I was a bit shocked to realize I’d never read anything by Rochelle Alers before, so when I saw this was the start of a new series, I had to pick this up. This is a delightfully sweet romance with the best friend’s sibling and workplace romance tropes and it was so much fun to read!
Taylor is the oldest of five adopted siblings, four brothers and one sister. After their father’s death, they discover that they’ve inherited a mansion in New Jersey – more than 100 rooms on over 300 acres of land. Their father always intended to renovate Bainbridge House, so now Taylor is taking point on turning it into a hotel. To do that, though, he’ll need help clearing out the excesses of Gilded Age rich folks. Luckily, his sister Viola has a friend who just might fit the bill. Sonja grew up as an army brat all over the world, fascinated by the art and history of museums her mother would take her to, leading to a career as an architectural and art historian. Cataloging and helping with the restoration of Bainbridge House is like a dream come true, and it doesn’t hurt that her new boss is very easy on the eyes. But neither Taylor nor Sonja are looking for anything romantic right now, even if they’re both very attracted to each other. Besides, they only have to work closely together for two years. How hard could that be?
“I believe trust is more important than love because people can fall in and out of love. I’d rather trust you than love you.”
Sonja had just given Taylor the opening he needed. “Can you love me?”
“I’m sure I can.”
Both Taylor and Sonja are very career focused individuals. For Taylor, it was in service of getting a new promotion at his engineering job, though he’s willing to walk away from that to take over the new family project. For Sonja, it’s more about being able to take care of herself. Sonja feels like she’s never been truly independent. She’s always lived with family, a roommate, or her ex-husband. Her ex was extremely controlling and while she’s overcome a lot of the trauma from that, she’s still distrustful of relationships in general. And while Taylor had an absolutely idyllic childhood after he was adopted, his life before that wasn’t so great. They both have a lot of reservations about getting into a relationship, especially with someone they’re committed to working with for the next two years. Unsurprisingly, Taylor’s interested in pursuing something sooner than Sonja, but he’s good about letting her set the pace. My only complaint about their relationship was the bleak moment, which was spurred by something I thought was completely out of character for Taylor.
“There was something about her best friend’s brother that turned her into an emotional pretzel whenever she asked herself what she wanted from Taylor and the answer continued to evade her.“
The details in the book are absolutely enthralling. I loved all the information about Bainbridge House and the items inside it, from jewelry to glassware to bottles of wine. I would’ve loved to read more about the items Sonja was cataloguing because it was just so interesting, and honestly, I think 50% of my desire to read the next book in this series is just so I can find out more! And that doesn’t even cover the food! Pastelón, stuffed clams, chicken and waffles, yum. Both Sonja and Taylor know how to cook and everything was described in delicious detail. I don’t read a lot from the Special Editions line (I usually prefer higher heat levels) so I’m not sure if this is usual, but there was a definite aspirational quality to a lot of the wealth displayed in the book. Most of it I enjoyed (heck, who doesn’t want to be given a condo and a car as perks of your dream job???) but the fact that not only was Taylor an experienced engineer but he’d also previously been a famous model made me giggle a little.
Though Taylor has four other siblings, only one, Viola, the youngest, is really involved in any detail in this book. I appreciated that because it gave me time to get to know Taylor and Sonja more clearly before getting involved in too much sequel baiting. As for other characters, I adored Taylor’s mother and how sweetly obvious her love for her kids was. I’m also particularly curious about Dom Shaw, the latest in a series of family caretakers of Bainbridge House. Sonja found out some info about him that wasn’t explicitly stated but was easy to guess, but I’m wondering how that’s going to fit into the rest of the series.
Overall, this is a quick and sweet read, and a great start to a new series. I will definitely be on the lookout for the next book!
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.