My mother and I were chatting yesterday about our latest reads – actually having yet another “how does she do it?” discussion about Nora Roberts since we had both read and loved her latest, The Witness – when I hopped online to look at what the kindle edition would cost since I thought I’d be rereading it. That’s when I gasped and clutched my arm as if I were having a heart attack.
“Jesus, what’s wrong?” my mother asked, clearly alarmed at my Sarah Bernhardt response to looking at Amazon.com.
I pointed a finger at my MacBook screen. “Did you know that Bella Andre’s latest Sullivan book came out – YESTERDAY?!”
Cue both of us grabbing our iPads and ordering it, right then and there. My mother made some excuse to leave about two minutes later claiming she was “tired from gardening.” Uh-huh.
I was kicking myself that I had promised to attend a baseball playoff game, but sucked it up and made the trip (and actually had a great time). But baseball made me think of Ryan Sullivan (the Sullivan brother who is a major league baseball player), which made me think of Zach Sullivan, who we finally get to see fall, and fall hard, in Bella Andre’s latest installment of the Sullivan family series, If You Were Mine.
Now I haven’t been shy in my deep admiration and love for all things Bella Andre. Not long ago, I wrote a blog post on the first four books of the series, claiming that this series is one of the best values on the romance market and I stand by that statement today. When so many authors, pressured to produce multiple books per year, struggle with maintaining a consistent quality, Bella Andre channels her own inner Nora Roberts and gives us another heart-stoppingly amazing addition to this series, which is claiming the spot of favorite contemporary romance series for me.
Zach Sullivan loves working with cars and enjoys the benefits of having built his love into a chain of successful automotive stations, but he enjoys fast women as much as fast cars, sporting a serious “no commitment” policy with the opposite sex. When his firefighter brother Gabe drops off the puppy of his soon-to-be stepdaughter for Zach to dogsit, Zach figures a couple pounds of puppy can’t be too much for him handle. But it is. As he finds his life turned upside down by a Yorki named Cuddles, a friend sends him the best dog trainer in the San Francisco area, Heather Linsey.
And that “no commitment” policy gets reevaluated. Heather is far from impressed with Zach’s yelling at the puppy but she quickly realizes that she’s the one who might be over her head. Zach is even more good looking than his movie star brother, Smith, and his sense of humor has her more worried than his chiseled features or killer body. Heather is fine with a no commitment physical relationship, but someone who makes her laugh could find their way into her heart. The fact her faithful Great Dane, Atlas, has a new best friend in Zach’s puppy charge is simply another red flag on the whole situation, one that has Heather saying, “No” firmly and repeatedly to Zach’s advances.
Zach hasn’t really heard “no” from women before and hearing it from Heather makes him realize that they time they spend together not having sex is actually more amazing than the time he has spent having sex with other women. He knows this is dangerous, but can’t stop himself from putting his heart on the line for her.
But Zach and Heather both have their own brand of damage. Heather had a terrible childhood with the discovery that her doting father, who she thought loved her mother, was a philanderer all his life – and her mother knew about it. Watching two people fake a marriage has put her off the idea that true love exists and actually led to a bout of cutting when she was younger. Working with animals, along with therapy, helped release her feelings in a more productive way, but her heart has some rather substantial walls around it and she’s unwilling to risk it, even with all the feelings Zach stirs in her.
Zach is a great tortured hero, simply because you don’t realize how damaged he is at first glance. I loved him in Sophie Sullivan’s story, when he beat the crap out of his best friend Jake for getting her pregnant, and he’s always been a great brother and good businessman. But in this book we discover that Zach’s strong resemblance to his father, who succumbed to a sudden aneurysm in his thirties leaving a wife and eight young children, has led Zach to avoid falling in love because he’s not convinced that he’ll be around for that long. The fast cars and faster women have been a natural outcome of this secret belief that his days are numbered, and he may not be able to let go of his pain to make a life with Heather.
Walk, don’t run, to your nearest ebook vendor to purchase this book. Andre has once again crafted deep characters you instantly root for, praying they will work through their emotional baggage and realize the love of lifetime is at their fingertips if they would just take a chance. The dogs are incredible minor characters and seeing our favorite Sullivans (the ones already partnered happy and healthy and the ones still single having their clock ticking) gives you the feeling that you are catching up with friends.
I’ve put an Amazon alert so I’ll be notified next time when Bella Andre publishes another book. I don’t want to miss an hour of reading when Ryan Sullivan’s book, Let Me Be the One, comes out in the fall!