Memories of teen heartbreak surface when a Silicon Valley businesswoman at a personal and professional crossroad returns to her roots in California hill country—and runs into her first love.
Long (Wild at Whiskey Creek, 2016, etc.) brings us back to Hellcat Canyon in this third novel in her contemporary romance series. The town and its residents will provide a familiar backdrop to readers of the previous books, who will place Avalon Harwood as the daughter and sister of recurring characters and invest in her losses and dreams. Chief among them is Avalon’s adolescent soul mate, Mac Coltrane, who never loved anyone like he did his childhood frenemy and has felt unmoored all his life since their parting. The son of a rich resident of the town, Mac reinvented himself after the family money vanished but avoids emotional ties. Meeting after a dozen years, the former couple find themselves quarreling over the rightful ownership of his old house and bickering as they skate around the truth of why their love ended so abruptly. Renewing their childhood pattern of smirking competition, they lob sallies at each other through creative revenge tactics, but the game is underlaid by their decadeslong unconsummated sexual tension. As comic scenes alternate with moments of potent memory and sizzling desire, the new relationship unfolds in the manner of a tango. Cheeky repartee, liquid imagery, and quiet reflection on roads not taken show the author’s expanding stylistic palette (notwithstanding the clichéd allusion to rom-com classic Say Anything, which seems to be epidemic in the genre).
For fans of Americana romance and Susan Elizabeth Phillips and those who root for the healing of a bruised heart, especially one that scorned romance or let it go as a childish thing.