Series: Darling, VT #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A kiss to last a lifetime
Aiden Gallagher was only five years old when he appeared in a photograph on the Kissing Bridge. The town of Darling, Vermont, has used AidenÔÇÖs image on the famed bridgeÔÇölocal legend has it that a kiss there results in everlasting loveÔÇöas part of its tourism campaign. Now, twenty years later, Aiden is asked to recreate the moment with the woman he once kissed: Laurel Stone.
Recently divorced, thereÔÇÖs nothing Laurel wants less than to pretend happily-ever-after with Aiden. As teenagers, their romance was no fairy taleÔÇöand Laurel has never quite forgiven Aiden for breaking her heart. But now that she is back in her hometown, and keeps bumping into police officer Aiden, Laurel canÔÇÖt deny that thereÔÇÖs still a strong flicker between her and her old flame. Could it be that the Kissing Bridge is working its magic on Laurel and AidenÔÇöand that all true love ever needed was a second chance?
Somebody Like You is the start of a fantastic new series by author Donna Alward. The first in her Darling VT series, this story focuses on Laurel, a woman facing major changes as she disentangles herself from her ex and embarks on a new venture, one she hopes to distract her from her aching heart.
From the get go I was enthralled with Laurels situation. Facing down the past as she moves to her hometown and tries to begin her life anew. Laurel is a complex character; emotional, introspective, and guarded. So very guarded and for good reason. As her backstory comes to light, it’s easy to understand why and the more and more I got to know her, the more she felt like a friend, one I wanted to protect. But, this is where Aiden comes in. Aiden, a part of her history, is at first is a foe but as Laurel slowly lowers her defenses, a beautiful love story emerges.
Laurel could really use a champion and Alward creates a thoughtful and considerate gentlemen in Aiden. The more we got to know him, the more he infiltrates Laurels life, the more he shows his classic hero tendencies and his swoon-worthiness. When he steps up for Laurel, he does so in a big way that shows his undeniable feelings for Laurel (YAY Aiden!!). This doesn’t mean Laurel appreciates it fully, but she is a character learning how to trust her feelings at the same time they are being tested like she’s never known.
There are a slew of secondary characters that fill out the story line and drive plot changes. Willow is a new friend to Laurel who provides a solid sounding board and good advice. While Alward does an amazing job with all her characters I really appreciate how she fills out the storyline with a character like George. Sometimes a story has teaching moments and Alward really handles George’s backstory with grace ( and I love how it shows Aiden influence Laurel and her interactions with George). This really endeared me to Alwards storytelling and kicked this up from a 4.5 star rating to a solid 5 star read. I am very excited to continue the series and am happy we get to know Willow and Aiden’s brother Ethan more. I’m happy to recommend this book.
~ Review by Cyndi
If youÔÇÖd like to read the prequel to the Darling, VT series, visit http://www.donnaalward.com/ And sign up for her newsletter.┬á (A box will pop up when go visit the site inviting you sign up. ┬áThe link to the download etc. is in the confirmation e-mail theyÔÇÖll receive when you sign up.)
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By the time they were through, it was nine oÔÇÖclock and time to open. Being a Saturday, business was brisk. Her dad dropped off the supplies and offered to stay to help cover the tagging, but with the heavy shopping traffic, Laurel decided to wait until things died down. For now the tarps covered the tags, and sheÔÇÖd focus on her customers. Otherwise her anger would get the best of her and that was bad for business. By six p.m., things had slowed considerably.
Laurel had been going flat out for ten hours, stopping for only fifteen minutes to run to The Purple Pig for a sandwich. Her stomach growled, her feet hurt, there was dirt beneath her nails and she really, really wanted a shower and a glass of wineÔÇöin that order. Laurel had just dragged out the hose to water the fruit trees when a half- ton truck drove into the lot and parked in an empty space.
The driver hopped out, and her heart slammed against her ribs as she immediately realized how she must look. Dirty jeans, mannish golf shirt that did nothing for her figure,
scrubby ponytail through a Ladybug Garden Center ball cap, and prob ably smudges of dirt on her face and arms. Not that she was trying to look nice for Aiden or anything, but it was him getting out of the truck, looking sexy as hell in faded jeans and a T- shirt that stretched across
his chest and shoulders.
She could pretend she hadnÔÇÖt seen him. Resolutely she turned on the hose and started watering the apple trees.
ÔÇ£Hey, Laurel,ÔÇØ he called out, and that erased any hope of avoiding him.
She turned off the hose and faced him. ÔÇ£Aiden. What brings you by? Looking for a shrub or tree or something?ÔÇØ
Keep it businesslike, she reminded herself. The last thing she needed was for him to know that he had the ability to fluster her.
ÔÇ£I heard about what happened.ÔÇØ
Of course he had.
ÔÇ£DonÔÇÖt even. IÔÇÖm still pissed.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I know itÔÇÖs not what you needed. Did Crystal tell you that you werenÔÇÖt the only one hit?ÔÇØ
Crystal must be the offi cer from this morning. ÔÇ£She did.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Well, that must make you feel better.ÔÇØ
She stared at him. ÔÇ£Better? Seriously? Since I opened a month ago, IÔÇÖve had to have the driveway re- graded, IÔÇÖve had to replace shrubs that were stolen from out front, deal
with a break-in and vandalism, and now tagging. Trust me, Aiden, the only thing that would feel better is if you actually did your job and found out who was doing this.ÔÇØ
She turned the hose back on.
