This romantic-suspense novel brings together a man who’s a trouble magnet with a woman who’s determined to prove his innocence.
In his mid-20s, Nick Allen is bad news, or at least that’s what people have said since his girlfriend, Sienna Brown, blew up in a car explosion. She was driving Nick’s Mustang, but her family blames Nick for neglecting to maintain the car, which he bought from the Browns’ dealership. Al Thomas, owner of the San Antonio, Texas, coffee shop/bookstore where they all used to work, says “The best thing for Nick would be to leave town”—though self-interest plays a role; Nick is opening a rival place just as Al is retiring with plans to leave the enterprise to his son, Blaine, a cocky 24-year-old. Quinn Corbin and her BFF Tory Taylor, both 24, think Nick is innocent—and “delicious.” The summer before Quinn starts teaching second grade and Tory returns to law school in Austin, Quinn begins exploring a relationship with Nick while Tory does some legal work for Al, somewhat uncomfortably given his anger over Nick’s coffee shop. After a tragedy that Nick is again blamed for, Tory vows to clear Nick’s name. Through twists and turns full of danger, surprise, and drama, more than one truth emerges. Lum (The Doctor, the Chef or the Fireman, 2017, etc.) writes a fast-paced novel full of emotional highs and lows. At times, the melodrama is overstated; for example, simply catching sight of her reflection in Nick’s sunglasses is “crazy strange” to Quinn. In general, though, Lum nicely captures the big feelings of young people getting started in life, like when Quinn’s excited about buying school supplies for her first time teaching solo. Some elements are too familiar, like the sassy gay best friend (“Honey, you know I moved to San Antonio for the street tacos and brown men”) or a contrived reason for jealousy (it’s just a big misunderstanding, naturally), but Lum keeps the plot suspenseful with alternating present-tense narrators, effective red herrings, and unexpected revelations.
An enjoyable romantic drama that keeps readers guessing.