This was a CLASSIC romance. Like one of those that I used to read and sigh dreamily over when I was 16: Handsome, ex-champion swimmer dude, lovely (but sad) lady who are thrown together for some contrived reason, and then wham! they're doing it. And whoosh! it's love. If I read one of those early 90s romances today, I'd be all "sistuh, please" and act like I was too good for that crap now. But then this little gem, WONDERFULLY executed, brings back the classic formula is this awesome, modern way (well 2000s, anyway).
He: A property developer who is fighting with the city council to get all the permits for his beachfront property so that he can finally get his camp for underprivileged youths started. He's gun shy about getting into a relationship because of a rather traumatic childhood and then an ugly divorce so even though he's attracted to the h, he tries to keep it casual.
Conflict: They are both attracted to one another but there are a zillion issues keeping them apart - not least of which is that she's the mayor running in a highly contested re-election race and his property development is a hotbed issue for her campaign. They both also have a ton of difficult issues in their pasts that they need to overcome before really letting go.
What I really loved:
1) She's in a position of "power" and is awesome at it. She's the mayor and she's been a good mayor. Even though she's lived under her husband's shadow and even though she's been grieving for the loss of a man she loved. She's tireless, she works hard, and she's focused. But she's not a Hot Bitch. Which is what a lot of career women in romance are portrayed to be.
When she's vulnerable, she's not pathetic. She is still able to manage her life and you figure even if he was not around, she'd figure it out. Yeah! <First pump in the air.>
2) The dialogue was so non-cheesy I had to do a double-take once in a while. I mean, this story is as old as the worm living in Eve's apple, and Karina Bliss manages to make it all sound NEW and FUN. My hat off to you, Madam!
3) SO much going on. The book is packed. In a short amount of time we learn about their respective childhoods, their past relationships, their past lives, their current friendships, their likes and dislikes and their vision for their future. I mean, that is hella good storytelling.
4) Their romance is so sweet. He was a darling. Not beta exactly. But a dignified alpha - one who is confident of himself and gentle with others and just totally owns being a MAN. <Shivers>.
Skeptic's last word: This was awesome. Apparently, Karina Bliss has written a whole bunch of other HQN Super Romances which I shall be digging up NOW!