A new Bliss–with a new look, and a new open-door policy!
Her Summer with the Marine by Susan Meier
About the book:
Their competition has never been so irresistible
The last person Ellie McDermott wanted to run into after returning to her hometown is Finn Donovan, her high school nemesis and the guy she crossed the line from enemies to lovers with one night years ago. Now ex-military, tattooed, and still sexy as hell, Finn is a complication Ellie doesn’t need—she needs to concentrate on saving her family business.
Finn’s entire life, Ellie was there, going head-to-head with him in every class, bee, and test. So it’s no surprise she’d show up just as he was about to take over her father’s struggling business. It is a surprise, though, that his attraction to her is even more explosive than it had been. Acting on their attraction is one thing, but Finn has to turn a profit to save his own family, and nothing—not even love—will get in his way.
Lovers with a past–one of my favorite troupes–is given a “and competitors since birth” (practically) twist in Her Summer with the Marine. I loved the fact that Ellie and Finn had been competing for–well, just about everything, really–for most of their childhood, and that it continued into the present when Ellie moves back to her hometown to take care of the family business for her ailing father. Their one-upmanship led to some really funny moments.
Ten minutes later, he jumped out of his SUV and bounded up the walk to McDermott’s. He wanted to hammer on Ellie’s door, but instead, he rang the bell and squeezed his eyes shut as a soft strain of classical music played. Even their damned doorbell was classy.
When no one answered, he hit the bell again. And again.
And again. If only because he was mad.
Finally the door opened, and he faced narrow-eyed Ellie. In a different tank top and tight jeans that clung to her rounded hips, she was virtually edible. His heart chugged to a stop. His anger evaporated.
“What do you want?”
What do I want? Sheesh. With her in that tank top, he wanted what he’d wanted this time last week—the chance to devour her. She was one of those unusual women who dripped sexiness even with cute short curly hair and wide, innocent eyes.
Or maybe he just saw her as sexy because he knew how soft she was, how she melted under his touch, how it felt to have her hands on him—
The paper in his hand picked up the sun and glinted at him, reminding him why he’d come to her house.
He cursed himself for being an idiot. As Devon had said, this needed to be about business. Nothing personal. He shook the brochure at her. “What the hell is this?”
One of her eyebrows arched. “Good advertising?”
“You’re begging people to use your mortuary!”
“So how the hell am I supposed to compete with that?”
“I’m hoping you can’t.”
He raised his hand as if to make a point, then realized he didn’t have one. Sunday night at the American Legion, he’d been telling Devon he could beat her, telling himself he was a Rottweiler and she was a poodle, yet in one brochure she’d turned the tables?
It was just like middle school when she’d made the volcano that spewed fake lava, and he’d done the crop rotation project that everybody thought was boring.
Of course, after that, she’d never beaten him at a science fair again. He’d figure this out too.
“Okay. You want a fight. You’ll get a fight.”
“I don’t want a fight. I just want to make sure I get my fair share of the business.”
She laughed. “Oh, I see what’s going on.” She poked her finger at him. “This isn’t about me. This is about you. You don’t like it when I beat you.”
He nearly caught her finger, but remembered how soft her fingers were and swallowed hard. “We’ll see if you beat me. You’re not the only one who needs the money. And you’re not the only one with business smarts.”
She stepped into his personal space. “Oh, yeah? What are you going to do?”
Right at that very second, if she were a normal girl, he would have kissed her. He would have kissed her because he was attracted to her. He would have kissed her to shut her up. He would have kissed her because that’s what his body was telling him to do.
When he didn’t answer, she took another step closer.
Now she wasn’t merely in his personal space—their bodies were virtually touching. He could smell her shampoo, feel waves of femininity drifting from her, awakening his hormones.
As if she’d finally figured out what she’d done, she looked up and caught his gaze, her brown eyes wide and confused. Their gazes stayed locked. Seconds ticked off the clock. The urge to kiss her shifted from hot and demanding to something he couldn’t quite identify. This woman who’d always been a thorn in his side had also been the first person to listen when he talked about his dad. And now with her dad sick, part of him wanted to soothe her, to comfort her with a warm kiss that would melt both of their bones.
Oh, great. Thinking about sleeping with her he could handle. But soothing her?
That was crazy.
What the hell was he thinking?
He sucked in a breath, stepped back, turned, and walked away.
The past keeps coming back to get Ellie and Finn in this book, over and over. Ellie resented the townspeople whose gossiping made her growing up years so difficult, but now she needs to play nice to gain their trust and business to get her father the help he needs. Finn’s family hid an awful truth for years, and now he needs to use his (hopefully) successful business to finally make things right for his mother. Both Ellie and Finn shared a moment at the end of high school–a moment that didn’t exactly end well, though neither one of them completely understood, then or now, everything that had been going on with the other at the time–and every time they’re together now it gets harder and harder to ignore the chemistry that still exists between them….
They decide that a no-strings relationship, completely apart from their business competition, is the way to go. They’ll just have a summer fling, and when one of them drives the other one out of business (because, let’s face it…a small town really only needs the services of one funeral director. At least until that zombie apocalypse arrives) they’ll go their separate ways.
Yeah. Apparently it’s only obvious to the readers how that plan’s going to work out.
I loved the characters Susan Meier has written here–not just Ellie and Finn, but their family, friends, co-workers, and the townspeople–they all seem so three-dimensional, and make the story really fun to read. (Plus, Finn’s got hot brothers who are also in town to try and help their mother–total sequel bait!) The dialogue is snappy, the chemistry is steamy (and the door is open here, taking the book a few steps beyond the usual Bliss title, which was also fun), and their competition was inspired.
Plus, there’s an absolutely fantastic I-need-to-suck-up-because-I’m-an-idiot / proposal scene. Just loved it–talk about inspired…
I’ll definitely be picking up more from Susan Meier in the future–this series, and beyond. This feel-good small-town contemporary romance was a great way to spend a happy weekend reading.
(The only thing that bothered me about this book was the title–Finn’s been retired from the Marines for some time before the novel even begins, so it seems a bit misleading. Though I suppose Her Summer with the Funeral Director just doesn’t have the same feeling to it, does it? 😉 )
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
A one-time legal secretary and director of a charitable foundation, Susan Meier found her own personal ‘bliss’ when she became a full-time novelist. She’s visited ski lodges and candy factories for “research” and works in her pajamas.
But the real joy of her job is creating stories about women for women. In her sixty published novels, she’s tackled issues like infertility, losing a child and becoming widowed. Her favorite stories are those that inspire laughter through tears.
Susan lives in western Pennsylvania with her own hero, their son and two fabulous felines, Sophia Maria Lolita Conchita Chiquita Banana and Fluffy.