Five years ago Trey Barnes had the worst night of his life. His wife had just died, his newborn son Clay was barely clinging to life at the NICU. Not being able to cope with the idea of sleeping in their marriage bed, he checks into a hotel, turns off his phone and looks for a little oblivion at the bottom of a glass. At the sketchy bar down the street from his hotel he finds that drink, and oblivion. But trouble finds him there when he becomes a mark and is roofied and beaten by those trying to steal from him. When Trey wakes up in the hospital he has no recollection of the night before, and has to learn the horrible truth about his wife's death all over again.
Five years later, Trey is starting to feel whole again. His writing career is taking off again. His son Clay is healthy, curious & smart. Trey feels like he is finally waking up emotionally and physically. After years of not having any kind of lustful or even mildly noticing women in any kind of sexual way, he has certainly noticed Ressa Bliss, the children's librarian, at Clay's favorite library.
Ressa Bliss has certainly noticed Trey, although she always keeps their interactions friendly and professional. She regrets never learning his name before transferring to a new library, she also doesn't want any distractions in her life. She is focused on being the best foster mom she can be to her cousin's daughter.
When Ressa unexpectedly runs into Trey at literary conference, far from their kids & jobs, they both jump at the chance to notice each other more thoroughly in bed. A misunderstanding leads to harsh words being exchanged and their weekend ends on a sour note. Everything might have ended there if not for the fact that Clay and Ressa's foster daughter Neeci turn out to be in classmates in the same Kindergarten class. Clay and Neeci become fast friends and Trey is not about to less Ressa slip away from him again.
I liked the romance, I believed in their chemistry, and they had great flirty banter. I loved that despite the fact they came from very different backgrounds, they shared so much common ground. I loved their dates and the fun they had talking and enjoying books. Books are a huge part of the story. I loved how Ressa advocated for herself early one, setting boundaries with Trey, making sure their budding romance did not interfere with her parenting, making sure he cleared up all loses ends before they began dating.
But there was a lot of plot in the second half of the book complicating the romance. There were intrusive siblings, a romantically obsessed neighbor and secrets from the past coming back to haunt both Ressa and Trey. But I liked Ressa and Trey together even if I did eventually lose patience with Ressa determination to deny herself. When push came to shove she had a very hard time getting out of her own way & almost single-handedly wrecked their relationship through secret-keeping and an unwillingness to forgive herself. It is a testament to how genuinely attached Trey had become that he didn't even blink in taking her back.
(Random Aside: I loved this cover. Ressa looks so happy and smiling but it confused the heck out of me. From the cover and the fact I hadn't read the previous Barnes books, I simply assumed that Trey was a black man. He isn't. I was probably 25 percent into the book before I realized that. I kept puzzling over hair & eye descriptions of Trey and Clay, before I realized that I had just assumed incorrectly. I really did like how Walker eventually addressed they fact that they were in an inter-racial relationship in the book and how that wasn't by far the biggest issue they had to face. )
(Random Aside #2: I thought Walker did a good job with a librarian heroine except for the fact that it seemed like she had gone to college for undergrad degree in Library Science, which is not really a thing. Almost all Librarian jobs require a Masters Degree. That is a minor thing in the end.)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.