What it’s about: (from Goodreads) When it comes down to it, rats in the oven trumps Lesley’s desire to never set eyes on another Brennan family member. So Lesley, a pro at property redevelopment, scrambles to Dominic Brennan’s hardware store for supplies. Dominic knows poison — rat and otherwise — and he sees it in Lesley. The woman ruined his brother’s life. Now that she’s back in town, Dominic’s afraid she’ll drag up the past, the secrets, and the pain. They clash immediately, but mix in a teenage boy, a puppy, some white paint, and some loud music, and what starts as cold fury transforms into a nuclear attraction. This basic renovation becomes a major life refurbishment for them both.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Forty-something heroines and heroes appeal to me now in a way they didn’t when I was in my twenties. From my current perspective, it does not seem at all ridiculous or icky to read a romance with older protagonists. I am happy enough to read about younger people too, but there is definitely room in my reading for people my age and older. Lesley and Dominic are both in their 40s, both experiencing some of the visible signs of aging Olay warns you about on the television at every possible opportunity. (I expect, nevertheless, they look better than I do – that’s okay, I tend to imagine romance heroes and heroines are good looking no matter what the text tells me – perhaps this is a flaw, I don’t know). Because both are older, they fit well into their own skins – they know themselves, their wants and desires, their tics and foibles fairly well and neither of them are likely to change all that much. But they have both changed very much from the people they were when they (briefly) knew each other sixteen years earlier, when Lesley was (briefly) married to Dominic’s douchebag brother Terry. The book presents them as having come into their own – particularly Lesley, rather than just being “not young anymore” and certainly, Dominic finds the current Lesley much more fascinating and attractive than he ever did before.
There is a lot going against them. Lesley is not planning to be in town for long. Terry (the douchebag) told many lies about the reason for the demise of his marriage to Lesley, lies which everyone in Dominic’s family believed, including his difficult-to-describe-in-non-ableist-language mother. With Lesley cast as the villain of the piece for so many years, it does take a bit of getting used to for Dominic to see he had been wrong about her but, to my satisfaction, he does and he is prepared to apologise for it too. Saying sorry when one is wrong is a very attractive quality in a hero IMO.
Dominic has a son, Kyle, who has just turned sixteen. Stefanie, Kyle’s mother, took off when Kyle was only two months old and hasn’t been heard from since. It wasn’t really a feature of the story, but I did wonder whatever happened to Stefanie and whether she would ever contact Kyle. The story revealed the reasons the relationship between her and Dominic failed, but I never quite got my head around why Stefanie would leave her child and never making contact again. Perhaps that is my mother gene talking. I guess I wouldn’t have minded some further insight into that – but, like I said, it wasn’t really a main part of the story. It was clear to me however that there was something Dominic was worried about, relating to his relationship with Stefanie, something that he thinks Lesley might know. In the middle of the book, this was kind of absent but it came up again near the end – which I was glad about actually because just before then I was wondering if that plot thread was going to go anywhere.
I liked Dominic and his relationship with Kyle, the way they had a believable and very close relationship without Kyle being a kind of plot device. I liked that Dominic eventually stands up to his mother, as well as the later hints in the text that she might actually lighten up a bit (although I think she’ll always be a bit of a nightmare).
There is definite spark and chemistry between Lesley and Dominic and I enjoyed their interplay. I also really liked how this wasn’t a “jump into bed and get to know each other later” story. While there was instant attraction, the barriers between them were significant. When they do eventually get together, the connection is more than mutual lust and it was more enjoyable for me as a reader.
Perhaps the character I enjoyed the most however, was Lesley’s grandfather, Martino Rotolone. He’s 92 and an absolute firecracker. He is very active; he plays golf everyday, and he’s mentally with it too. He’s sharp-witted and sharp-tongued and not always entirely nice. He has a massive crush on 79 year old Eilish Flanagan and their romance was both funny and touching.
What else? I enjoyed the snappy humour of the story and I believed that Lesley and Dominic would have a happy future together. I would have liked her to have been a little more involved in decisions about her career toward the end – or at least, have seen her embracing the ideas and making them her own somehow, rather than just acquiescing which is kind of how it seemed to me. But the story was fun and sexy and smart, all of which I liked.
I loved Lesley and her red cowboy boots and I’m looking forward to more from this author.