It takes courage to choose love…
Internet security expert Michael Valentine knows his place in Kacey Hamilton's life. The soap opera star lives in two worlds: glamorous Hollywood and small town Santa Raquel, where she volunteers with him at The Lemonade Stand women's shelter. The key to their friendship is maintaining boundaries. And after an accident years ago left him badly scarred, he won't expect anything more. But when threats against Kacey escalate, Michael will stop at nothing to protect her. Even if his investigation means confronting more than just her attacker as Kacey's interest in him starts to go deeper than friendship…
Good friends to lovers story. Kacey is a Hollywood actress who, when not working, volunteers at The Lemonade Stand, a shelter for abused women. There she met Michael, an internet security expert who also volunteers at the shelter. They have become very good friends. When Kacey discovers that someone is posting unflattering pictures and innuendos of her on the internet, she asks Michael to investigate.
I liked Kacey. She recently realized that her life was going in a direction she didn't like and resolved to change it. She has cut back on the partying and drinking and spent more time in Santa Raquel with her sister Lacey and is slowly repairing their relationship. She likes her Hollywood life and work as an actress, and also cherishes her time away, where she can recharge with the peace and quiet of the beach. It is interesting to see how she has compartmentalized her life, with the two parts being completely separate.
I liked Michael, too. He's badly scarred from an accident ten years earlier which has affected the way he lives his life. He has his work, his family, and his friends, but tends to avoid crowds and strangers. He doesn't like feeling like an object of pity. His relationship with his family can be strained at times, but there's no doubt that the love is there. I especially liked his closeness to his brother Willie and his willingness to alter his own life to help Willie straighten out his.
I enjoyed the relationship between Michael and Kacey. The connection between them is obvious from the start. I loved how Kacey was so comfortable with Michael and able to tell him about the photo problem. It's also pretty clear from the beginning that Michael feels more than friendship toward Kacey, but his problem with his scars makes him certain that anything more is impossible. He doesn't seem to realize that the scars make no difference to her. I loved how Kacey saw past them to the man he was. Through most of the book, both Kacey and Michael are so determined not to let anything harm their friendship that they fight the feelings that are growing between them. But when something terrible happens to Kacey, it is Michael she reaches out to, and their two worlds start to overlap in unexpected ways. I loved Michael's tenderness and willingness to step outside his comfort zone to help her. I enjoyed their talk after the Hollywood event when they finally acknowledged some of what they were feeling. Their conversation about boundaries and rules was pretty amusing but typical of them both. When they took that next step, it was more than either had imagined possible.
But both are in for a shock when Kacey identifies one of her attackers. I never saw that one coming, and I wasn't sure how they would deal with it. I thought Kacey's strength and compassion were amazing. I ached for Michael and the effect it had on the dream he'd only just started to believe in. I loved Kacey's big moment at the end, and how she took one thing that he had said to her and ran with it. I also enjoyed the help she received from her accomplice. I hope to see more of them in later books to see how their future plays out.
The other mystery, that of who was stalking Kacey and posting the pictures was also solved. This culprit was not much of a surprise. I would like to have seen more in the way of consequences, but in the big picture it ended up being pretty unimportant.