Published by Harlequin MIRA on January 1st 2016
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Can she learn to trust him and love again?
Stella wasn't looking for love – and especially not from a younger man..
When Stella Ryan's successful life in Sydney crumbled, she returned flat broke – and broken hearted – to the beachside town she'd once called home. Five years on, she's opened a boutique and rebuilt her life in the tourist haven of Port Elliot.
Luca Morelli has been working flat out to establish his own building company in the city and doesn't have time to be driving back and forth to the beach to do a small job in a shop that was almost destroyed in a fire. But he soon changes his mind when he meets the glamorous owner.
Before long, Stella and Luca find that a working relationship isn't the only thing developing between them. But the closer they get, the ghosts of Stella's past come to haunt her once more. Can she ever believe a man again? And if she can, is the much younger Luca Morelli the man she can trust with her heart?
Victoria Purman’s straightforward storytelling is always a joy to read, but the (re)introduction of Stella Ryan as a former Middle Point resident seemed to come out of nowhere, like an afterthought for an author who couldn’t quite say goodbye to the beloved cast of characters who inhabited this particular place. It wouldn’t quite have been an issue however, had Stella been part of the regular crew from the very beginning of the series, but she wasn’t and with Luca Morelli together, felt more like a forced pairing than an inspired one.
There are some stereotypes explored in the book to varying degrees of success:
– the younger man/older woman dynamic in which age only became an issue in the way Stella used it as an excuse not to go for what she wanted, proving that sometimes it is the younger man who has more sense than the older lady.
– the dynamic of large Italian families and the strange impulsive flare of temper in Luca that he explains away as being ‘Italian’ made him seem less than his 29 years.
The most glaring issue however, was the protagonist herself whom I tried hard to like but ended up hating. I thought Stella, whose independent streak and stubborn desire to rely only on herself had long crossed over to obnoxiousness and insensitivity in the way she treats people around her.
Despite her behaviour being often given justification – a tragic childhood with hard knocks along the way – it seemed as though her new life was built on a lie that stretched pretty much the whole book because I found myself waiting for her to break and was disappointed when she hadn’t changed sufficiently for my liking by the end of the book.