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Competitive, work-obsessed Bella Simonetti has just been fired from her high-paying job at a Manhattan law firm. At an all-time low, she returns home and helps her parents at their small-town gift shop, but the business is failing and may not make it past the Christmas holidays.
Successful landscape architect Dean Jackson is like a son to Bella’s parents. But he’s a persistent annoyance to her—he seems to have forgotten his unforgivable blunder thirteen years earlier.
When Bella transforms her parents’ gift shop into a cookie cottage, Dean’s generosity and magnetic smile are hard to resist, and those feelings of unrequited adolescent love come rushing back. But can Bella let go of the past and accept Dean for the man he is today?
Read an Excerpt
She ignored the little voice in her head encouraging her to come clean. Especially since she planned to live in her parents’ house until she could find a job. Maybe she’d share at dinner tonight. After a bottle of wine.
The back door squeaked open and a gust of air blew in before the door was firmly closed. “Good morning, Barb. Clive.”
The guest came in and gave her mom a kiss on the cheek before slapping her dad on the back. Bella’s mouth flew open as she watched the scene, a tiny gasp escaping.
Dean Jackson! What is he doing here?
“Honey, you remember Dean don’t you?” Her mom’s smile grew much bigger than it had been all morning. “Your brother’s friend from high school?”
“Of…of course I do.” Bella buttoned the top button of her pajamas before her hand flew up to assure her messy bun was still on top of her head. Fire flamed her face as she puzzled out the reason for his presence at seven-thirty a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Or any time, for that matter.
“Dean’s been like another son to us,” her dad beamed. “Ever since your brother took that job in Boston, he’s helped us do whatever needs to be done around here or at the store. And he’s my golf buddy.”
Dean’s gaze zeroed in on her, and her thoughts fuzzed. She would have loved to slink upstairs, but no way was she going to get out of this chair sporting flannel pajamas and bunny slippers. Was nothing sacred around here?
I’m just going to say that I love Ms. Imbalzano. I review her books a bunch on the site and this one is another one that’s she hits in all the right places for me. While I don’t truly like a heavy Christmas book, this one deals more with a reunion, enemies to lovers tropes that I love. Mind you that this book isn’t too heavy on the angst but there is just the right amount of it to get the feeling right between Dean and Bella. You can feel the tension when they are in the same room.
Of course, Dean doesn’t have a clue as to what the heck is going on with Bella. He’s kind of excited to see her but the cool breeze that is coming off of her is cold. I loved how Bella handled Dean in the beginning. Hilarious but also, I understood it, too. I won’t go into what happened but let’s just say I wouldn’t be able to see Dean much less talk to him. Ugh. Older brothers are a pain the patukus. I had a little brother that thought he could tell me or his friends what to do. But I digress…however, I really liked that they actually discussed what had happened and come to some kind of understanding.
I really liked Bella and Dean. They were perfect for each other but what I didn’t care for was how sorta wishy-washy Bella was when it came to her own life. Sure, things were great but I never got the feeling like she actually liked being a lawyer or living in NYC that much. Sure we got the why she was back home but I never got the feeling that she really missed it at all. She might have missed the idea of being a lawyer and living in NYC but I wasn’t sold on it. It’s the only thing I didn’t like about the book.
Her parents were awesome. Change is hard but it was worth it in the end. I would have liked for her brother to at least call but honestly, he would have brought the book down. Dean and Bella needed to figure things out between them before involving her brother. He He! That’s a conversation that I would have loved to hear.
Overall, I loved Dean and Bella. Much growth between them is actually having conversations like mature adults. No misunderstandings, just feelings brought out in the open and talking about them. Ms. Imbalzano does this brilliantly with her characters. Can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.
About the Author:
Maria Imbalzano is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full-time. Instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, although fascinating, she now spends her days creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels.
Her novel, “Unchained Memories,” won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series was a finalist for the illustrious RONE award as well as the Book Buyers Best Award. Her novellas, “The Blueberry Swirl Waltz” and “A Song For Another Day” each came in first in their category in the National Excellence in Story Telling contest.