Monday, July 16, 2018

ARC Review: The First Time at Firelight Falls by Julie Anne Long

Series:Hellcat Canyon #1
Pub. Date:May 29, 2018
Length:366 pgs

This was my first time reading Julie Anne Long, and I will be reading more of her in the future. I was at first skeptical as to whether I would like this book. I didn't think I would relate to the characters - a single mom and school principal... but I loved them! I really like Long's writing style. The romance was sweet and a little steamy, and she made our heroine's kid cute and entertaining.

Eden Harwood is our single mom heroine, proprietor of a florist shop and master at a white board schedule necessary to keep her life and kid's schedule organized. She is pretty and enigmatic, but hasn't had a date in the 10 years since she learned of her unexpected pregnancy. Her life revolves around her daughter, Annelise. Annelise was cute and smart and talented. She likes new words and can play a mournful guitar, and she really added a fun element to the story aside from the romance. I liked the relationship between Annelise and Eden. But Eden will have to step away from her Annelise comfort zone if she ever wants to become romantically involved again, and that was hard for her to do. I found Eden's background and her lack of love history interesting and somewhat unusual for a romance. Usually a single mom heroine is nursing pain and a broken heart somewhere, but that wasn't the case with Eden. I loved her empathy and many of the little things she did when it involved someone she cared about.

Gabe Caldera is our school principal heroine... not normally the sort of guy I envision as a romance hero. But Gabe is a former Navy SEAL! Oh man, why couldn't my high school principal have been a smoking hot former Navy SEAL with "those square muscles on his stomach" (as relayed by Annelise)? All the PTA moms are hot for principal, and I couldn't blame them one bit. Gabe was great with kids, but even greater with the moms and knew how to use his attributes to smooth over situations. I loved his fun and flirty side, and particularly liked the little bit of dirty flirty that came out around Eden. Gabe's heart has been wounded in the past, which has led to him staying all kinds of busy and not getting involved. However, he found himself drawn closer and closer to our heroine and was finally able to step out of his own comfort zone to give it a shot.

The relationship between these two was so fun. They had great banter and chemistry, and it was a joy to watch their dynamic unfold. Of course there had to be some drama thrown in to disrupt things a little, which usually makes me grumbly as I chase the happy ending. But in this case, I didn't get aggravated. I was still riveted to the kindle screen to see what would happen next. (So riveted, in fact, that I stayed on the treadmill for an extra half hour!)

I haven't read the earlier books in the Hellcat Canyon series, and I think this on worked fine as a standalone despite the character crossover. But I will be going back to check out those earlier stories now because I really liked this one.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Avon.

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