John Murphy is tormented by nightmares. A bestselling young-adult author, he writes the ultimate fantasy: stories where good always triumphs. He knows better. His past has shown him the worst in people—and in himself. When he moves next door to the sexy, vibrant Livvy—a woman completely unlike his usual one-night stands—he’s driven to explore every curve of her delicious body.
Pastry chef Livvy knows that giving in to the temptation that is John Murphy won’t lead to anything permanent, but she deserves a passionate summer fling. John discovers she’s as sweet as the confections she bakes while Livvy slowly unravels his secrets. But what will happen when she uncovers them all?
What does it mean when one finishes a novel and the first words out of her mouth are: “My God, what an incredible story!!” That’s exactly what happened when I read the last word in this romantic novel of joy and sorrow, pain and disappointment, life and dying, blessings and cursing. I got the novel from Net Galley some months ago and frankly, I can’t remember why I haven’t read it until now. But I have to tell you, it is one of the most riveting novels I have read recently.
John Murphy is the quintessential bad-ass guy–irreverent, sexy, going for what he wants when he wants it, yet under all that gritty surface lies the heart and soul of a hurting human being. He loves women as long as they don’t love him. He loves and protects his sister and her family but don’t try to talk him into one of his own. Why? Because he is cursed. And why is John Murphy cursed? Because his sick, perverted, evil-minded preacher step-father convinced him that his blood was cursed because his mother was a whore. And as if to add insult to injury, she died from cancer–a disease his step-father assured him was God’s punishment for living in sin so long. As a kid, John believed it all and he took the verbal and physical abuse because he was told that would save his sister from the curse he bore. Now John muddles through his life as a gifted, creative writer and artist but knowing that the monsters of his fantasy novels are really parts of himself. It’s how he keeps the demons in check.
Little did John know that meeting Livvy Andrews would forever change his life because Livvy would be the one person who could challenge all the beliefs upon which his life and his actions were based. She was also a survivor of a homelife that kept her imprisoned in fear–fear that her philandering father would one day be the cause of her mother’s emotional and mental breakdown. She had learned some very useful survivor skills and her mother’s kitchen–the room where she would hide from her mother’s deep disappointment and sorrow over her dad’s whoring–was her haven and became the place where he love of cooking and baking was born. Yet, in spite of her determination to have a marriage and family that were significantly different from what she had endured as a kid, she was drawn to John like a moth to the flame. He was man-candy, sex on a stick, and one who made it very clear that he would never be in for the white picket fence and 2.5 kids. No matter. The sexual electricity sparked and crackled between them and the game was on.
This novel is so beautifully written that the reader is aware of every up and down emotionally in both these characters. When John would have his paralyzing periods of flashback and doubt about his worthiness to have and love a woman like Livvy, I found myself holding my breath as I worried that it would all blow up in their faces. When they lied to each other and the hurts went so deep, I felt a sense of deep grieving. But the joy and sense of working out their differences was just as strong as the pain. The author has a way of using words that made the characters come alive and their living, breathing experiences became my own. It’s the kind of writing that brings me back to an author again and again.
This author has written a number of published works, many of which are erotic short stories and novellas, and some are full-length novels. I have read several of these publications but as far as I am concerned, this is one of the best. The full range of human emotion is here. Family and friendship, loyalty and caring, lying and betrayal, disappointment and anger–it’s all here and the reader experiences every single moment of it. If a reader is looking for a novel that will grab one’s imagination from word one, then you want to read this novel. All in all, it has everything that makes a romance novel really good. I hope you all will be sure and read it. It’s well worth the time and effort to do so.
I give it a rating of 4.75 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.