Nina is my “Author of the Month” for May. This is the third of her books that I’ve read (the second this month)… and I luff them. ❤
The first book of a charming new series, in which a young woman is forced to help her old friend revamp his image for the upcoming mayoral elections…and discovers that she might not be as immune to his charms as she once thought.
When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and current mayor of Hope Lake, Pennsylvania—suggests she help with Cooper Endicott’s campaign, she’s horrified. Cooper, one of her (former) oldest friends, drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, so Emma reluctantly launches her plan to help him win the local election.
It’s not as easy as it looks. Cooper’s colorful love life is the sticking point for many voters, and his opponent is digging up everything he can from his past. It seems that every time Emma puts out the flames from one scandal, another one flares up. Emma knows that if Cooper wants to win, he needs to keep his nose clean. The only problem? She might just be falling in love with the one person she promised never to pursue: the mayoral candidate himself.
I walked into this series already knowing I would love it. Nina’s ability to create a character with richness and realness, build them a world you could live in, and make it all feel important to you — it really is a gift.
Having made the rookie error of reading book three in this series first, I had a good idea about how some things were going to end up — but I loved getting there.
What I loved:
First, I loved learning more about the town of Hope Lake. Seriously, I wanna go there, maybe move there. (Ok, not move there, I don’t do snow, lol!) Kinda like the fans in the football stadium are sometimes called the “12th man” at a game… supporting their team and influencing the process, I feel like this town is another character in the story. There are some things that happen in the story ONLY because they’re in a town like Hope Lake.
I loved the families and friends of the main characters. They all contributed so much to the entire feel of the story. The scenes with Emma and the other two parts of their “friendship quartet” were really great, and I loved seeing how close they all still were, even with the rift between Emma and Cooper. The elderly ladies group cracked me up and made me cheer.
I loooooved every time Cooper called Emma “Emmanuelle”, even though it drove her nuts. I loved that even though he made her crazy now (for any number of valid reasons), she still allowed herself to remember some of their happier times. She didn’t shut herself off from those memories. I loved Cooper’s steadfast belief in the town, and his interactions with the residents during his campaign. Even when he wasn’t 100% sure of himself, his genuine dedication to them never wavered.
As far as the conflict with these two — this mashup of “second chance romance”/”friends to lovers”/”enemies to lovers” tropes — I was worried that it would get to me, but it didn’t. At each point I could see something happening that, in other stories would get dragged out too long, or handled badly, but this author just nailed it! Yes, I cried when things got mucked up, and that sucked cause I don’t like to cry, but I didn’t spend page after page feeling gutted and horrible about the situations that were happening. I SO appreciated that! Then — when it was time for the happy — I was ALL ABOUT THE HAPPY!!
What I didn’t love:
This is the second time that I feel like the leading lady “got off easier” in the responsible for the pair’s conflict. Yes, Cooper broke her heart… and yes, when you’re young, you don’t always handle that in the best ways. But there were circumstances in both pivotal moments of their younger years that *could* have been handled differently — on both of their parts — and I feel like Emma blamed Cooper for all of it, and he just took on all of it. She could have done things differently, too. Having said that — everything was written realistically — I can easily see exactly those situations happening, and them going exactly as they were written.
Of course I loved this book. I was thrilled with my HEA, and I can’t wait to get to the next in the series.