Tess had a hard life. She made a life for herself after escaping the claws of her abusive ex-husband. When she meets a new man in her bakery, she thinks life is smiling at her again. Unfortunately the man, Brock "Slim" Lucas, is an undercover agent. The betrayal is unbearable when she discovers the truth. Luckily, Brock wasn't pretending falling in love with her.
"When I took that job, you were the light of a warm, sunny day, Tess. Darla was the dead of a cold, dark f***kin’ night.” His face got close and his voice got low when he finished, “It felt good to feel the sun again.”"
" “Are you gettin’ it yet?” “Getting what?” I asked back. His roaming hands stopped and one came to frame the side of my face as he dipped his close. Then, he whispered, “With Tessa O’Hara, what you see is what you get. No bullshit. No games. No masks. No lies. No nothin’. Just her, all her."
Love, love , love her! It's not often that I want to be friends with fictional characters but Tess is definitely a woman I'sd feel honoured to be friends with. She's strong and sweet. She's able to be gracious and sweet because she's strong. She's in her 40's and it showed. She's wise and smart. I liked her "don't sweat the small stuff" attitude. That didn't mean she was a pushover, but that she was an expert on how to choose her battles wisely. And she needed that strength to handle Brock, his family and the mess she found herself into with her ex-husband.
"Determinedly setting the mood that what had just passed had passed and now we were going to get back to regularly scheduled programming that did not include bitchy, manipulative ex-wives or vicious, nasty, territorial ex-husbands, I stated, “Dinner choices, steak and potatoes, pork chops and rice or hamburgers.”"
Brock "Slim" Lucas
He thought I was funny. He thought I was beautiful. He got close anytime I was near. He wanted to stand between me and roaring lions. He wanted to help me battle my ghosts. He had two fantastic sons, a screwy but loving family, a great body, an affectionate manner and he remembered the color of the nightie I wore our first night together in my bed.
Well, it's not called the "Dream Man" series for nuthin'. *Swoon* Brock is forty-five. He had a hard life. His marriage was a failure, he had to take care of his family since he was a kid and his father left them, he's resigned himself for a life of solitude. When he meets Tess he's aware that he's found a gem, his soulmate and he's ready to fight for her, for them.
Tess and Brock were so damn cute! Tess mentioned Ian and Tula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was so spot on! They definitely had that kind of sweet dynamic.
Their little world
“Oo lawdy, I’m thinkin’ family drama is far from over."
I liked how Tess and Brock fought to make their dream of a life together come true. They are real people, tied to ex-spouses, children, relatives, friends, jobs and it was nice to see them make their couple fit in their little world. And it wasn't an easy job. They say that when you marry, you also marry into a family. In this case Tess ended up with a dream man but nightmarish in-laws! They were well-meaning and loving but, woah, I'm not sure I'd've had the strength to deal with that lot, haha!
It was cool to see Gwen and the girl posse back! Although I was pissed at Gwen for trashing Brock, and Elvira was really nosy at times. I was glad that Tess was level-headed and strong enough to keep them from meddling too much. They brought a lot of humour and I'm a sucker for depictions of female friendship so I was happy.
The book was centered on family, and emotions, but it still had its fair share of action and excitement. It's romantic suspense after all, and I liked the resolution of the mystery at the end.
I don't know how to explain what makes Kristen Ashley's books so satisfying. Maybe it's because her characters, their world, their relationships feel so authentic. The HEA feels deserved and things are not picture-perfect but perfect in a real way. So much better than a fairy tale ending.