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—New York Times bestselling author Susan Andersen
"Sexy, sassy, funny, and cool."—Library Journal on Crush on You
"Ridgway's feel-good read, with its perfectly integrated, extremely hot, and well-crafted love scenes, is contemporary romance at its best."
—Booklist on Can't Hurry Love (starred review)
"Pure romance, delightfully warm and funny."
—New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Crusie
"Christie Ridgway is delightful."
-New York Times bestselling author Rachel Gibson
Vance Smith had faced down Taliban bullets with more cool than he felt sitting on the beachside restaurant's open-air deck. He was here to meet his companion for the next month, and not that he'd admit it to anyone, but there was an undeniable film of sweat on both palms—sweat he couldn't even swipe against his jeans thanks to the fiberglass cast that bound one wrist and the soft brace that was fastened around the other.
Sometime during his short hospital stay, a dumb-ass private with Picasso pretensions had taken a Sharpie to the pristine polymer wrapping on his left arm and drawn a big-busted, half-naked warrior princess, detailed enough that Vance had been forced to beg his cousin Baxter this morning for some help in disguising the X-rated image. He was meeting an impressionable young person, after all.
Grimacing, Vance glanced down at his cousin's solution, then back at Baxter himself, who was sitting across the table, nursing a club soda. "Really?" he said to the other man, not bothering to blunt the edge to his voice. "A tat sleeve? That's the best you could come up with?"
Baxter blinked. In their youth, people had mistaken the two of them for twins and they still had the same blond hair and blue eyes. But while Vance sported a soldier's barber cut and casual clothes, his one-yearyounger cousin had a salon style and looked the epitome of his nickname, All Business Baxter, in a conservative suit and tie. His gaze dropped to the nylon fabric stretched over Vance's cast. "I say it's inspired. And I could have made a worse choice, you know. As it is, you almost blend in."
Vance grunted. He supposed Bax was right. The sleeve's design wasn't demonic, or worse, straight out of a prison documentary. Instead, the images were intricate and colorful weavings of tribal signs, tropical flora and curling waves. Nothing to scare off a child.
"Snuggle up closer with Teddy if you're still worried," Baxter advised. "Then your new little friend won't even notice them."
It wasn't embarrassment but annoyance that burned Vance's skin. "Shut up," he said, adjusting the toddler-size stuffed bear on his lap. A big blue satin bow was tied around its neck. "And remind me why you're not at work again?" His cousin managed the numbers end of the family business, Smith & Sons Foods, that grew avocados and citrus in a fertile area about sixty miles southeast of here. "Shouldn't you be counting packing crates or something?"
Baxter tilted his head and seemed to consider the question. "Good point. I am very busy. But I'm also the only relative who gets more than the rare two-line email from you. My three sentences confer a certain responsibility upon me."
Vance looked toward the ocean to avoid the censure in the other man's gaze. The restaurant was situated at one end of Southern California's Crescent Cove, a gentle curve of land that created a shallow cup for the gray-blue Pacific water. Today's bright July sun scattered gold discs onto its dappled surface. A beautiful sight, and as different as could be from the stark landscape of Afghanistan that he'd been gazing upon for months, but he didn't find it soothing. There was that kid in his future. Four weeks playing father figure to a stranger.
"'Confer a certain responsibility,'" he muttered, taking his uneasiness out on his cousin. "You've turned pompous, you know that?"
"It must be those sixteen hours a day I sit behind a desk," Baxter replied without heat. "Not everyone has spent the last half year or so dodging IEDs and getting in the middle of firefights."
"It's my job." He was a combat medic, and though it wasn't what he'd originally planned for himself, Vance held no regrets about being the one to aid his fallen brothers on the battlefield. He did it damn well. Lives had been saved.
And some not.
"Uh-oh," Baxter said now. "Stay with me, fella. You look ready to bolt."
