Harlequin, 2006 (2006)
Reviewed by Martina Bexte
Susan Mallery has cooked up a charming sequel to last year's
, continuing the storyline of Seattle restaurateurs, the Buchanans. This time it's ex-marine Walker's turn to march front and center in his own story. Since resigning from the marines, his sole mission has been trying to find the girlfriend of a fallen comrade who took a bullet meant for Walker. The kid's death will always haunt him but he knows that delivering a special letter will somehow ease his guilt.
etween searches he's also trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. His grandmother Gloria is determined he finally get his head on straight and join the Buchanan corporate empire, but Walker has no intention of appeasing the old battleaxe. To spite her even further, he moves into a rundown part of the city and basically keeps to himself until the day he notices Elissa Towers having a tough time changing a flat. Offering his help seems like the neighborly thing to do and the fiercely independent single mom has no choice but to accept - she just doesn't have the muscles required to get the darn tire loose. Walker may be the most delicious male she's clapped eyes on in a long time, but she's determined to avoid any and all relationships until her daughter Zoe goes off to college - which means celibacy for another thirteen years or so - give or take.
hen Walker ends up buying her a brand new tire, Elissa is annoyed, yet even more determined to pay him back. Her waitressing job doesn't bring in much, so she offers him a home baked pie along with a promise that she'll pay him back in small increments when she can afford it. Walker doesn't care about the money, but he'd be a fool to brush off Elissa’s single-minded campaign to reimburse his sixty dollars. When he suggests an equal trade in the form of home cooked meals she agrees, and soon Walker finds himself part of Elissa's and Zoe's tight little family unit - and also the target of their 90-year old neighbor's unabashed match-making schemes. Elissa and Walker swear to anybody who'll listen that they're
, but even they know that's an out and out lie once they realize that each is exactly what the other needs to heal their damaged hearts.
hether you've already met the Buchanan family or are trying out Mallery's delectable series for the first time,
is an engaging and heartwarming story. Walker and Elissa are both well-rounded and believable characters whose motivations for avoiding romance ring true - which makes their second go-round at discovering love even more appealing. Precocious kids and spry elderly matchmakers who are fond of meddling guarantee charm in any story. Mallery adds additional nice touches about the inner workings of a restaurant as well as bringing readers more insight into Buchanan family dynamics, particularly the machinations of family matriarch Gloria, whose literal fall from grace is a great lead in to the next installment,
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