by Jayci Lee
Series: The Heirs of Hansol #2
Also in this series: Temporary Wife Temptation
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
She’s done waiting for what she really wants…
“If I don’t have you after that kiss,
I’ll burn to dust from the inside out…”
Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend. But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…
Harlequin Desire is hitting it out of the park lately with these gorgeous covers! I loved the previous super-tropey book in this series and this one is no different. It’s got the best friend’s little sister trope with a bit of age gap (the hero is eight years older than the heroine) and all of the wonderful banter and humor.
Adelaide is convinced that the reason her grandmother won’t give her a place in Hansol, the family fashion company, is because of her party animal image from college. So, she comes up with the idea to run a charity competition to design sensory-friendly formalwear to “rehabilitate” her image – and to prove to her grandmother that she’s capable of handling the responsibility. But she knows she needs some help, so she decides to enlist Michael, head of the PR company that Hansol works with. Problem is, he’s also the man she’s had a crush on for years – and her brother’s best friend. Ever since his divorce, Michael’s been pining after Adelaide as well, but surely they can rekindle their friendship and work together for two months on the fashion show. Right?
“Adelaide, your work is so important to you—”
“Let me set some ground rules for this relationship. I get to have you whenever I want, wherever I want, and I want to have you right here tonight. Got it?”
Adelaide was so much fun. She knows she’s a talented designer, and she also knows that she grew up quite privileged, so she feels it’s her responsibility to help others get a voice in the fashion industry. Adelaide’s had a crush on Michael since she was a kid and she’s always known it’s unrequited. While she tried to ignore it, especially after his marriage, she can’t help but feel like there’s some serious chemistry between them. She’s used to being treated like the baby of the family and as she works with Michael to plan the event, the slow realization that he does see her as a competent woman and not just the little girl he used to tease is captivating.
“The man had told her he loved her last night, and now he was pretending nothing happened. Her grandmother was important. Her dreams were important. But so was love. Love was very important.”
I had a bit of a harder time with Michael. He has – in his mind – good reasons for not giving in to the attraction he feels for Adelaide, but his ways of putting distance between them mean reinforcing the “kid sister” relationship that’s hurtful to her. Sure, he’s practically a part of the family, owing to his close relationship with her older brother Garrett, and he is eight years older than her. Michael repeatedly tells her they don’t have a future – without telling her why – though they both believe they have to keep their relationship a secret in order to avoid tanking her reputation and prospects with the company. I didn’t buy Michael’s reasons for not telling Adelaide his secret, and honestly, this is definitely one of those situations where a simple conversation would’ve saved so much heartache for both characters. But the pining, angst and eventual steaminess in this book is absolutely stellar and worked for me.
The side characters are lovely, especially Grandma. I loved the family dinners and how important Adelaide’s family was to her, and it was nice to see Garrett and Natalie again. The specific charity Adelaide is raising money for is an autism charity, so various characters mention friends or relatives on the spectrum, and there’s one small bit with an actually autistic character. I’m not on the spectrum myself, but I thought it was respectfully done, and I was fascinated by the discussions of the various alterations Adelaide and her fellow designers made to make the clothing sensory-friendly. The only critique I can make about it, and it’s a minor and very personal one, is that the charity they’re supporting is an autism awareness charity called LearnAutism, which reminds me a bit too much of the highly controversial Autism Speaks. In terms of actual cons, the ending was much too quick for me – there’s the reconciliation, a proposal, and then, bam!, the book is over. I know part of it’s a constraint of being a category romance, but I really would’ve liked to see more of Adelaide and Michael afterwards in an epilogue.
Overall, while I didn’t love this as much as the first book, this was still a great romance, and Jayci Lee is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me!