"I'm not going anywhere." He could still hear his grandfather's voice in his head. A man never breaks a promise. And Vance lived by that. His fingers absently played with the ends of the stuffed bear's satin ribbon. "When her dad was dying in that godforsaken valley, I swore to him I'd give Layla a vacation to remember at Beach House No. 9."
The injured colonel had carried the details of his planned trip in the interior webbing of his combat helmet, where it was common for soldiers to tuck valued letters and precious photos. Like Vance, he had learned of Crescent Cove from Griffin Lowell, an embedded journalist who had waxed poetic about his childhood summers at the place to anyone who'd listen. Those idyllic reminiscences had served as an escape for all of them from the drudgery and brutality of war, but must have struck a particular chord with the officer, because he'd arranged the cottage rental for his upcoming leave and stashed the particulars with the photo he carried of his little girl.
Hiding behind a straw-and-mud wall, while Vance was doing his best to stanch the bleeding from the older man's multiple wounds, Colonel Samuel Parker had one thing on his mind—his daughter. As death closed in, he'd extracted from Vance a promise to act as stand-in tour guide during Layla's month-to-remember. Vance considered it a point of honor to obey the good man's final order.
"Hey." Baxter jerked in his chair, his attention riveted over Vance's shoulder. "Is that ?" He wiped a hand across his mouth. "It couldn't be."
Alarmed by his cousin's sudden loss of urbanity, Vance glanced around. "Oh," he said, relaxing. "It's Addy. You remember Addison March—her mom is friends with our mothers, she grew up down the road from our ranch—"
"I know who she is," Baxter interjected. "But why is she here? Why is she coming toward us?"
Vance once again glanced over his shoulder. Addy, a small, curvy blonde dressed in a pair of flat sandals and calf-length pants, was crossing the deck toward their table. She didn't look the least bit worthy of the thread of distress in his cousin's voice. "I hired her to act as a nanny. I couldn't very well be alone with a little girl. I ran into Addy when I was checking out the cove a couple of days ago and—"
"But you said you'd never heard of this place before that reporter mentioned it. I've never heard of it before. Of all the gin joints," the other man muttered, pushing out of his chair with agitated movements. "I've got to go."
"Hello," a female voice said from behind Vance's back. Addy had arrived. "Leaving already, Baxter?"
His cousin froze and his panicked expression would have been comical if it wasn't so out of character. "You feel okay?" Vance asked him.
"I'm fine. Fine," Baxter muttered, sinking back into his seat. "Never been better. Not a care in the world."
"Whatever you say." Vance gestured toward one of the free chairs at the table. "Sit down, Addy. You're right on time. Layla should be here any minute."
"With her uncle?" the young woman asked.
"I suppose." The arrangements to meet today had been made via email through Phil Parker, the contact he'd been given by Layla's father. If you asked Vance, the man came off a bubble short of level, his often-vague replies free of punctuation and peppered with irrelevant references to kismet, fate and surfing. Each email ended with namaste, whatever the hell that meant.
"The stuffed animal's a nice touch," Addy said.
The mention of Teddy irritated Vance all over again, so he slipped the photo he carried out of the breast pocket of his sports shirt. Yeah, he'd sort of dressed up for the kid, too. His best jeans and a short-sleeved button-down, straight from the dry cleaner's plastic. He slapped the picture onto the tabletop. "Her father had this with him. It's what gave me the idea."
Layla Parker stared up at the three of them. She was sitting on a short flight of concrete steps, one of her knobby little-kid knees sporting scabs. Her long hair was in pigtails tied below each ear, revealing a wide forehead over big brown eyes. She appeared to be approximately ten years old and she stared into the camera, a little smile curving her lips as her skinny arms hugged a potbellied teddy bear to her middle.
"Ah," Addy said, smiling. "Cute."
"Yeah." Her dad's fingers had been trembling when he fished out the picture. Isn't she beautiful, Vance? You've got to do something for her. You've got to do something for my girl. What choice had there been? The husky emotion in the mortally wounded man's voice had impelled Vance to say he would.
