An elementary school principal with a Navy SEAL body woos a down-to-earth florist who realizes romance is worth fighting for.
Eden Harwood is too busy being a single mom to her 10-year-old and managing her thriving business to go on a date. Veteran Gabe Caldera really wants to change her mind. But when do two adults with too many obligations find the time to explore the possibility that they might be perfect for each other? It may have to be in the parking lot of the school where Gabe is the principal, or his office, or on a soccer field, or in a car in a secluded spot off the road. Long (Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, 2017, etc.) sets up a playful courtship between her protagonists, with every rushed conversation ending on a cliffhanger that they pick up the next time they cross paths. She’s also skilled at ratcheting up the sexual tension alongside the emotional connections that the two build through their repartee, which may make the reader nostalgic for a time before everyone filled out online dating profiles. The charm of the novel also comes from the fact that its setting has been fleshed out over several books, and the cast of characters in the town has expanded and deepened, echoing the author’s Pennyroyal Green historical romance series. The novel varies its tone well in the first half, mixing comic dialogue with hints of Gabe's and Eden’s secret depths. Though it succumbs a little to melodrama in the second half, when Eden’s past comes back to town, the overall impression is of lightness and hope. This blend of sweetness and conflict evokes Nora Roberts’ early Americana.
The fourth novel in the Hellcat Canyon series highlights Long’s deftness at staging small-town romance.