As an audiobook narrator, Clementine Cox has no trouble mastering the voices of space aliens, elven warriors, or even demon-possessed cats. But the moment she tries her hand at an erotic romance, she’s stumped. With her deadline looming, she books a week at a secluded cabin to restore her inner muse, telling her loving-but-overbearing family it’s a romantic getaway with her not-so-existent new boyfriend to keep them from worrying. She never expects them to invite themselves along to meet the new guy. Now, she has less than twenty-four hours to find a pretend boyfriend in order to save her job and, potentially, her sanity.
Workaholic Jake Donovan isn’t interested in a real relationship. After a broken engagement, all he wants to do is focus on keeping his brewpub, the Holy Grale, afloat. But when he finds out his favorite customer is in need of a fake boyfriend, and his business partners insist he take a much overdue vacation, he has no choice but to help Clem out. All he has to do is enjoy the sunshine, play nice with her family, and keep his hands to himself for the week.
But Jake’s not prepared to like waking up next to Clem every morning as much as he does. Or to feel so welcome by her quirky family. And as the line between real and fake starts to blur, he realizes one week might never be enough.
Jake Donovan has given everything to his baby, the Holy Grale brewpub! His time, energy, money, and effort have all gone into his work leaving no time for relationships. For Jake, the sacrifice has been absolutely worth it when he sees the faces of happy customers and a bottom line that doesn’t suck. What’s more, after a disastrous long-term relationship that ended in anger, hurt feelings, and a broken engagement, Jake isn’t sure he has it in him to be a good partner to anyone.
Since the day the Holy Grale opened, Jake’s world has been the front end, serving customers, filling orders, getting to know his regulars, and generally building the business. Among his favorite customers is Clementine Cox, a nerdy, low maintenance customer who always sits in the same spot, always orders the same beer, and always has her nose buried in a book. Though she isn’t the most talkative of customers, she and Jake have had a conversation or two, enough for Jake to know she’s intelligent, kind, and someone he may want to know a bit better. You know, if he were the dating kind.
Jake has no intention of acting on his inclinations toward Clementine until the day she announces her home has been burgled and she needs a fake boyfriend!
Clementine loves her time at the Holy Grale. The beer is excellent, the atmosphere is just right for working, and the customers and staff are completely welcoming and friendly. The bartender, Jake Donovan is especially kind and absolutely steps up to the plate when her world comes crashing down. Between the burglary and her completely overbearing and overprotective family, Clementine needs a break. Intent on getting away from the madness and completing her current project, Clementine announces a week away at the lake. When her family insists on joining her, she further announces it’s meant to be a romantic getaway.
Now, all Clementine has to do is find a boyfriend . . . .
The week at the lake is unlike anything Jake or Clementine saw coming. Clementine’s family is completely crazy, Jake is taking his role as fake boyfriend seriously, and Clementine’s head is swimming and her hormones are raging. Though she is normally very quiet, Jake gets Clementine to open up and what he finds is a naughty, witty, utterly intelligent mind wrapped in a sexy package. Clementine finds Jake’s commitment to his role endearing and his ability to handle the madness of her family stupefying. No man has ever stepped up for Clementine like Jake has and within days the lines between friendship and lovers is blurred.
The Bottom Line: I’m just going to put it right out there: if it weren’t for Clementine’s family, this book would have easily been a 4½ to 5 star read for me! In many instances, I can overlook a single obnoxious character, but an entire family was more than I could take. EVERY member of Clementine’s family rubbed me the wrong way and made it hard for me to completely enjoy this book. With that out of the way, the moments between Clementine and Jake, both at the lake and at the Holy Grale were my favorite moments and I found it so easy to root for them as a couple. What I especially enjoyed were all of Clementine’s quirks and idiosyncrasies which Jake totally accepted and learned to work with because of his feelings for Clementine. Of the two, Jake showed the most growth as a human being and character and that growth was a completely natural and believable response to his time with Clementine. With the exception of Clementine’s family, I adored this book: Jake and Clementine, the sweet, sexy moments, the witty dialogue, and especially the unique setting of the Holy Grale. It’s on to book two, Make Me Fall for another round of good beer, good characters, and good story.
After losing her job, her home, and her friends in her divorce, Nora Pitts is determined not to make the same mistakes when she starts over in the small town of Shadow Creek, Washington. No more slaving away in the lab at the expense of her social life, and definitely no more men. Ever. But making friends in her thirties is so much harder than she anticipated. And when it comes to her gorgeous yet obnoxious neighbor, it’s a whole lot easier to make enemies.
Eli Hardin doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for his uptight neighbor, until he overhears her so-called new friends making fun of her un-datable status. Suddenly he finds himself volunteering for a date with a woman who’s been leaving angry hate-notes in his mailbox, and in way over his head. Because all it takes is one disastrous date with Nora for Eli to fall hard.
But falling for Eli isn’t something Nora’s ready for—not when he’s her complete opposite, and especially not when he turns out to be the best friend she’s made in Shadow Creek. But as her attraction and her feelings for Eli grow hotter, resisting him might just lead to heartbreak anyway.
Eli Hardin delights in pissing off his neighbor, Nora! If he can turn the music up a little louder, he does; if he can use power tools a bit later into the night, he does; if he can disrupt her monthly book club meeting by mowing the lawn, he does. With every infraction, Eli inevitably receives a note in his mailbox asking him, quite politely to stop being such a jerk. Eli has no intention of stopping his juvenile behavior until the night the book club b*tch*s go too far. When Nora slips into her house from the back porch where the group is gathered, Eli overhears the “ladies” trash talking Nora. Without hesitation, Eli steps up to put the women in the place, defend Nora, and secure a date with her.