He'd also done everything in his power to save the colonel, but it hadn't been enough. Too soon he'd been gone, leaving Vance alone with his pledge to fulfill the fallen officer's final wish.
"I've got to go," Baxter said again.
"Sure." With Addy on scene, there was another person at the table to smooth over the awkwardness of the initial meeting with young Layla. He angled his head toward his cousin. "Thanks for—"
Vance broke off as the breeze made a sudden shift, blowing a cold breath across the nape of his neck. The small hairs on his body—even the ones surrounded by the infernal cast and brace—went on instant alert as if eager to escape. He tensed. Soldiers learned to rely on their gut, and Vance's was suddenly shouting that the person who should be leaving was him.
But though he'd been scared shitless a hundred times, since joining the army he'd never ducked his duty and he wasn't about to start now. Anyway, what could possibly endanger him in this sun-drenched civilian world?
That weird breeze chilled him again, and Vance jerked his head in its direction. Sunlight dazzled him. Something dazzled him, anyway, and he was forced to blink a couple of times before bringing into focus the deserted hostess stand across the deck and the lone figure positioned before it. It was a very pretty woman, probably in her mid-twenties, wearing a silky-looking dress of swirling jewel colors that hit at midthigh and was belted around her slender waist. Medium-brown hair waved past her shoulders and her forehead was covered by a deep fringe of bangs.
A new feeling tickled him. He should know her, he thought, frowning. And not just in the way any red-blooded man would want to know a woman that hot. She looked familiar.
And nervous. Her fingers combed through the ends of her long hair as she went on tiptoe to scan the area. When she settled back on her heels, she bit down on her bottom lip.
God, didn't he know that mouth?
He wouldn't have forgotten kissing those lips, would he?
Still puzzling it out, he narrowed his gaze. He was thirty and she was about five years younger, which crossed her off his list of high school hookups—even if one might have coincidentally ventured here, an hour from home environs. As for more recent conquests—until six months ago he'd been in a yearlong, serious relationship. Meaning if this lovely little mama was part of his past it would have been in his wild and crazy years wild, crazy and hazy.
He glanced over at Baxter, who had been his partner in crime—okay, he'd been the designated driver—whenever Vance could pry him free of his Aeron office chair. "Cuz."
Baxter started. He'd been watching Addy, who'd been watching the waves curl toward shore. "Uh, what?" His hand smoothed over the tasteful stripes of his preppy tie even as he slid a last look at the blonde seated beside him.
Vance couldn't cipher what was going on there, not when he had to determine the identity of the leggy girl at the hostess stand. "Don't be obvious, but check out the woman waiting for a table." He saw his cousin lift his gaze in the right direction. "Do I know her?"
Bax's eyes flicked back to Vance's face. "Huh? How would I be aware of all your acquaintances?"
"It's a long shot, but " But he had this dreadlike feeling that she wasn't a mere acquaintance. He fought the urge to ogle her again, though the guy in him was clamoring for a second look. It was a bad idea, though. If she was a former interest of his, he didn't want to attract her attention. He'd become a little classier—and a lot less of a party animal—over the past few years, and it would only embarrass them both if she attempted reacquaintance and he was forced to admit he'd forgotten her name and how he knew her.
How well they might have known each other.
Could I really have forgotten that mouth?
Hooking a foot around a leg of his chair, he gave it a little twist, presenting more of his back to the brunette. "Never mind."
"Um," his cousin said, his gaze drifting over Vance's shoulder again. "I guess she's given up waiting on the hostess. She's walked onto the deck and it looks as if she's coming in this direction."
Hell! Vance did a rush shuffle through his memory banks. In college, he'd double majored in hedonism and procrastination until dropping out to join the army. Returning to California after his four-year stint, he'd briefly gone back to his bad boy ways. Though he'd soon straightened up and begun a relationship with a woman he'd thought was his future, it still left time for him to find then forget the wavy-haired woman he could practically feel from here.
