I’ve been a fan of Kristen Proby’s brand of smuttilicious romance ever since I stumbled upon her debut novel many moons ago, and her tales have kept feeding the starry-eyed dreamer in me unfailingly. Just like the With Me in Seattle stories, this series warms your heart and sets your pulse racing all at the same time, but there is a significant shift in pace this time around—the love story flows easily, almost linearly and completely bump-free, the focus laying solely on the growing emotional bond between the characters and the heroine’s personal journey. The sex is more intense, the character development is more layered, and the story centres entirely on finding love when you’re no longer sure you believe in it anymore.
“I’m not a cynic, I’m a realist. We don’t live inside a romance novel. I learned that lesson the hard way.”
Lauren Cunningham is a soon-to-be-divorcée from small town Montana, raised by loving parents but left disillusioned by a husband who used and abused her, and then admitted to marrying her only for her money. She lives a solitary life, with very few friends she can truly trust or confide in, her secret career as a romance novelist filling her days and nights, but with no one in her life to share her success or happiness with. When her estranged husband’s latest demands leave her terrified for her own safety, she seeks the help of her attorney to expedite her divorce, but runs into Ty Sullivan, who takes one look at her and swears to himself to protect her with all he’s got.
My body yearns for her, I need to feel her, kiss her. Protect her.
Ty is a man used to protecting the women in his life ever since he was a young boy. His abusive father showed him exactly the kind of man he never wanted to become. Ty has admired Lauren from afar for a very long time, stepping back while she was married, but waiting for the right moment to approach her ever since her separation. So when Lauren walks into his office, distressed and scared, he cannot help but want to shield her from harm, but also finally claim her as his. The more time they spend in each other’s company, the more his body yearns for her, but instead of pushing her outside her comfort zone and into something she might not be ready for, he offers her something no man has ever given her—kindness and support.
I’ve never had anyone in my life that was here without wanting something from me.
Through the simplest gestures of affection and wanting nothing in return, he shows her what it is like to have a man in her life who only wants to love her and make her happy, and very soon all they can think about is the other. But their romance is not an all-consuming wave of passion driven by the undeniable attraction between them—it is more like a gentle wind that sweeps away all their fears and reservations, allows them to grow comfortable around each other, and gives them a fresh start in life, in each other’s loving arms. They become best friends while they are becoming lovers, completely entrusting their hearts to one another while they surrender their bodies the same way, something that neither of them has ever done before. Under Ty’s adoring touch, Lauren blossoms as a person for the very first time in her life. She grows more self-assured, she starts opening up to the world around her, and she no longer feels the need to rely solely on herself to be happy. Because of Ty, Lauren comes out of her shell—she learns to smile more openly, laugh more freely, and love wholeheartedly. So, even when her past tries to destroy her present happiness, Ty’s unwavering love is all she needs to survive it all.
I have to admit that as much as I truly enjoyed the uncomplicated beauty of the romance between Lauren and Ty, I hoped on more than one occasion for a tinge of angst here and there. Ty is the embodiment of the quintessential ‘prince in shining armour’ who wants nothing more than to save his damsel in distress and ride with her into the sunset, but while their love story is heart-warming and awe-inspiring beginning to end, I personally would have enjoyed the occasional bump in the road to make the happy moments between them even more precious. But that is only because I enjoy flaws more than perfection, and because I always seek stories of delayed gratification.
In so many ways, this story is an example of what relationships should be like between two people who unquestionably belong to one another. I loved that Ms Proby gave us another fearless, independent heroine to inspire us, and a hero who might look like a bad boy, but whose capacity to love and his need to protect those he loves make him the ultimate ‘nice guy’. I was left smiling, as always, the romantic in me full to the brim.
“I’m not used to receiving kindness with no strings attached.”
“Hi, Jacob, what can I do for you?” I ask with a smile, and open my front door wider for the friendly county sheriff ’s deputy.
“Well, I’m serving you.” He offers me an embarrassed smile and hands me a large envelope, then backs away. “Have a good day.”
I move back inside, shut the door, and stare down at the envelope in surprise.
I rip open the envelope and see bright, flaming inferno red as I read the court document. And read it again.
“The f*cker is suing me?” I exclaim to an empty room, and read the letter clutched in my now trembling hands for the third time. “Hell no!”
I grab my handbag and slide my feet into flip-flops, barely managing not to fall down the porch steps as I tear out of my house to my Mercedes and pull out of the circular driveway.
I live at the edge of Cunningham Falls, Montana. The small town was named after my great-grandfather
Albert Cunningham. Ours is a tourist town that boasts a five-star ski resort and a plethora of outdoor activities for any season. Thankfully, summer tourist season is over, and ski season is still a few months away, so traffic into town is light.
I zoom past the post office and into the heart of downtown, where my lawyer’s office is. Without paying any attention to the yellow curb, I park quickly and march into the old building.
The receptionist’s head jerks up in surprise as I approach her and slam the letter still clutched in my hand on her desk.
“This,” I say between clenched teeth, “isn’t going to happen.”
“Ms. Cunningham, do you have an appointment?”
“No, I don’t have an appointment, but someone had better have time to see me.” I am seething; my breath is coming in harsh pants.
“Lauren.” My head whips up at the sound of my name and I find Ty Sullivan frowning at me from his office doorway. “I can see you. Come in.”
I turn my narrowed eyes on Ty and follow him into his office, too agitated to sit while I wait for him to shut the door and walk behind his desk.
“What’s going on?”
“I need a new lawyer.”
“What’s going on?” he asks again, and calmly leans against the windowsill behind his desk. He crosses his arms over his chest. The sleeves of his white button-down are rolled, giving me a great view of the colorful tattoo on his right arm.
“This is what’s going on!” I thrust the letter at him. “Jack is trying to sue me for half of a trust fund that he has no right to.”
Ty’s handsome face frowns as he skims the letter. “You came into the trust while you were still married?”
“Yes,” I confirm warily.
“And you didn’t tell him about it?” he asks with raised brows.
“I didn’t even know the damn thing existed until after my parents died, Ty. Until after I kicked Jack out.” I turn and pace away, breathing deeply, trying to calm down. “He doesn’t deserve a dime of my inheritance. This isn’t about money, it’s about principle.”
“I agree.” Ty shrugs. “Have you talked with Cary?”
“I was just served with the letter,” I mumble, and sink into a leather chair in defeat. “Cary’s a nice guy, but I just don’t think he’s the right lawyer for this job.” I glance up at Ty and my heart skips a beat as I take him in now that I’m calming down. He’s tall, much taller than me—which is saying something, given that I stand higher than five foot eight. He has broad shoulders and lean hips, and holy hell, the things this man does to a suit should be illegal in all fifty states.
But more than that, he’s kind and funny and has a bit of a bad-boy side to him too, hence the tattoos. He’s been front and center in many of my fantasies for most of my life.