Friday, October 13, 2017

Best of My Love - Susan Mallery (HQN - May 2016)

Series: Fool's Gold CA (Book 20)

To overcome her painful past, baker Shelby Gilmore goes on the hunt for a friend -- a male friend -- to convince her stubborn psyche that men can be trusted. But where in a town as small as Fool's Gold will the petite blonde find a guy willing to not date her?

Dark, charming Aidan Mitchell puts the "adventure" in Mitchell Adventure Tours…and into the beds of his many willing female tourists. Until he realizes he's inadvertently become that guy -- the one-night Casanova -- and worse, everyone in town knows it. Maybe Shelby's boy/girl experiment will help him see women as more than just conquests so he can change his ways and win back his self-respect.

As Aidan and Shelby explore the secret lives of men and women, the heat between them fires up the Fool's Gold rumor mill. If no one believes they're just friends, maybe they should give the gossips something to really talk about!

Fantastic book. This may be my favorite out of the series because it was emotional, fun, and definitely different than the others. Aidan and Shelby are two people who are determined to make changes in their lives. Aidan is a good-looking charmer of a guy, with a reputation as a ladies' man. Then he is confronted with the realization that he doesn't like the man he has become. He's determined to avoid women for a while until he can find a way to earn back his self-respect. Shelby is an attractive young woman who really wants what her friends have - a man to love and a family of her own. But an abusive childhood has left her unable to trust men, which makes finding that happy future more difficult. Shelby decides that what she needs is a man she can be friends with and who can show her that men can be trusted.

I loved the way the book started, with Aidan suffering from a hangover and regrets. It is easy to see his pain, both physical and mental. He wasn't in the best shape to deal with Shelby's questions and comments, which left him confused about her reasons. I loved her arrival a few days later to put an unusual idea in front of him. She proposes that they become friends for the next six months. Just friends, no sex. Instead, they will hang out together, giving them a chance to get to know each other. Shelby will learn to trust that he won't hurt her, and Aidan will learn to see women as something other than bedmates.

The idea is pretty simple. They will hang out together, taking turns doing "girl things" or "boy things." This will give each of them a peek into the other's world and hopefully expand their understanding. There was so much opportunity for fun here and the book totally delivered on it. Shelby introduced Aidan to lunches with the girls at Jo's, baby showers, and - gasp! - pedicures and talking about feelings. Aidan shared outdoor excursions, poker with the boys, and pool. I admit to laughing out loud during the trip to the shelter and Aidan's search for a "manly" dog and ending up with Charlie. One thing that is supposed to be completely off the table is the idea of being anything more than friends. Letting sex or romantic feelings intrude would interfere with their goal. Of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and both of them find moments of attraction creeping into their get-togethers.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. Things started out a bit awkward as neither is used to encounters with the opposite sex not having the potential for more. There was a lot of teasing as they became more comfortable with each other and seemed to delight in pushing the envelope of gender events. In the midst of all the fun, there were also moments of seriousness as each opened up about the events that have led to their issues. I loved the support they each provided as they dealt with those issues. As the weeks went on and their friendship deepened neither was willing to admit that there was something more going on. Strangely enough, it was Aidan who realized it first, and I loved watching him come to terms with the idea. Shelby resisted hard, insisting to herself and others that it was just friendship, even after they had added "with benefits" to the description. When she could no longer deny the truth, she panicked and pushed Aidan away. In previous books, when there was a breakup, the ladies would descend on the wronged woman and commiserate. This book continued its turnabout with an unexpected twist in the process that was a riot to read. I loved Aidan's patience as Shelby worked through her fears, and the kick in the pants that Shelby received from her friend Madeline. The ending was sweet and romantic and perfect for the two of them.

There were also plenty of other things going on in our characters' lives. Shelby has her work in the bakery she co-owns with Amber. She has many ideas of ways to expand the business, but Amber isn't always as enthusiastic. It turns out that there is more going on there than Shelby knows until Amber hits her with an unexpected offer. I loved all the support and encouragement that Shelby received, not just from Aidan but from so many people. Meanwhile, Aidan is dealing with family issues, stemming from his father's actions. I really liked his relationship with his brother Nick and how his support eventually helps Nick take control of his life. I ached for both of them as they finally accepted the truth of what had to be done. It's a nice lead-in to the new series, and I can't wait to read the stories of the three other Mitchell brothers.

No comments:

Post a Comment