He took a chance and glanced back. She was standing still again, scanning the restaurant's patrons with a hint of anxiety in her expression. He hoped some asshole hadn't stood her up. As he watched, her eyes started to track toward their table and Vance hurriedly turned his head. Sliding lower in his seat, he made to grab a menu from the table to use as a shield, then froze.
What the hell was he doing? If he hid behind the vinyl folder, Addy would think he was addled. Bax would laugh his ass off. Vance considered himself an idiot just for having the craven impulse.
Anyway, no chance I would have forgotten that face.
Preparing to start some relaxing small talk with his companions, he cleared his throat. Addy and Baxter both looked at him and then, as one, their gazes transferred to a spot above his head. Vance's belly tightened. A delicately sweet scent reached him on another of those cold, cautionary breezes.
"Vance?" a throaty, feminine voice asked. "Vance Smith?"
That slightly scratchy timbre goosed him somewhere deep inside, waking his previously snoozing sexual urges with a start. Shit, he thought, tensing. Now wasn't the time for this. Now was the time for Layla Parker to show up. And if the girl arrived this very minute, then an awkward encounter with the female he'd forgotten could get lost in the flurry of meeting the colonel's daughter. His libido would settle back to its deep sleep. Without moving a muscle, he waited a beat for his wish to come true.
When his hope went unfulfilled, Vance swallowed his sigh of resignation and slowly half turned in his seat.
"So The Breakers?" he asked, naming one of his old hangouts as he shifted. "Or was it Pete's Place?"
"What?" she asked.
He made himself look into her eyes. They were big and a soft brown, circled with thick dark lashes. Damn, Vance thought, those eyes, that mouth, the whole package stirred him up.
And stirred a memory, but for the life of him, he couldn't place it.
"I'm trying to recall where we met," he clarified. There was nothing to do but confess, though the way his body was responding it seemed unbelievable her identity wasn't burned in his brain. "I'm sorry, but I don't know."
"Oh." She shook her head, and a pair of gold hoop earrings swung. "We haven't met. I took a guess. You have the shortest haircut out here." Her lips curved just a little and—
It clicked. That tiny smile snapped the missing piece into the puzzle. It was the same one worn by the bear-toting kid in the officer's photograph.
His gut knotted. Hell, he thought, stunned. Oh, hell.
Posted October 19, 2014
Posted April 21, 2013
For Layla and Vance, Addy and Baxter, their month at Beach House No. 9 is a time of love and learning, of forgiveness and letting go, trust and faith. If you are looking for that perfect book (series actually) to kick off your summer, run out and get Bungalow Nights (and its predecessors - Beach House Beginnings and Beach House No 9). You'll quickly be drawn into a world of sun, sea, surf and love. Full review available at BookTrib or RomanticReadsandSuch(dot)wordpress(dot)com
Posted April 19, 2013
Posted on Romancing the Books blog / Reviewed by Molly / Review Copy from Netgalley
/ Christie Ridgway is quickly becoming an author I can’t get enough of. Her writing style is stunning and her characters emotionally complex and captivating. With each book she gets better and better. The story lines become more complex and pull you into the heart of the story, making you feel as if you are the center of it. I love reading books like that.
I won’t go into too much detail on these books because I will certainly go on and on and end up giving the plots away. So I will tell you that Bungalow Nights is a truly awesome book. The characters inside the pages are breathtaking. I loved this one because not only is filled with spark flying romance, it’s got a soldier in it…..I’m a sucker for a cowboy or a soldier!
Vance Smith is a wonderful combat medic. I loved his spirit and the struggling emotion behind him. I could feel all his thoughts rolling off him and they settled onto me. His heart was an amazing one, when he vowed to help a dying fellow soldier out on his deathbed. That alone melted my own heart. And when he met the “young girl” he was to take care of, well let’s just say that the pages that followed were filled with amazing passion and emotion, and a struggle of following your heart.
Layla Parker is a wonderfully created character as well. She is filled with emotion, after being raised by two men who hardly had time for her. When she met Vance…….wow! The sparks flew. Her character really stole my heart, too, as she tried to show Vance to let go and accept what his heart was telling him.
