Ex Appeal is the much anticipated (by me) third instalment of the Ponto Beach Reunion series. In the first two books, Love, Comment, Subscribe and Gouda Friends, we’ve seen Vinh Doan and Emily MacDonald in the background. They were high school sweethearts who went off to college together and then Vinh broke up with Emily when she needed him most. If you are a longtime romance reader, you know they are definitely getting back together. It’s a classic set-up.
In the years since their break-up, Emily has returned to Ponto Beach after dropping out of college and is barely keeping it together financially. Vinh is making huge amounts of money as a fixer for a large, shady consulting firm, but he lives the job and has little contact with friends or family. When he realizes 10 million dollars has been stolen from a client’s illegal slush fund that only he can access, he asks Emily for help. In exchange, he offers a lot of money and the opportunity for her to make him miserable.
Cathy Yardly has written a surprisingly quiet romance for a book that has hacking, corporate spying, and epic lovers getting back together. Typically, in a lovers to enemies to lovers story, there’s going to be a big grovel. There are apologies and an offer of a grovel, but no big grovel and I liked it. I liked the way that Emily and Vinh rethought their pasts and their current lives. I’m not a Wayne Dyer fan, but I like his quote, “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Vinh balances regret for hurting Emily with acceptance that his choices were limited. As they work through the damage of their break-up, they both start to see their present and future differently.
So many of the books I’ve read recently deal with grief. In Ex Appeal, grief has frozen Emily and her family in time. Grief has numbed Vinh.
CW: death of parent in the past, toxic parents, betrayal, money worries, threat of prosecution, corporate espionage, snakes and reptiles.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Montlake and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, honestly and freely given.