With each new Alessandra Torre novel, I seem to fall more and more in love with this author’s extraordinary gift, and this book is no exception. A light-hearted, somewhat less intricate love story than her other works, this is a book that shows us that even when she sets to write “light and funny”, she does it with impeccable attention to detail, and the kind of flawless character development that could carry any storyline forward. This is a heart-warming tale of opposites attracting, of two people fighting their attraction to one another, only to fail at every turn, and of life proving true the old adage that when one door closes, another opens in its stead, just as long as we have the courage to walk through it.
The story takes place in the sleepy little town of Quincy, Georgia, home to sixty-seven original Coca-Cola investors-turned-millionaires who have continued leading quiet, unpretentious lives, regardless of their heftier bank accounts. Life remains simple and predictable in Quincy, until a Hollywood superstar decides to shoot his next movie there, bringing attention to a town that has always valued peace and anonymity over the limelight.
Summer Jenkins grew up in Quincy, but never in her twenty-nine years of life has she felt truly accepted by the small town she’s called home ever since she was a child. Shunned for a moment in time when she allowed her emotions to get the best of her, she now lives a quiet, humble life with her mother, with no ambitions or grand plans for the future, except leaving Quincy one day and starting a new life somewhere else, somewhere far away from the resentment, the whispers and the sideways looks that follow her everywhere she goes.
“I wanted something different. I wanted to be someone different, someone without scorn, someone without a past. Someone with a future.”
From the moment Summer hears about the upcoming movie production in Quincy, she becomes determined to turn it into her ticket out of town. She is willing to work any job, big or small, as long as it makes her enough money to put her on the road, never expecting that her feisty Southern belle charm is all that is needed. Especially when directed at a certain Hollywood superstar whose arrogance and uncouthness bring out the worst in her.
“Kiss me like that again and I’ll rip your eyes from their sockets.”
He held up his hands with a hard smile. “No worries, princess. I have no desire to repeat that experience.” He leaned forward slightly, enjoying watching her bristle. “And I’m not talking about the cheap shot. I’m talking about the kiss. I’ve had better. Much, much better.”
It was a lie. That kiss, that brief moment before violence…
It might be worth losing sight over.
Cole Masten’s whirlwind acting career has made him a household name all around the globe, adored by fans wherever he goes and continually pestered by the paparazzi, his high profile marriage to a fellow actress only bringing his personal life even more into the public eye. But when his seemingly perfect life comes to a standstill as he suddenly finds himself facing a messy divorce, his salvation comes in the form of his next movie project, one he is passionate to see succeed.
“It was natural for the girl to look at him, for her attention to divert from Cole, especially when he had asked her a question. But still. Three Oscars in his storage unit. Her gaze could have at least lingered.”
His arrival in Quincy is marked by nothing more than some passing chatter, the townsfolk entirely indifferent to his celebrity status, and while at first she might have not shared the town’s lack of interest in finally meeting Cole Masden the actor, it only takes a few minutes spent in his presence for Summer to dislike him at first sight. And the more she gets to know him, the more her antipathy towards him grows. Their every encounter turns into a quarrel, Cole’s every word rubbing Summer the wrong way, unbeknownst to her that he continues to provoke her on purpose, her fiery, no-nonsense personality drawing him to her like a moth to a flame.
“I thought then, my hand resting on the doorknob, looking out on the front porch that held two of the sexiest men I had ever seen, that there was something there, in him, something whole and raw and beautiful. Now, I know what I saw. I know what that something was. It was asshole, pure and simple. It was spoiled rotten—I get what I want because I deserve it, you are beneath me—asshole.”
As their lives suddenly become temporarily intertwined, we get first row seats to one of the sexiest, most entertaining enemies-to-lovers scenarios I’ve ever come across, where the leading characters don’t know whether to kill one another or rip each other’s clothes off. Ms Torre keeps building the sexual tension between Cole and Summer scene after scene, to the point where our hands start shaking as we impatiently turn the pages in search of a climax. This tension never declines, never fizzles, never loses momentum, every fleeting touch between the characters buzzing with promise and only sweetening the anticipation.
“There should be laws against men who could kiss like that. With a mouth that dominated yet begged. Tongue that teased yet delivered. Tastes that dipped into an addiction stream and hooked a woman after just the first hit.”
It’s a story that focuses on setting the foundations for the emotional connection between the two main characters, not on instant gratification, to such a degree that once we reach the apex of the storyline, there is no doubt in our minds that these characters belong together. Overall, this story might lack that edgy, spicy tang that we have come to expect from Ms Torre, but her character development is no less thorough, no less compelling or seductive, and her prose is as polished as ever. The celebrity-falling-for-the-girl-next-door scenario is nothing we haven’t seen before, but this author’s take on it has her signature stamp all over it. She has given us a fearless, outspoken heroine who is in no way intimidated by the hero’s fame or riches, and a strong, dominant leading man whose self-awareness compels us to like him from the get-go, which coupled with Ms Torre’s vibrant writing style—and her ability to ‘reinvent’ it with each new project—has made this book an addictive delight start to finish.
“I was raised to believe that ‘real men’ had manners, and weren’t picky, and didn’t wear aftershave that attracted mosquitoes.”