This is definitely a wonderful addition to Ms. Ridgway’s summer reading series. If you love hot summer fun, sizzling romance and characters that sweep you away, definitely grab a copy of this book. While I do recommend that you read series in order, this is easily a stand alone book. Take a trip to Beach House No. 9 in Cresent Cove, California…..you’ll find love, new friends and sweet charm that will capture you forever.
Posted April 19, 2013
Posted March 22, 2013
Vance has just returned to the States after being injured in Afghanistan. He's a man of his word and his promises have never been broken. But when he meets the 'girl' he promised to spend the month of July with at Crescent Cove, he doesn't think he could keep his promise. Suddenly feeling like the out of control guy he left behind after joining the Army, Vance doesn't think he can survive sharing a house with Layla.
An easy going woman who manages her own business, Layla is not the 10 year old girl Vance is expecting. She's still trying to accept her father's death and believes that by fulfilling her dad's last wish she could find some closure. What she is not expecting, however, is to find herself sharing space with a handsome soldier who pushes all her buttons and makes her heart skip a beat.
This story was enjoyable from beginning to end, especially the main characters. I found Layla to be relatable. Her feelings of loneliness and her pain over her father's death felt real to me and I immediately connected to her and wanted her to find the closure she was seeking. Of course I loved Vance! I so enjoyed his surprise upon meeting Layla, the way he struggled with his attraction to her and his conflicted feelings over his family situation. I fell for his loyalty and his tenderness within just a few pages of the book.
Christie Ridgway's writing was entertaining and touching. I enjoyed how Vance's problems with his family and his struggles were presented. It helped me understand his emotions and where he was coming from. I enjoyed how Vance's attraction to Layla conflicted him to the point that he avoided contact with her. It showed what a thoughtful and considerate person he was regardless if it was hard for him to keep away. But most of all I liked Vance and Layla's easy manner with each other, even when both were fighting their attraction to each other. Vance and Layla's connection was believable to me. I enjoyed their flirtatious banter, emotional dialogue and explosive chemistry. I loved it when they lost their temper, the times they bonded over Layla's father and the ever present sexual tension between them.
It was also a treat getting to know the secondary characters. Weaved within Vance and Layla's story I found a lovely side story about Vance's cousin Baxton. I truly enjoyed the addition of this side story for it also revealed the history on how the Crescent Cove came to be. Once again, Ridgway did a great job of telling Baxton's story in a way that it never detracted from Vance and Layla's story.
A sweet and sexy romantic read with interesting characters, an engaging side story and emotions galore, Bungalow Nights, is the second book in the Beach House No. 9 series.
I received this title from Harlequin through NetGalley in exchange of my honest opinion.
Posted February 28, 2013
Though this book had its moments--I liked the storyline that dealt with Vance's family issues (and loved how he kept hitting himself in the head with his cast; too cute), other parts felt a bit flat. The pretend relationship bit was entertaining, but nothing new from what has been done with this type of story before. Layla's dealing with her grief by sending her dad emails was a nice touch, but it seemed to be something she'd do, then forget, then suddenly do again when it worked for the plot. Maybe this was supposed to show her healing and progressing, but that's not how it came off, at least to me. I did enjoy the side relationship between Addy and Baxter, but the mystery that Addy was trying to solve was ultimately unsatisfying. A lot of Layla and Vince's issues were self-inflicted, and at times felt to be a bit much. Vince's brother, F**king Perfect Fitz, though, was, of course, perfect. He made for some really amusing moments. In the end, though I wanted them all to get to their HEAs, but I didn't quite feel like my life depended on it. I'm absolutely signed up for book three, however, because I really want to read more about Gage (twin brother of the hero from book one).
Layla's cupcakes sounded amazing, though. I think I gained ten pounds just reading about them.
Posted March 6, 2013
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Posted April 8, 2013
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Posted February 16, 2014
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Posted July 2, 2013
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Posted April 21, 2013
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