becomes clear that, in spite of neither trusting the other, they are mutually experiencing feelings that are anything but cousinly. And any kind of romantic entanglement between them has disaster written all over it.
I really enjoyed this lighthearted, “opposites attract” romance. Paul checks all the boxes for reader expectations of an “alpha” romance hero. He is gorgeous, sexy, dynamic, and prosperous. And his appeal is amplified even further because of his fierce sense of family affection and loyalty, in particular his strong connection to his brother, and his gentle, protective care for his grandfather.
I very much enjoyed the adorable quirkiness of Lia as a kind of modern-day hippie. The author obviously did her research and portrays the “New Age” lifestyle with great accuracy, and she wisely refrains from condescendingly presenting Lia as a one-dimensional, clichéd, kooky flake. Instead, Lia is revealed as a multi-layered, unique individual, with a fascinating backstory and a compassionate, caring attitude toward others.
In typical, adult-romance style, this story is told from the dual point of view (POV) of both Lia and Paul, with occasional brief forays into Logan’s POV. This is my favorite way to experience a romance novel. It allows the reader to deeply get to know both protagonists.
The transformational growth arc that Paul and Lia inspire in each other, as they make the classic romance journey from distrust to trust, is lovely to witness. I also appreciated, as familiar and desirable features of Harlequin Desire romances, that there is no crude language, no heavy drinking or wild parties, and the sex scenes are tenderly sensual, rather than coarsely lustful.
I enjoyed the setting of this book very much. I have in-laws who live in the beautiful, historical port city, Charleston, and it is a picturesque and romantic locale for a love story.
There is a clear setup within this novel for the next entry in this series, which I assume will be with Logan as the hero and the actual Watts granddaughter as the heroine. I look forward to reading that book. I really liked Logan in this story, and I can’t wait to find out who the missing woman turns out to be.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 4