If you read our feature for Valentine's Day featuring our all time favorite love stories then you'll know that my favorite story is from the Hot Shot Series by Bella Andre. I thought it would be next to impossible for her to top that story but she has yet again surprised me with her clever, fresh story that rounds out the first eight siblings featured in her Sullivan series.
In this installment it is Lori's turn - aka Naughty. She has made many teaser appearances throughout the series letting us know that she has a boyfriend and it hasn't always been a great relationship, certainly one that her brothers would not approve of and one that her twin is urging her to end before the brothers find out about it. The story opens with her having done just that, but in true Lori fashion she doesn't do anything by halves. In finding out that her boyfriend is cheating on her and has used her to grow his own career, she walks away from it all - him, her career, her identity, her very life. She flies home but instead of going home she rents a car at the airport and asks the attendant where she should go. When the attendant smiles and says that her favorite getaway is Pescadero, CA Lori sets off not caring about anything but getting away and starting over without having to face her family. She can't face her old life, as it feels as if her ex has tainted it and taken all the joy she felt from being a dancer. Unsure what to do with herself since dancing is all she has ever done and ever wanted to do she is beyond lost. Completely unaware, due to her state of mind, that she is still wearing her stage costume she arrives in the quiet rural farming town. Stoping for a snack at the general store, she finds a ad for a farm hand and thinks....why not - could be fun.
Grayson has fled to this part of California and become a farmer because it was as far away from his previous New York executive life as he could get. After his marriage to his college sweetheart turned bitter and ended tragically with her dying in a car crash, he has not been able to get over the guilt that he feels in allowing things to get that bad. Fleeing town, buying a ranch and working non-stop to turn it into a fresh start has been his focus for three years. He has worked tirelessly to shut out the world and close down his heart so he doesn't have to think beyond what needs to be done now. Until - Lori shows up in her stage outfit telling him she wants to be his new Farm Hand.
From the moment they meet they both feel the chemistry but neither of them want it. Lori wants a job. Grayson needs help but doesn't think she is capable. Simple. But Lori has never allowed herself to fail or take no for an answer - ever. So when he tells her to prove it she sets out in 4 inch dancing heels and spandex to try to round up the chickens. Once successful - he challenges her again - and once again in her revealing outfit she sets out and does a perfect job cleaning the house. The only problem is now that she has earned the job there isn't anywhere for her to stay in the small town other then in his house! And so their journey begins.
They both have a ton of healing and emotions to work through. The farm proves to be a playground for Lori. Having loved as a child to garden and play in the mud, she surprises Grayson by not shying away from the pigs, chickens, weeding, etc. And then further surprises him by standing up to him and not letting his gruff, cold personality push her away. Her constant push backs begin to break down his walls as nothing else could and eventually they begin to heal each other and the chemistry that was there from the first moment they saw each other starts to become to much to continue to ignore.
There is simply nothing sexier then a dancing, horseback riding cowboy. As they continue to be thrust together in magical scenes - him whisking her away on horseback as a storm rolls in leaving them soaked and feeling the adrenaline rush of being chased by lighting; his tender, strong arms around her as he spins her around in a perfect waltz at a barn dance giving her back her passion for dancing - they both come to realize that what they have is not a fleeting case of lust and they gingerly let the dance become more.
This story is...wow! Lori is strong and amazing. She has been kicked down in every possible way at the start of the story but instead of feeling sorry for herself she picks a new path and could care less if it makes sense or how difficult it might be. She embraces the challenge and finds the fun in even the must yucky of tasks....to the point where she makes cleaning up a pig pen sound like a fun way to spend the day. Grayson - well he is ornery. But that is what makes him so charming. As a man of few words, when he does speak it is honest and when he speaks from the heart there is no doubting that he means it. Their journey is one of true ever lasting love built on a rock solid foundation of mutual respect and admiration. The scenery of the ranch adds a magical background - from the rolling farm land to the crashing waves of the beach - they are surrounded by energy and magic. Add to that the farm animals that become Lori's friends, of sorts, and the story becomes a well rounded tale of family and love. This is a must read. This could stand alone but I would recommend reading the whole series.
RATING: FIVE Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
This book was given to us by Bella Andre for a unbiased review. Many thanks