I wrote about my friend Allyson's debut contemporary romance novel, Conflict of Interest. Today, I want to tell you about the next book in her "Bits and Bytes" series, Holding Her Close, which is actually a prequel. (I heart me a good prequel, y'all.)
In Conflict of Interest, we met Scott and Zach, co-owners of a lucrative software/gaming development company, and followed Scott's romance with the gal hired to groom him so he could make nice with the investors/world. In Holding Her Close, we travel back to a darker time, when the lads' first company was subject to a hostile takeover, and their futures looked bleak.
Zach, a long-haired blond dude (I heart me a man with floppy locks, y'all), is haunted by the fact that their company wouldn't be in such dire straits if his former girlfriend hadn't pulled out from investing (and very publicly rejected his marriage proposal). (Le ouch.) Worse, a previous, more important ex-girlfriend, Rae, feeds Scott's hopes that they can restore their company to its former glory—something Zach knows to be impossible. Still, Zach appreciates that, after ten years of not being on speaking terms with Rae, they can now interact without one or both of them freaking out. (More or less.)
Rae's good with numbers (I heart me a chick who rocks the maths, y'all, 'cause I couldn't do the kinds of calculations this gal does for a living to save my life). And Rae believes she can help the fellas come back from defeat, only it's gonna take a lot for her to convince Zach of that fact. The Zach she dumped when they were in high school. The Zach she never stopped wanting. And, from the looks of things, Zach isn't quite off the emotional hook either. He proposes they do the thing they didn't the first time around—have sex. You know, just to get it out of their systems. For closure. (Man, if I only had a nickel for every time a man proposed sex for closure...) (Well, OK, I wouldn't even have a nickel.)
The dark romance of it all: First, I'm always fascinated by folks who can stay friends with their exes—I've not managed it and, frankly, I don't see the point (unless y'all have kids together or something). Second, it intrigues me when folks who've split decide to get jiggy with one another later on down the line. Who doesn't know that's a supremely bad idea? (More often than not, I'd wager.) Zach and Rae have so much baggage from their breakup, they'd be hit with extra checked baggage fees from pretty much every major airline in the U.S. Each suffers from monumental anger and hurt from what went down all those years ago, and yet it's this woundedness which drives them to seek sexual healing from one another. Of course, it'd have been better for them to heal their wounds before getting intimate...or perhaps it's the complete vulnerability of love-making which opens them up to healing. Why does coming to grips with past heartache often seem to require the complete stripping of the self and renewed suffering, until we're made new? (Hah, I may as well inquire of the moon why she revolves around the Earth.)
I enjoyed Holding Her Close; it engrossed me straightaway and didn't seem too inclined to let me get to bed at a reasonable hour. (I started reading on my morning commute, gritted my teeth in frustration when I had to stop to work, then picked it up again on my commute back home and for the rest of the night. I was over 60% done with it by the time I finally got to bed.) The writing is crisply contemporary and I found myself relating to Rae, and liking her, quite a lot. Zach was a bit more glib than I generally like in a romance hero, though I appreciate that he keeps things at a superficial level in self-defense, at some cost to his own peace of mind. Seeing them reconnect and process their past was a pleasure, as were their love-scenes (which, I have to tell you, really grabbed my attention in ways that other writers' love-scenes don't always manage to). (They were hawt, y'all, is what I'm sayin'.)
I feel like I'd have liked to follow Rae as she dug up some very pertinent information regarding the hostile takeover (I even think it'd have been fun to see her and Zach team up, Scooby Doo style, to uncover these mysteries, and would've provided more dramatic opportunities for them to re-bond). But that's a minor point, as I found the story engaging, came to care a great deal about the main characters, and really wanted them to enjoy a "happily ever after."
All in all, Holding Her Close was a lot of fun and I'd recommend it for anyone into gaming, young professionals, and lovers of romance of all ages.