He waited. He waited a long time. Several seconds, maybe thirty. Which was really not that long at all but definitely felt that way. She was watering the third tree when he sighed. ÔÇ£ YouÔÇÖre upset.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£No shit, Sherlock.ÔÇØ
He met her gaze, and his eyes were soft, even though sheÔÇÖd basically just accused him of not doing his job. The understanding she saw there made her stomach churn. She didnÔÇÖt want to lash out, but that was what she did when she was hurt. Angry.
Stopping by was kind and thoughtful. She kept trying to make him out to be a bad guy, and he kept being nice. It definitely made it difficult for her to hate him. Particularly since her biochemistry betrayed her at every turn. Even now, when she was utterly preoccupied with the dayÔÇÖs events, she seemed to notice everything. His hair, his eyes, the breadth of his chest, the armband tattoo that looked like some sort of Celtic braid, peeking just below the hem of his T- shirt sleeve. The shape of his lips . . .
He muttered something that was as creative a curse as sheÔÇÖd ever heard, and sounded suspiciously Irish. She couldnÔÇÖt help but laugh, and tried to clamp her lips shut again. But not before he saw and heard, and his eyes took on an impish gleam.
ÔÇ£ YouÔÇÖre not fine. YouÔÇÖre tired and upset and rightfully so. YouÔÇÖre also just as stubborn as you always were.ÔÇØ He put his hands on his hips. ÔÇ£I take it youÔÇÖre not adverse to help, just help from me in particular.ÔÇØ
Her face heated. Dammit.
ÔÇ£Maybe this could be my penance,ÔÇØ he suggested, giving her a quick grin. And she wished she could take him seriously, but he always seemed to be teasing. It was one of the things sheÔÇÖd really liked about him and hated at the same time. Particularly now, when she wanted to be, if not mad, completely unaffected. And she wasnÔÇÖt. He was trying to cajole her out of her mood and it was working.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs Saturday night. DonÔÇÖt you have a hot date or something?ÔÇØ She turned on the hose again. Focused on the large plastic pot holding a cherry tree.
ÔÇ£Nope. Free as a bird.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Come on, Laurel. Peace offering. Manual labor for you to stop hating me.ÔÇØ
She glanced over at him. ÔÇ£Why do you care so much?ÔÇØ
He was quiet for a moment, and to her surprise the teasing expression left his face. After a while he answered, his voice a little lower. ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know why I care what people think so much. I always have. I donÔÇÖt like anyone to be mad at me. Maybe it has something with being one of the younger siblings in the family. I donÔÇÖt know. I just know that I donÔÇÖt like it that youÔÇÖre still so angry.ÔÇØ His intense blue gaze locked with hers. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs starting to become a personal mission to win you over. To atone for past sins.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Good luck,ÔÇØ she said dryly, more touched than she wanted to admit.
His boyish grin was back. ÔÇ£Come on, Laurel. You know you canÔÇÖt hold out forever. You think IÔÇÖm hot.ÔÇØ He had the audacity to wink at her.
She rolled her eyes.
ÔÇ£You do. You have a thing for gingers. And you have to admit, I grew up kinda good.ÔÇØ His hands were still on his hips and he tensed his muscles so that his shoulders and chest tightened beneath the thin T- shirt.
ÔÇ£I think youÔÇÖre a bit taken with yourself, to be honest,ÔÇØ she replied. And tried not to smile. She didnÔÇÖt want to be charmed, but he was incorrigible.
Damn, his voice was all silky- smooth now. ÔÇ£Yes, Mr. Narcissist?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£You know damn well you want to hate me and you canÔÇÖt. Besides, I saw your face just now. Maybe if I took off my shirt . . .ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Would you like to go somewhere private to be with yourself?ÔÇØ she asked, biting the inside of her lip. She shouldnÔÇÖt be enjoying this so much. And she wouldnÔÇÖt be, if she thought he was serious. But he was teasing her.
Like he used to do when they were friends. And today . . . she swallowed against a ball of emotion. Today she needed a friend, and all sheÔÇÖd had were well- meaning customers.
She looked over at him. ÔÇ£Jeez, Aiden. YouÔÇÖre looking a little flushed. I think you could stand to cool off.ÔÇØ And before he could reply, she flicked her wrist and aimed the spray of the hose right at the center of his chest.
The abrupt shock on his face was gratifi cation enough, but then he grinned and reached to take away the hose. She danced away, still spraying him, admiring how the shirt now clung to his skin and the little droplets lit up his face and hair. A laugh bubbled up through her chest and out her mouth as she darted around the trees, dragging the hose with her. But there were too many pots and not enough room to maneuver and within seconds he caught her, wrapped one strong arm around her and wrenched the hose away with the other, spraying her in the process.
Cold water dripped from her nose, down her neck, over her bare arms. Aiden held her close against his body, close enough she could feel the hardness of his muscles, and thrilled at it. Their breaths came fast, their chests rising and falling with both laughter and the exertion of the struggle over the hose. But it was the way he was looking down at her right now that made her feel as if the lack of air was strangling her lungs. All it would take was the tiniest move and heÔÇÖd be kissing her. Her gaze dropped to his lipsÔÇö heÔÇÖd always had fine lipsÔÇö and she swallowed, nervous and scared at her reaction and turned on as hell.
She looked up, which was a mistake. Because he was staring at her lips. And his arm tightened just a little bit at the hollow of her back. Oh God . . .
A car horn honked and Laurel jumped back. He let her go, but the gravity of the moment remained.