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Book Cover C2’s review of Once and Again (Petal, Georgia, Book 1) by Lauren Dane
Contemporary Romance published by Samhain 30 Aug 11

In her latest book, Lauren Dane returns us to the ever-so-fun small town of Petal, Georgia.  Readers of her Chase brothers series will see lots of familiar faces, get to know some supporting characters much better, and meet some new people too.  I enjoyed the Chase books, so I’m very excited to revisit Petal.

Lily Travis grew up in Petal but didn’t come back after college.  Her family was borderline dysfunctional, and Petal bad boy Nathan Murphy broke her heart.  However, when her family crosses the line into full-on dysfunction, she has no choice but to return home.  Lily’s parents are divorcing and her father is involved with a bubble-head younger than she is.  Her mother is becoming much too dependent on pills and alcohol. And her teenage brother is running with a bad crowd, cutting school and failing his classes.  It is time for someone to step in and get a handle on things and Lily is the only one who is willing to try.

After leaving her job in Macon, Lily comes back to Petal and moves into the apartment over her parents’ garage.  She knows most of her family is a lost cause but is determined to keep her little brother moving in the right direction.  One of the first things she does is visit Chris’ school to talk to the principal and his teachers.  Wouldn’t you know one of Chris’ teachers is Nathan Murphy?  And, my goodness, didn’t he grow up nicely?

Nathan grew up in Petal (his sister married one of the Chase brothers). He knew Lily growing up because she was a friend of his younger sister. They didn’t start dating until they ran into each other in college. Then, while they were on a break (and my brain went “OMG Rachel, we were on a break!”  “Shut up, Ross.”), she saw him kissing (or being kissed by) one of her cousins.  He didn’t explain himself, she didn’t ask, and they stopped seeing each other.  Ah, youth…

When Nathan sees Lily back in Petal, the old attraction rears its head. This time they are both older and more mature, hopefully.  But Lily doesn’t want to go down that road again. Nathan really hurt her and she doesn’t want a repeat experience.  And she really has a lot on her plate – her mom has a substance abuse problem, her dad is a self-centered nut, her sister has anger issues.  Also, he is Chris’ teacher and she doesn’t want her brother to deal with talk about her inappropriate behavior.   But…

Attraction is hard to fight – especially when only one half of the couple is fighting it.  And Nathan is determined.  He knows what he wants and knows she wants him right back, whether she’s willing to admit it or not.  Add in conspiring family and friends and you know where this ends, don’t you, faithful reader?

I really enjoyed visiting Petal again.  I like seeing how things are with all the Chases and other residents…including some Murphy siblings that might be getting their stories told eventually.  And Lily’s relationship with her brother struck me as very true – it’s a hard balance to strike when you’re trying to parent your sibling…especially when the real parent is there but ineffective…and we see that here.  I also like the way Lily dealt with all the problems her family is facing – especially with her mom and her brother’s situation – she consults professionals all along the way to find the best way to handle things.  It would have been so annoying if she had just gone in and seemed to know just how to handle everything. Once and Again isn’t a happy, fluffy book – not that it’s a big downer or anything – it takes a look at real problems and shows how real people deal with them.  And everyone is in a better place at the end than they were at the beginning…what more can you ask?

Do you need to read the Chase series before reading Once and Again? No, it stands alone quite nicely, but, you know, I think you should always read all the connected books (plus the first Chase Brothers book was FREE for Kindle when I wrote this review).  And the Chase brothers are smoking hot, just FYI.

CSquareds C2 Icon Grade: B+

Seven years ago, Lily Travis was only too glad to see her hometown of Petal, Georgia in her rearview mirror. Thanks to her father running off with a twenty-year-old, though, here she is, trying to pick up the pieces. First order of business: meet with her brother’s teacher in a quest to pull his grades out of a downward spiral.

Nathan Murphy is pretty much resigned to his bachelor status—until he looks up from his desk to see an all-grown-up Lily walking into his classroom. Of all the women who turned out to be totally wrong for him, she’s the only one who felt right. At least until his foolish, immature mistake drove her away.

Lily has to admit that time has been more than kind to gorgeous, sexy Nathan. Except there’s no room on her full plate for another complication. Especially with a man who broke her heart once before.

With a little help from his friends, Nathan has a plan to rekindle the flame. It isn’t long before they’re burning up the sheets. Winning her heart? That’s another matter.

Warning: Hot, sexy high school teacher in denim and boots. Strong-willed females abound. Bad words and naughtiness, too. Come on, you know you want to read it.

Read an excerpt.

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