Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation on 23rd February 2021
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Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw--or rather, heard--the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It's a memory that's never faded, though he's put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who's uncannily familiar . . .
No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won't let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting--maybe it's the kind of story that can't work out in the end. Or maybe, it's the perfect second chance . . .
‘Love at First’ reads like…a story written in fanfiction style—albeit well-written fanfic, so this is in no way a slight—from start to finish. I couldn’t put my finger on it and puzzled about Kate Clayborn’s writing style for the longest time until it hit me that there’s so much there that takes up your concentration just to get into the story. It’s ultra-descriptive, very introspective when it comes to the protagonists’ brooding thoughts and in many ways, filled with understated charm that I can see appealing to many fans who go for this type of contemporary romance.
The introduction to Nora and Will was odd, to say the least, involving the vanity of a 15-year-old boy refusing to wear glasses, the briefest of a (blind) meeting involving shouting and tomatoes and some family issues that faded to black before moving to the events of the present day. But the start of the book went rough for me—from the intricacies of their lives to the storm in the teacup spat over the unit and its lease—and I found myself skimming, impatient to just see the whole point of the story (even though it’s got kittens!), only to realise I was thumbing through what was really supposed to be the story.
It definitely got better though the further I went on. There was a lingering cosiness that Clayborn attempted to build here: the idea of a block-apartment family, the relationships they had, the disagreement between Nora and Will, the secondary cast of characters that surrounded them as they journeyed towards their HEA. Clayborn also worked towards a resolution between Nora and Will in a mature way (no shenanigans here) which I could appreciate, ending up with a picture-perfect tableau that at times felt like a side-skip of the heavier issues that Nora/Will faced in favour of a lighter, more warm-hearted conclusion.