Rating: 4 Stars
Description: Sophie Wells is perfectly satisfied with growing her photography business and has no interest in finding love. The past has put a permanent block of eyes on her heart. Josh Strachan has recently returned to run his family hotel after a few years in the states. Immediately attracted to Sophie, he's determined to find out why even though she seems interested she refuses to act. With a full cast of interesting characters life in this town in Cornwal is never dull!
Why I Picked This Book: Mansell is an author I've been wanting to try and the setting appealed to me.
Pro: I didn't fall into this book on page one but when it hooked me I was seriously hooked. The town Mansell sketches is so real and I could absolutely see the people. The characters were interesting and nuanced. Likable but not always perfect. Marguerite, the incredibly successful novelist was a fantastic character. Larger than life, she could have been made into a caricature but she really wasn't. We see her public persona but also her actual self which while still arrogant is much softer and likable. Really I could read a book just about her. Reilly was a character I wasn't expecting to like but even when you're just seeing the unambitious somewhat shallow front you can't help but like him because he's so fundamentally nice. Josh and Sophie are a little less flawed but don't come off as perfect. There are some secrets but they all make sense as to why they're secrets and why they're not immediately revealed. The ending - while maybe a touch contrived - was wonderful and I thought it hit the right note of open ended but resolved.
Con: When I first met Tula she seriously annoyed me. She was immature and too impulsive and the first few scenes of her almost made me want to put the book down. This is resolved in the first 20 pages and she doesn't play a huge part in those 20 pages. There was also a scene fairly early on between Tula and Josh that made me cringe a bit. Basically she has a crush on him and he's kind of unaware is mostly interested in getting information about Sophie but Tula is clueless. This was a one time thing and happened pretty early in the book.
Overall: The flaws were really minor and for the most part were only in the first 10% of the book. From about that point on I really didn't want to put this one down. I loved getting to know these people so much that I find myself missing Sophie, Josh, Dot, Riley and the rest and wondering up what they're up to now!
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely! I can't wait to read more from her.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes, while it's technically a romance there's so many great characters that I think even non-romance readers would enjoy this when looking for a lighter book.
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“Nearly done… Oh, it’s you.” Turning, she glimpsed him in the doorway and straightened up. Nodding at Griff, she said, “Have you come to get him? He’s shattered now. I’ve just finished the shoot.”
“I know, I saw the family driving off. And I am sorry. Dot did warn me about the door-opening thing,” Josh admitted. “I just forgot about it. Can I blame it on the jet lag?”
She gave him a look. “Only if you’re a complete wuss. You’ve had a whole week to get over it.”
Her eyes were bright and sparkling, silver-gray with very white whites. Her well-defined eyebrows were dark but tipped with gold and there was a smudge of mud on her left temple.
It wasn’t an expression he’d ever thought of using before, but it occurred to him that she had joie de vivre.
“True.” He dipped his head in acknowledgment. “All my own fault. So how did it go in the end?”
“Come over here and I’ll show you.” Leading the way across the room, she picked up her camera and began scrolling through the shots, starting with the half dozen or so pre-Griff originals, then on through the second stage of the shoot.
“These are great.” Josh nodded at them, genuinely impressed. “So it ended up not being such a disaster after all.”
“Thanks to me being a complete genius,” she agreed happily. He liked her attitude. “What’s your name?”
“Hi, Sophie. I’m Josh.”
“I know. Haven’t you noticed everyone whispering about you since you’ve been back?”
“Not really. Well, maybe a bit. You don’t take much notice after a while.” He paused. “Do you have a business card?”
She took one from an envelope in the side pocket of her black canvas camera case and handed it over.
Sophie Wells Photography. Portraits, Weddings, Commercial was written in silver on a black background, along with her contact details. Josh noticed that as well as the bracelets on her left wrist there was a key attached to a plain silver bangle. He reached out and touched it briefly. “What’s this for?”
“It’s the key to my secret Swiss bank account.” “Amazing. I didn’t know Swiss banks used Yale locks.”
A dimple appeared in her left cheek. “I started wearing it after I locked myself out of my flat three times in one week.”
“Look,” said Josh. “I still feel terrible about the photos.” “No need. I told Emma I’d do them for free.”
“But that means you’re losing out. Which is even worse.” Sophie shook her head. “They all like what we ended up doing instead. Emma’s still happy to pay.” “But their clothes…”
“They live on a farm. She says the mud’ll come out in a boil wash.” “But when I came back here with Griff, she was in tears.”
“I know, but you weren’t actually to blame for that. Relax,” Sophie said cheerfully. “It’s your lucky day. You’re off the hook.”
Women, he’d never understand them. Still, it was a positive result. Somewhat distracted by her eyelashes—were they also gold- tipped beneath the mascara?—Josh said, “Fine then. So long as you’re sure. Can I ask you a personal question?”
“You can try.”
He was charmed by her easy smile, playful humor, and feisty can-do attitude. Okay, and her body was pretty amazing too. “Are you single at the moment? Or seeing someone?”
If she were, he would have to say with good-natured regret, “Well, that’s a real shame,” and leave it at that.
“Me? Oh no, I’m not seeing anyone.” Sophie shook her head. “Completely and utterly single, that’s me.”
Excellent. Enjoying her honesty, Josh said, “So would you like to come out for dinner with me one evening?”
“It would have to be an evening.” Sophie nodded gravely. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be dinner; it’d be breakfast or lunch.”
“Definitely evening,” he agreed. “We could do it tonight if you like.” This is going so well.
“Oh, I can’t.”
“Yes, bit short notice. Friday, then? Or Saturday? You choose, whenever suits you best.”
But even as he was saying it, Sophie was shaking her head. “Sorry, no… I mean, thanks for asking, but I can’t meet you for dinner.”
“Right.” Taken aback, Josh said, “Not at all?” “No.”
“Okay. That’s fine.” It wasn’t remotely fine. What was going on? Did she have a small baby at home, or an elderly relative who couldn’t be left unattended? “Am I allowed to ask why?”
Her eyes sparkled. “Oh dear, are you offended?” “Of course not,” lied Josh.
Sophie gave him a who-are-you-kidding look. “I think you are. Don’t be. I’m just pretty busy right now.”
“So maybe in a couple weeks?” He couldn’t quite believe he was still asking.
“Look, thanks again, but no thanks. I just don’t really want to go out to dinner with…anyone.”
Aaaand another knock-back.
“No problem.” Josh wished he’d never started it. “Sorry.”
He managed a rueful smile. “Hey, all I need is a few months for my ego to recover. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s not you.” Sophie’s mouth was twitching. “It’s me.”
Okay, now she was making fun of him.
“Well, obviously,” said Josh.