A reserved and vulnerable West Coast lawyer takes a chance on a stranger.
McAdam’s fiction debut, the first installment of a series, flows along fairly standard romance-novel templates. It opens with its likable California heroine, Santa Barbara attorney Amelia Crowley, in bed with yet another well-intentioned but lackluster lover. She ticks off in her head the list of personal rules she’s recently developed that are meant to reflect her realistic expectations (“Nothing demeaning”; “No submission. I am always in control”) but also signal the toll that her history of deep depression has taken on her personal life. She talks about those factors—her “personal pathological repression”—with her therapist, who echoes her worry that her depression has flattened her healthy sex life and counsels her to take more active steps to reconnect with her own sensuality. That advice is on her mind one morning when she visits Southwinds Coffee in Ventura on her way to court and encounters the shop’s smolderingly sexy owner, dreamy surfer guy Ryan Fielding. The two have instant romantic chemistry and begin flirting almost before Amelia’s first coffee cools, with the main thrust of the rest of the book the unfolding of their relationship. Ryan is practically perfect in every way: loving, gentle, patient, funny, and instantly, puppy-ishly loyal. Amelia is flawed, self-doubting, and emotionally needy, and the two are immediately, wildly compatible—especially in the bedroom, where Ryan’s passion promptly makes Amelia throw her rules out the nearest window. The conventional nature of all this is salvaged by the frank and sometimes-multilayered ways McAdam deals with Amelia’s depression issues; readers are periodically reminded about the kind of hell this character has gone through. And while Ryan’s nearly divine sensitivity and interest (he quickly reveals that he’s lusted after Amelia since they both attended the same high school) might be a sign of narrative insecurity—the story would certainly have been more absorbing if he was anywhere near as flawed as she is—the author does a wonderfully light and engaging job of portraying the development of a friendship alongside the explicit sexual acrobatics.
A steamy, sun-drenched California romance with some intriguingly serious undertones.