This book didn't work for me at all. I read this because I'd read the first book in the series and for the most part enjoyed it and wanted to see what happened with the rest of the family.
I'm not a big fan of friends to lovers story lines. To me, that seems like a huge betrayal of friendship. It's like someone isn't really a friend because they have an ulterior motive, and that makes me angry. Every once in a while though, I pick up a book with that story line and it is written in such a way that I'm okay with it, but this was not one of those books. In fact, this book sort of confirmed and emphasized all the this I find wrong with "friends to lovers" story lines. I found the way friendship was abused in this story to be kind of horrifying. Let me further explain.
Three years ago, Connor Garrett lost his wife, Jesse, in a car accident. She'd been his first and only love, the two having been together since they were in high school. In one moment he lost his entire future and he's not sure how to move on. Now it's him and his alcohol in a big empty house, remembering everything he ever did wrong in his marriage and all he'll never have. He has his family and his friends to help him get through this. One of those friends is Liss. She was friends with both he and his wife, and now has taken on the role of bringing Connor food on a regular basis, for fear that he won't remember to eat otherwise.
When Liss is thrown out of her rental house and can't find another place to stay, due to an ex ruining her credit (which kind of doesn't make sense if the town is as small as it seems, but anyway), Connor offers to let her stay with him. This is when things get complicated because turns out, Liss has a crush on Connor. She's had a crush on Connor since she was a teenager. And even worse, turns out that even though he was dating her friend, when that friend went away to college, Liss harbored hopes of him deciding he wanted her instead of Jesse and was devastated when he proposed to his girlfriend. She even says she ran off during the wedding reception and cried her heart out, while wearing her bridesmaid dress because good friend that she was, she was, of course, part of the wedding party. Sorry, that's not a friend. You don't lust after your friend's boyfriend like that. Yuck.
Connor and Jesse are married for eight years. Happily married. Oh sure, they have their issues, but nothing more than typical marriage type issues. Still, Liss is longing for Connor. Finally, Jesse dies and she has her chance. She steps in and tries to play the wife, acting like his house is her own and buying him groceries - even though Connor wants his wife, not a replacement wife. Connor thinks she's just being a friend because she was friends to both he and Jesse.
This is the point where I find this isn't even a "friends to lovers" story but more a Single White Female type story, but maybe that's just me. Maybe I could have accepted this story if Liss had begun to develop feelings for Connor after Jesse's death. Maybe if they'd grieved together, and grown closer in their shared loss. But to say she always wanted him? That she ached for him while he was married to her friend? She needs mental help. She should talk to Sadie, Connor's future sister-in-law who is a professional counselor.
After living in the house together for a while, things get a little awkward, Connor accidentally grabbing Liss' underwear when it's in the dryer, and then Liss walking in on him in his underwear. This is the point where it starts to hit Connor that he's been without sex for three years and now there's a somewhat attractive woman living in his house. Pretty soon, this woman is throwing herself at him. He's a guy, so he has sex with her, but he's pretty clear about it just being sex. In fact, he tells her many times that he wants nothing more than sex, and she doesn't seem to be able to take that answer. She's literally throwing her naked self at him and continues to do so, despite him saying he doesn't love her, doesn't want to love anyone. They finally get to a point in which she says if he doesn't love her, then he'll even lose her as a friend. She gives him an ultimatum. I guess this is where we're supposed to believe that he sees the light and realizes he does in fact love her. But to me, it read more like, may as well keep her, easier than finding someone else and he didn't want to be alone forever.
Suffice it to say, I didn't find this love story to be very convincing. I thought Liss was kind of pathetic and so very, very desperate. I did not like her at all. She waited around for her friend to die to get her hands on the man she wanted. (Wouldn't be surprised if she had something to do with the car wreck, but that's just my twisted mind.) Then she took advantage of the fact that he was painfully lonely and sad and wallowing in his grief and hadn't had sex in years. He settled for her because she was convenient. He liked having sex with her and he appreciated what she did for him, but I never felt he loved her.
One other thing I didn't like about this book though, and it bothered me a lot, was the need to try to describe the dead wife as having been inadequate in bed. Is that some rule in romance books - the only great sex the characters can have is with each other? That seemed so cruel and unnecessary. How can you say this man is so sad and grieving, and then try to say the wife he's grieving was kind of boring in bed?
What I'd really like to read would be a novella/prequel about Connor and Jesse, though I suspect that won't happen because well, they don't get a happy ever after, do they?
As much as I disapproved of the romance in this story, there must be something of quality to the storytelling for me to feel this wound up about a story. The characters are interesting, and realistic. Obviously, I care about the characters, otherwise, I wouldn't get so angry about the things that happen to them. This isn't by any means a bad book, I just didn't like what happened in the book. I especially liked some of the scenes between Connor and his brother, Eli, thought those scenes were more poignant than any of the scenes between Connor and Liss. I really liked Eli and Sadie from the first book, so was glad to see some of them in this book.
I received a copy via NetGalley.