Blaze of Winter
By Elisabeth Barrett
Book #2 in the Star Harbor series
Winter heats up in this hot new Star Harbor romance, as another sexy Grayson brother, a wickedly handsome writer, plots his happily ever after with a sweet stranger.
Frustrated with her job in Boston, social worker Avery Newbridge welcomes the opportunity to reassess her life when family asks her to help manage the Star Harbor Inn. Trying to figure out her future is overwhelming enough, but she doesn’t count on distraction in the form of one Theo Grayson, the gorgeous, green-eyed author who she knows is trouble from the moment he saunters into the inn.
Not only does he have a talent for writing swashbuckling adventures, but Theo also has a soft spot for big-hearted damsels in distress, especially a woman who’s great at helping everyone—except herself. Avery’s demons challenge him, but for desire this hot, he isn’t backing down. With every kiss and heated whisper Theo promises her his heart . . . if only Avery is willing to open up and accept it.
Theo Grayson takes his brother's advice and returns to Star Harbor to see if he can break his writer's block. Avery Newbridge is on leave from her job in Boston as a social worker as she reassesses her life following a troubling experience with a client. She's helping out her Aunt Kate, who is recovering from cancer treatment and needs help running the Star Harbor Inn. Theo decides to take a room at the Inn when things get a little close with his two brothers on the houseboat. He gets one look at Avery and is hooked.
Theo's a renowned author who goes by the name of T. R. Grayson but Avery never makes the connection, even though everyone else in the town is aware of the favorite son's success, including her sister who's married to Theo's best friend. It works for Theo because he doesn't have to deal with fame infatuation and Avery is a challenge.
Avery's conflict with having a relationship of any kind with Theo because she sees him as a distraction was a bit hard to swallow. I struggled with the concept of her not being able to just go out with the guy as she tries to figure out whether she wants to continue as a social worker and her never ending angst about it was really annoying. Their connection seemed to be based more on lust than having a lot in common. Theo's plotting to break down Avery's barriers bordered on being manipulative, which may have been intentional as he had his own transformation in the story but it was a turn off. I liked the story but the romance had too many weaknesses.
As with the previous book in the series, there was an element of mystery in this one as strange noises and occurrences were happening at the Inn and they weren't certain if paranormal elements were at play or something sinister was in their midst. It made the story more interesting, even if the final resolution was a bit out there. What really works in this story is the spirit of community in this small town, even though everyone knows everybody's business. The secondary characters and relationships matter, providing humor and a sense of small town fellowship. It made me want to relocate.
I liked Avery and Theo but didn't fall in love with them individually or as a couple. Avery's whining and Theo's manipulative nature left me lukewarm, but I really liked the story. I'm rating the book 3.5 stars but am rounding to 4 because it's a really good story in spite of the issues with the romance.
(I received an ARC from NetGalley.)