Cara Bastone’s Just a Heartbeat Away is a slow burn romance; it’s also an exploration of grief, loneliness, & happiness that hit me with emotion from the first words & left me certain that I’d just read something special.
When the book opens pre-k teacher Via DeRosa is kindly telling the freshly widowed & single dad Sebastian Dorner that he isn’t taking care of his son Matty properly. She gives him a break-down of things he should/could do for his son & it’s the shock that Sebastian needs to bring him out of a spiral.
Two years later Via’s the freshly hired counselor at Matty’s new school & Sebastian remembers what a service she did for him...& notices for the first time how beautiful she is. But she’s dating someone else & about 15 years younger. Still. Feelings.
This is one of those books where the leads’s hearts are mapped out & the author does it all gently & yet firmly. The difficult convos where Via & Sebastian bond over shared grief are really well done.
While emotions tied to rising up from grief & trying to connect with others are very much themes of the book there’s such happiness too. Such a sense of rightness. I can only say that Cara Bastone is an emotionally astute treasure.
Also she’s a freaking goddess of the slowwwww burn. There’s one quote about chocolate that had me internally gasping...& reading as greedily as I could.
What else do I love about Just a Heartbeat Away? How it’s a real journey for both characters. Neither sees the other in a romantic way for quite some time & that definitely affects the plot. The charming band of secondary characters (Tyler, you’re next!). And most of all, how kind Via & Sebastian are. How much they deserve to be happy & how happy I was when they finally are.
Just a Heartbeat Awayis out now. Thanks to Harlequin & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
4⭐️. Tropes: age gap; workplace romance; opposites attract
Q: do you enjoy watching home improvement shows?
Tessa Bailey always brings the heat & Tools of Engagement is no exception. This romance takes us back to Port Jefferson with a hot, charming former rodeo rider now raising his niece & the perfectionist house stager who happens to set his blood on fire.
I’ve been waiting for Bethany Castle’s HEA and couldn’t wait to see how Bailey would deliver it.
Though Bethany’s a successful house stager for her family business she wants to be a contractor too. When her brother ignores her wish she shares her plans to flip a house in a grand, public fashion, & in the words of Bethany, aforementioned rodeo rider Wes Daniels Jerry Maguires it.
Now Bethany & Wes are working together to flip a house that most would run from & wrestling their feelings for each other. To compound the difficulties they’re facing, Bethany’s pride leads her to agree to participate in a sibling flip face-off for a renovation show. Oopsie.
On a characterization & chemistry level this book is *chef’s kiss. Take Bethany, who’s so committed to the performance of perfection that she breaks out in hives. Bailey writes her beautifully, I think: Bethany’s sure of herself in some ways, in others she’s very afraid, & all of it seems to rest on an crazy amount of behind the scenes prep & work & inner coaching—a constant pressure that she needs to be “on.”
Wes is a dream. He wants & needs a home—even though he wouldn’t admit it—& he is steadfast & supportive. The lengths he goes to for Bethany & his niece...Sorry. Is it possible for a voice to crack from emotion in a review?
I love the emotion of Tools of Engagement but where it falls short for me in some ways is in execution. I wanted more about Bethany’s professional transition. I wasn’t as invested in the reality tv plot but I think I maybe needed more there too.
Tools is another satisfying trip to Port Jeff & the adorable (& also ferocious in the bedroom) couples who make their lives there.
Tools of Engagement is out on 09/22. Thanks to Avon & Edelweiss for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.