Their competition has never been so irresistible...
The last person Ellie McDermott wanted to run into after returning to her hometown is Finn Donovan, her high school nemesis and the guy she crossed the line from enemies to lovers with one night years ago. Now ex-military, tattooed, and still sexy as hell, Finn is a complication Ellie doesn't need-she needs to concentrate on saving her family business.
Finn's entire life, Ellie was there, going head-to-head with him in every class, bee, and test. So it's no surprise she'd show up just as he was about to take over her father's struggling business. It is a surprise, though, that his attraction to her is even more explosive than it had been. Acting on their attraction is one thing, but Finn has to turn a profit to save his own family, and nothing-not even love-will get in his way.
Very good, very emotional book, with a setting I haven't encountered before - a pair of funeral homes. Ellie works for an ad agency in Pittsburgh and has just been awarded a big account when she gets an emergency call from the police in her hometown. Her father has been found wandering around town, disoriented and taken to the hospital. When she arrives in Harmony Hills, she finds that he has been hiding his Alzheimer's from her. Now he can no longer live alone, but must go to a nursing home, leaving her in charge of the business. She can't just close it because she needs the money for his expenses, but she is also committed to the ad campaign. To make matters worse, she discovers her old school frenemy, Finn, has come home and opened his own funeral home, putting McDermott's in danger.
Finn finished his time in the Marines and came home, ready to face the demons that sent him running after high school. His funeral home is starting to do well, but there's not enough business for two in town, so he is trying to buy out McDermott's. He needs to succeed in order to take care of his mother, and having Ellie show up and take over puts a crimp in his plans.
Ellie and Finn had been competitors all through school, always vying for the top score or position. They were friends of a sort, always able to be themselves with each other. Each of them had issues with their lives in the small town and couldn't wait to leave. Ellie always felt that she was the object of pity and gossip after her mother was killed in a car accident with her lover. Finn is hiding the fact that his highly respected by the town father abuses Finn, his brothers, and their mother. Attraction that had been building between them explodes on a night when Finn came looking for comfort, leaving both unable to deal with the aftermath. Each of them views their encounter in a different way.
Ellie and Finn are thrown back into competition when she agrees to her father's request that she run things. Though they try to keep away from each other, their attraction is stronger than ever. Though each needs to win this competition, they are able to keep it mostly friendly. But each encounter fans the flames of their attraction, until they decide that maybe they can keep business and pleasure separate. Of course, that never works and this is no exception. Though the solution is obvious, their views on relationships have been affected by those of their parents and neither is looking to repeat those mistakes.
I ached for Ellie throughout the book as she tried to deal with her father's rapid decline. It was especially heartbreaking at the end, as she deals with both that and her feelings for Finn. He has his moments of obliviousness that nearly ruin everything before he finally sees the truth. I loved his big moment as he makes his desperate attempt to prove his love to Ellie. It's all wrapped up in an epilogue that shows there's more to their love than just heat.
I loved the secondary characters who added another layer of depth to the story. Ellie's father and the story of how he carried on after his wife's death, and the pain of watching his decline. I loved Finn's mom and seeing her go from broken to strong was fantastic. Ellie's staff at the funeral home were her saviors, and I especially liked BB. Though she seemed to be quite the airhead at the beginning, Ellie quickly discovered there was quite a brain under that hair. The Dinner Belles went from being the source of Ellie's teenage pain to some of her greatest supporters.
There were parts of the book that had me in tears, especially at the end. There were others that had me laughing out loud, most notably the fundraiser and the dunk tank. There were also a couple places that had me fanning myself from the heat coming off the pages. Now I can't wait to read the books for Finn's brothers.
*copy received from Netgalley in exchange for honest review