Nora Pitts isn’t the girl the guys clamor after, especially not guys who look like Eli Hardin. She’s quite prim and proper, likes her world ordered and organized, despises dirt and messes of any kind, and hates beer. No, Nora Pitts isn’t the girl the guys stumble over themselves to get to and she is keenly aware of this so when Eli Hardin asks her out, she goes into the date knowing they will not be at all compatible. In fact, Nora makes it verbally clear from the very beginning, she isn’t expecting anything to come from she and Eli’s date so there shouldn’t be any pressure to impress one another. Challenge accepted!
Eli finds Nora and all her quirks to be utterly delightful. In fact, after just one date, Eli has decided he quite likes Nora and wants to spend more time with her. Trouble is, Nora isn’t nearly as receptive, and it takes some effort on Eli’s part to work his way into Nora’s life. For Nora, Eli isn’t at all what she expected. Behind the juvenile stunts is a funny, intelligent man who quite literally understands the world she lives in. With similar chemistry degrees, Eli understands Nora’s nerdy, work life and accepts her quirks without judgement or hesitation. Even more surprising, Eli seems to be attracted to Nora and that is something she just can’t wrap her head around. Being accepted for who she is isn’t something has a lot of in her life which makes Eli an oddity.
The Bottom Line: Hell yes!! The Holy Grale brewpub got even better in round two and I loved every minute. In fact, I read this book in a single sitting and regret nothing. Nora and Eli are completely wonderful characters who make no sense in theory, but complete sense in practice. Eli’s laid back accepting nature is exactly what the more rigid Nora needs to fill in the gaps in her world, and Nora brings a bit of order and organization to Eli’s otherwise chaotic existence. If there was ever to be a couple more perfectly suited to another, I don’t know who they would be. My favorite part of this book had to be, hands down the way Eli so completely accepted Nora and her quirks. Not only does he accept her, but he finds ways to make her life a bit easier and less stressful. Right now, I can only see one more book coming in this series (Julia’s story), but I sincerely hope the author finds a way to keep this series going as I am loving it so much.
Eli marked off twenty-six and three-quarter inches as precisely as he could and lifted the blade of the circular saw.
“Oh my God, I soooo wasn’t kidding,” one of the women next door said loudly. “Nora really does need to get laid.”
His shoulders tensed. This wasn’t the first time he’d overheard the women loudly shit-talking his neighbor behind her back. He had no idea why she hung out with them.
“Maybe you should set her up with someone,” another woman added.
The other two laughed. “Can you imagine Nora on a date? She’s so uptight and frigid. Who would want to date her? No lay is worth that kind of torture. Can’t you just picture her busting out her bottle of sanitizer before the poor sap tries to hold her hand?”
His jaw tensed and he felt the last of his patience snap like an icicle in his warm hands. He sliced the saw through the wood, threw his protective glasses onto the ground, and marched over to the waist-high chain link fence. “I’d do it.”
All three women turned to look at him like he was a space alien who’d just beamed down to earth. The one who’d been talking the most leaned forward in her seat. “What did you just say?”
“You heard me. I’d go out with her.”
“You can’t be serious.”
The more this woman pushed, the more he wanted to put her in her place. No, Nora was not the kind of woman he would normally ask out—mainly because she was one of the few who didn’t seem to fall for his charm. In fact, he was pretty sure she didn’t think he had any charm whatsoever, but she was attractive and smart enough to read a book every month. That alone made her more dateable than half the population in this town. “Sure as hell am.”
The woman leaned forward, smiling at him like he was freshly caught prey in her snare. “If you’re looking for a date, I could show you a much better time.”
He shrugged, keeping his fake smile on his face. “No thanks. Backstabbing and mean isn’t my type.”
He probably enjoyed the shocked look on the woman’s face a little too much, but it was seriously fucking rude to trash-talk the hostess while sitting on her porch and eating her canapés.
The screen door slid open right at that moment. Nora walked out with a plate of decadent-looking mini-chocolate cakes that made his mouth water on sight. Her eyes darted from her friends to him and back again. “Um, what’s going on?”
He rested his hands against the old chain-link fence. “What’s going on is that your so-called friends are talking trash about your love life behind your back and don’t seem to think you can get a date. So I volunteered.”
“Volunteered. You and me. Tomorrow night at seven. I’ll drive.”
She slammed the cake tray onto the coffee table and set her hands on her hips. She looked around, like she couldn’t decide where to focus her anger. Of course she settled on him. “Who says I’d want to go out with you?”
He raised his eyebrow, liking the way she got flustered around him a little too much. “Got better plans?”
Even at the distance between them, he could see her suck in a breath. Her mouth hardened into a flat line, but she didn’t say no.
“Tomorrow. Seven. Dinner. Oh, and consider making new friends who aren’t so damn mean. These ladies don’t deserve any of those amazing-looking cakes.” He grabbed his plank of wood and headed into the house, wondering what the hell he’d just gotten himself into.
Sara Rider writes contemporary romance full of heart, heat, and happily ever after. She lives in British Columbia with her husband and daughters. She spends far too much time in public libraries and never leaves the home without her e-reader stuffed in her purse.