Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Fool’s Gold, #15
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: June 24, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
After a family tragedy, former football hero Jack McGarry keeps the world at arm’s length—a challenge now that his PR firm has moved to neighborly Fool’s Gold, California.
Larissa Owens knows where she stands—Jack sees her as just another one of the guys. No matter what her heart wishes, Jack’s her boss, not her boyfriend. But then Larissa’s big secret is revealed…by her mother!
When Jack discovers the truth about Larissa’s feelings, her touch suddenly becomes tantalizing, and he’s not sure he wants to resist. But if he gives in to desire, heartache is sure to follow. Friendship or true love—will Jack go for the ultimate play?
I’ll say upfront that I have not read the rest of the Fool’s Gold series, but I didn’t feel a bit lost. So if you’re looking at this and don’t have the time to invest in the first 14 books of the series, fear not. There is plenty of introduction to make you feel like Fool’s Gold is a terrific place to be, and that the people are ones you would want to have for dinner or out for drinks. The way that they catch up with each other gives new readers plenty of info to help you slip right into the story.
About the story…what we have here is a combination of the friends into lovers trope with a heaping helping of the assistant and the boss taking their relationship outside the office. I’m not calling it the assistant has a crush on the boss, because that’s not how this thing works.
Larissa and her boss Jack have a symbiotic relationship on pretty much every level, then her mother comes barging in and jerks the blindfold off of everyone’s eyes. And even though she’s right, I’d be mortified down to my soul (and soles) if my mom pulled a stunt like that. Although it’s what moms do.
Larissa and Jack have all the benefits of a committed relationship, but without the sex that either sends things to a higher level, or messes them up beyond repair. The problem is that this relationship provides for almost all of both of their emotional needs. Jack has other women for sex, and Larissa throws herself into her causes (tons of them) so that she keeps her life full and doesn’t even think about what she’s missing.
Her mother is right that being with Jack keeps Larissa from finding a real relationship and falling in love and getting married. (I’m not happy with mom’s stated goal and making sure that Larissa gives her more grandchildren. Having children to make someone else happy is bad for the children and the adults. My 2 cents.)
But once the blindfold is off about the way that their best-friends with everything but benefits relationship keeps them both fairly happy, Larissa and Jack both lose the ability to be “just friends”, although Larissa does a much better job managing things than Jack does.
Now that they know there might be something more between them, neither of them can stop thinking about the possibilities. And that’s where the trouble begins.
One of the things that Larissa does for Jack is get him involved with her causes, and with the community of Fool’s Gold, while letting him maintain the emotional distance he’s always had. She throws her heart over every fence, and he writes the check that takes care of the details. (Jack is a retired NFL quarterback with a successful PR firm. He can afford those checks.)
As Jack finds himself thinking about the possibility of more with Larissa, his famous distance erodes, completely. It feels as if suddenly everyone in town and in his life is after a piece of the heart he’s kept hidden. So he drives everyone away. He’s the biggest asshat he can be to everyone in his life, including Larissa.
And once he’s alone, just the way he asked, he discovers that being alone isn’t what he wants anymore. What he wants is Larissa, as close as he can get her. But did he go so far in driving her away that he can’t get her back?
Escape Rating B-: Fool’s Gold is a fantastic town to visit. I loved meeting everyone, especially Mayor Marsha. The partners at Jack’s PR firm, Taryn, Kenny and Sam, are great friends and it seems like a marvelous place to work.
I’m also still laughing about the rescue of the hoarded chiweenies.
Larissa and Jack’s relationship at the beginning is interesting to watch and seems totally plausible. They are friends. Best buds. They are each the person the other relies on most, and takes the most care of. Their friendship is so important to both of them, that it’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t want to risk it by adding sex into the mix.
But they can’t navigate the new territory that Larissa’s mom’s meddling has thrown them into. Larissa figures out how to handle things, but Jack doesn’t. He’s spent most of his life being afraid to be involved, because caring makes you vulnerable. Too many people that he has loved have died, and he is unwilling to risk any kind of closeness.
When everything gets too much, he withdraws and makes an ass of himself. With everyone possible and then some. I think that most readers will be cheering for his friends when they punch him. There’s a reason he doesn’t defend himself–he deserves every shot.
He wallows in self-pity.
Larissa, on the other hand, as much pain as she is in (and it’s a lot) picks herself up and moves on with her career. Her heart may not be healing, but she soldiers on, knowing that someday things will get better. She takes care of herself. I liked the way she handled things.
Jack does eventually get his head out of his ass, and apologizes profusely to everyone he has hurt. Some of those apologies work better than others, but by the end, I still wondered if Larissa couldn’t do better.