Review: Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell

Review: Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowellWhere Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Pages: 278
Published by The Wild Rose Press on December 16th 2015
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Romantic suspense that takes the reader on a non-stop thrill ride! Set on the beautiful Amalfi Coast of Italy.
When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?
Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime

My Review:

Where Lemons Bloom is a non-stop romantic adventure, complete with a dramatic rescue, a romantic cruise, an innocent man trying to clear his name, and his hair-raising confrontation with the ex who did him very, very wrong. All while being helped by an old Godfather in Italy and his younger brother in the States who is trying to stay out of the old family business, but can’t resist a chance to right a wrong – especially when he and his company have been caught up in the mess.

It all starts with a romantic rescue. Eve Anderson gets caught in the undertow off the coast of Barbados, and Adam de Leone rescues her from death by drowning. As she recovers from her ordeal, she wants to celebrate that she is still alive in a midnight tryst with the mysterious stranger, never expecting to see him again.

Instead, they find themselves sharing a table on a romantic trans-Atlantic cruise. For different reasons, neither of them feels ready to explore their intense attraction, but they can’t stop themselves from falling into each other’s company, and into a warm friendship that tries to bury the chemistry they feel.

Of course, they finally acknowledge failure, and as their romance blossoms, Adamo is finally forced to reveal the secret that Eve has sensed he’s been hiding. He’s a convicted felon, but he swears he’s innocent. At first, it seems as if he’s just saying what every criminal would say, but Eve believes him.

Not just because she loves him, but because the crime he is supposed to have committed doesn’t make sense. Or it doesn’t make sense that Adamo committed it. Someone certainly made off with $80 million dollars from his investment firm, but it wasn’t Adamo. His partner supposedly committed suicide to escape his own guilt, but there’s no suicide note.

And someone is trying to kill Adamo. If he’s a threat to anyone, it’s to the real perpetrators. He was willing to put it all behind him, but with his and Eve’s lives on the line, he has to find out who really done it before they do him in.

Adamo certainly has to get over his stupid notion that Eve could definitely do better than a broke ex-con with only a defunct inn in Positano to his name and seemingly a price on his head. Eve knows better, but convincing Adamo is a harder sell than it ought to be.

Of course, they could get killed before the dust settles. Or they could find their happily ever after.

Escape Rating A-: Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives.

One of the things that I liked about this book is that the hero and heroine both have a few miles on them. They aren’t teenagers or even young twentysomethings. These are two people who have been around the block, and the trip has left them with some life scars that made them who they are.

Eve’s troubles have been more deeply personal, where Adamo’s were spread across the front pages for weeks. At the same time, the events in Eve’s life also changed who she expected to be, and left her with a load of her own guilt. Eve dropped out of college to become the full-time caregiver for her aging and invalid father as he suffered a series of strokes that left him disabled. She gave up her dreams so that he wouldn’t die alone in a nursing home, and in the end, he died alone while she was out shopping.

She feels both relieved and guilty. When she meets Adamo she is at the beginning of a three-month trip to Europe where she hopes to reset her life now that it is hers again. She needs to find a new purpose. She finds that purpose in helping Adamo reopen the inn that his grandfather left him. After his catastrophic failure and his prison term, the inn is the only asset Adamo has, and the only thing keeping him moving forward. Well, that and the marvelous extended family that is waiting to welcome him home to Italy.

It’s been said that the two most important things in life are love and meaningful work. Re-opening the inn gives both Adamo and Eve plenty of meaningful work. They also find love with each other, but Adamo is holding back because he’s so sure Eve can do better. When his life is threatened, he finally decides that he can’t live and let live, he has to solve the mystery of his past before it gets them both killed.

Once Adamo starts chasing own that old truth, the pace of the story never lets up. Especially once the Conti brothers get involved. With a little investigation, Adamo discovers that whoever tried to kill him is using the Conti organization, or at least its low-level soldiers, to get things done. Neither the “connected” Conti brother in Italy nor the legitimate businessman Conti brother in New York are happy to discover that someone has infiltrated their organizations and is involving them in contract hits and money-laundering schemes that they didn’t authorize.

When the villains find that the tables have been very efficiently turned on them, revenge is sweet, if not quite complete. But there are more than enough just desserts to make you smile at the end.

There has been a recent spate of “Italian Billionaire” romances, but Where Lemons Bloom turns that trope on its head. Adamo has all the makings of the typical Italian romantic hero, but is poor as a churchmouse. There has also been a recent rush of mobster romances, but this story subverts that in a good way. The old-fashioned Godfather is now an old man who is trying to take care of his people before he, and possibly some of the old ways, pass away. His younger brother is legit, but still willing to play the part if it helps the side of the angels.

All in all, Where Lemons Bloom is romantic suspense where the suspense has the reader frantically flipping pages to make sure everything turns out alright. And the romance is absolutely incandescent.