I wanted to love this, I really did. And the writing IS great… but I just didn’t like the hero. I didn’t find his particular brand of grump appealing, and the neighbors with benefits storyline didn’t do much to endear him to me. The writing is excellent as always; the physical chemistry is most definitely there, and I loved some of the softer moments. It’s a return to Cloverleigh with nostalgic vibes and a younger feel. If you’ve been following the series for awhile, you’ll love the characters. If you’re new to the series, then this is the perfect place to dive in – it almost feels like a spin-off. While this single dad, age gap romance wasn’t a home run for me, it still leaves me excited for future books.
The story follows Dex, a 34-year-old dad whose divorce has left him feeling jaded. While Dex was never the true love kind of guy, the disappointment of his marriage has convinced him that being single is the way to go. So when Dex discovers that his new neighbor is a sweet and sexy 22-year-old, he’s sure of two things: 1. she’s way too young for him. And 2. there can never be anything real between them. Dex can deny it all he wants, but the chemistry he shares with Winnie is difficult to ignore. As they give in to the sparks that fly between them, both intend to keep feelings out of the equation… but that’s easier said than done.
This has some smokin’ hot chemistry and plenty of steamy moments. While it’s a slow emotional burn, these two run hot from the start. I also loved the moments with Dex being a sweet dad, though those are his only instances of softness. I found his personality to be very unappealing (he’s a jerk, but not a lovable one), and in the bedroom he was aggressive and a little unkind. That also made the age gap feel uncomfortable sometimes, which didn’t help. Neither did the “no feelings” relationship style and lack of communication. Had there been more to love about Dex, this book would’ve been great. I love the overall writing style and the storyline has plenty of depth – there were just too many off-putting elements for me to say that I really enjoyed the romance.
My new neighbor is a firefighter–and a scorching hot single dad–but I swear I didn’t set off that smoke alarm on purpose.
(And I was beyond mortified when he rushed in and saw me naked.)
Nothing happened, of course–because I, Winnie MacAllister, romance junkie and owner of a constantly broken heart, have sworn off men for one solid year.
Even protective men with chiseled jaws, bulging biceps, and deep brown eyes that make my breath come faster. Even former SEALs with broad chests and strong hands that make my skin sizzle. Even gorgeous, grumpy guys who have their hands full raising two adorable little girls and claim they don’t believe in love.
Until Dex kisses me one night, and I drop all my defenses.
(Also my underwear.)
He says he’s not gentle, and he’s right. He says I should take the dream job I’m offered in another state, and he’s right. He says he’s too old for me and could never be the man I deserve.
Dex and I might be twelve years apart, but the fire between us is the kind that will never burn out.
How can I convince him to give happily-ever-after with me a chance?
She looked a little nervous, not that I blamed her, as she held out a small pink box of Band-Aids. “I had these lying around and thought Luna might want them for her knee. Band-Aids sometimes come off in the shower, so . . .”
I reached out and took them from her, noticing she was careful not to let our fingers touch this time. “Thanks.”
“That’s it—I just wanted to—um, okay, have a good night.” She turned to leave, and I probably should have let her.
“Wait a second.”
She faced me again, her expression still wary.
“I’m sorry about that.” I gestured over my shoulder with the pink box. “My ex-wife—the girls’ mom—knows how to get a rise out of me.”
“Oh, that’s okay. It’s none of my business, and I didn’t really hear anything.” It was obvious she’d heard everything.
I nodded slowly. “Well, thanks for the Band-Aids. Luna will appreciate it.”
Her smile was back, along with that stutter in my chest. “Good. Enjoy your night.”
She turned around and went down the steps, cutting across the lawn to her place with that same youthful bounce in her step. Glancing down at the box, I shook my head—of course she had a whole thing of pink princess Band-Aids. I shut the door and trudged up the stairs to get the kids cleaned up.
Hallie went first, after a brief attempt to get me to let her wear socks in the shower. As usual, I refused, explaining again that the entire house had been thoroughly cleaned before we moved in, and I’d been here yesterday to make sure of it.
While she was getting dressed, I made sure Luna washed her hair and used soap, then helped her get dried off. After hanging up their towels, I double-checked that they’d chosen appropriate clothing and was just about to get in my own shower when I heard a series of high-pitched beeps.
“What’s that?” Hallie said, scrunching up her face.
Instantly on high alert, I put my hand up. “Shh.” I heard it again, and recognized it as a smoke detector going off, but not in our house—we were hearing it through the walls. “Stay here.”
I raced out of their room and took the stairs down three at a time, jumping to the bottom with five to go. Barreling out my front door, I ran over to Winnie’s and knocked. The alarm was clearly coming from inside her unit, and when she didn’t answer the door, I made a split-second decision to bust in.
Fortunately, the door wasn’t locked.
I shouldered it open, relieved when I didn’t see or smell smoke right away. Winnie’s townhouse was laid out exactly like mine, and I immediately realized the detector going off was upstairs. Racing up the steps three at a time, I reached the master bedroom doorway just in time to see Winnie climbing onto a suitcase, one hand reaching toward the ceiling to disconnect the unit.
My jaw dropped.
She was totally naked and dripping wet.
One hand was clutching a small towel to her chest that didn’t fucking hide anything . Behind her, steam from her shower billowed from her bathroom, which must have been what set off the alarm—some detectors are that sensitive. Behind me, I heard clamoring on the stairs, and a second later both Hallie and Luna rushed into the bedroom.
Startled, Winnie looked over and saw us. Her eyes went wide as she screamed, lost her footing, and toppled backward off the suitcase. She landed hard on her ass, arms and legs flailing like a rag doll.
Averting my eyes, I strode over and disconnected the unit while she scrambled toward the bathroom on her hands and knees, presumably in search of a bigger towel.
But then she slammed the door . . . and didn’t come out.
The eighty-five decibel alarm had ceased, but the sirens in my head continued.
I looked at the girls. Luna had her hands over her mouth. Hallie’s eyes were wide, and she pointed to the bathroom door. “Winnie was naked,” she whispered. “We saw her bum.”
“Quiet,” I scolded angrily. “You two were supposed to stay at our house. You didn’t follow my orders.”
“But Daddy, we were scared,” Luna said. Her hair was still wet and tangled. “We came to find you.”
“We’ll talk about it later, but when I tell you to stay put, you stay put-especially in an emergency. Understand?”
“Now go back to our house, both of you.”
“But what about Winnie? Is she okay?”
I went over to the bathroom door and knocked, trying not to picture her naked. The shower wasn’t running anymore. “Winnie? Are you okay?”
“Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine!” she repeated in the same false, bright tone. A tiny smile inched onto my lips. “Are you sure?”
About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like Ted, Lasso, Schitt’s Creek, and Fleabag. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.
Melanie is the author of the BELLAMY CREEK series, the CLOVERLEIGH FARMS series, the ONE & ONLY series, AFTER WE FALL series, the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, and the FRENCHED series. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.
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