This was an outside-the-box impulse read for me. I was intrigued by the unique cover, so I decided to give it a go. The story is a slow-burn, small-town contemporary romance between a grumpy single dad and an ER doctor. It’s told in alternating first person POV and I’d say it’s pretty low on the heat level – almost but not quite a closed-door romance.
Ella Walters fled the life of a big-city trauma surgeon after her personal life went up in flames and is now trying to obtain a better work-life balance as an emergency room doctor in a small town. She’s really thriving under the slower pace and she’s got a strong core group of friends who always have her back and are her biggest cheerleaders. Boyd McNaughton is a single parent of a thirteen year old. He’s also a former-engineer turned brew master who is on the cusp of opening up a new brewery with his brothers. Even though they have lived in the same small town for two years, Boyd and Ella have somehow managed to not cross paths before. One serious hand laceration quickly changes that.
After their initial encounter, it seems they can’t stop running into each other. Their social circles frequently coincide and Boyd’s son, Mason, takes an instant shine to Ella and decides that she will be his expert on all things girl related. The burgeoning attraction between Boyd and Ella is obvious to them both (and every single person in town, really), but Boyd is very hesitant to start anything. He’s spent over a decade burying himself in parenthood and avoiding any romantic entanglements. Letting his past problems go and opening up to something new is really hard for him.
Boyd’s reluctance is the biggest problem with this book. He runs hot and cold continuously, and this gets tiring really darn fast. Ella gets her feelings hurt more than once by his crap. The pacing is another major problem. The first half drags beyond belief and the romance doesn’t really take off until after the halfway point. Once it finally does get going, things move at an insane pace.
I’m somewhat torn on this book. I loved the setting and the characters, but I feel like the story failed to stick the dismount. I liked Ella a great deal and loved her girl gang. I just wish Ella had been paired with someone who acted like he wanted her all the time, not just some of the time.
Boyd McNaughton is working on balance. He is a father, a brewmaster, and the oldest brother of four. When he’s not running Foghorn Brewery with two of his brothers, his days are packed with carpools, teenage angst, and well-intentioned school moms determined to send him on the perfect blind date. After a simple argument ends with a visit to the emergency room, Boyd discovers the one thing he’s been neglecting—his life.
Ella Walters is working on connection. Having grown up in a less-than-affectionate family of overachievers, she moved to Petaluma for a slower pace and to escape her past. She has friends now instead of accolades, chooses chocolate croissants over super foods, and cherishes the peace that’s replaced the drama. Sure, she occasionally misses the buzz of the San Francisco General Hospital ER, but Ella is learning that navigating a fuller life can be just as exciting.
When Boyd’s son, Mason, seeks out Dr. Ella for “advice” and Boyd stumbles all over her newly healed heart, she finds herself longing for something she never knew existed. But families are messy, and they’ll both need to let go of the past if they want to find a future that’s more than by the book.