This is the first in a new connected trilogy by three Harlequin authors. I originally requested it for the Reese Ryan book (the last in the trilogy) but was intrigued that this first one was a second chance romance, one of my favorite tropes.
Mack and Molly were instant friends from the moment he arrived at Moonlight Ridge when he was eight, and it was perhaps inevitable that their relationship evolved into a romance. But after an accident that left one of his adoptive brothers in the hospital, Mack left without a word and never looked back. When his adoptive father, Jameson, ends up in the hospital, Mack works out a roster with his brothers to help take care of the hotel while he recovers – even if it means having to work with Molly again, who basically runs the hotel. Molly isn’t particularly looking forward to seeing Mack again either, but she owes Jameson, and out of respect and love for him, she’ll bury her hurt. It’s not long, though, before sparks are flying between them again. Is this their chance to make their relationship work? Or will it only lead to another heartbreak for both of them?
“Let me just say this, Mack, and then, hopefully, we can move on. I missed my boyfriend, but God, I mourned my best friend. And you will never, ever get the chance to hurt me like that again.”
Molly’s been running the majority of the hotel business for years, so she’s hurt that Jameson feels it’s necessary to bring his sons in to help run the business. But she’s hopeful that it’ll mean she’ll get the OK to finally implement some of the updates that the hotel desperately needs to stay afloat. Molly was easy to like as a character, strong but still trying to figure out how to deal with her incredibly toxic family, who feel entitled to her money. Molly’s been holding on to guilt over actions she took as a teen, and while she’d finally worked up the courage to confess to Jameson, certain that it’ll irrevocably damage their relationship, he unfortunately fell ill before she had the chance. Now her awful family is blackmailing her with that information. Having Mack back doesn’t make it any better, as even though she’s still angry at him for how he left, she doesn’t want to disappoint him either.
“Would you like to come work for me?” Mack asked, only half joking.
“We’d spend all our time arguing or—” Molly snapped her teeth together and blushed. Mack grinned, knowing what she was about to say.
“We’d either argue or get naked,” Mack told her. He smiled before speaking again. “I have little appetite for the first and a great deal for the second.”
For his part, Mack’s entire life is shaped around not acting like his deadbeat biological father, who belittled him and blamed him for the death of his mother until the day he abandoned him. His adoptive father, Jameson, means everything to him, and he’ll put up with pretty much anything to make sure he’s safe and well taken care of. Mack prizes control above all else, and has no room in his life for unpredictable things like feelings, especially love. He knows he treated Molly badly by basically running away, but in his mind he was protecting himself, and also protecting her and his family. He feels like he doesn’t deserve them. He almost immediately gets off on the wrong foot with her again, and it takes time for him to accept and forgive himself for what he did – the same applies to Molly as well. That’s the lovely thing about their relationship, that they’re able to give each other absolution and help each other find a place of forgiveness and acceptance. Now, that doesn’t mean they can make the same mistakes again….
The writing was lovely, especially their banter, though I did think Mack and Molly got back together a little too easily. There’s a good deal of angst around their respective issues, and I thought the resolution – especially how Molly called Mack on his nonsense – was excellent. Being the first book in a series, there’s obviously a lot of setup for the later books, and I thought it was interwoven well. In particular, there’s a mystery involving the hotel that I was particularly interested in.
Overall, this is a fun book and a good first entry in this series. I look forward to reading the rest!