Reviewed in Australia on 10 November 2018
I’m not sure that I can write a review that will do this book justice, but I’m going to try. For me, the perfect book is one that you can get lost in. Where you meet characters who claim your heart, have you laughing, drive you crazy and make you cry. A book where, long after you close the last page, you’re still thinking about it. Still thinking about them, the hero and heroine who sucked you into their world.
This book is everything and more. Tessa and Jason stole my heart with their amusing first encounter, their unconventional romance, their witty and wicked dialogue, and the way their lives were so indelibly linked. There were so many things to like about this story. Our heroine, Tessa, has done a runner from her wedding to an incredibly boring man after she finds him having sex inside the church rectory half an hour before they are due to exchange vows. She decides to treat herself to a week in Palm Springs to get over it, only to have her car break down in the middle of Nowhere, a small town in the Californian desert.
She stumbles upon Jason in the town’s only bar, where she proceeds to spill her guts and get drunk. Jason is intrigued by this hot mess of a woman and is attracted to her, but he’s not going to take advantage of her in her current state. After hearing her tale of woe and making sure she gets to a room at the local motel safely (which happens to be owned by his aunt), he leaves her to sleep it off. Tessa finds herself strangely bereft when she wakes the next morning, but Jason hasn’t gone far.
They then proceed to spend the day together, exchanging some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read. Alternating between playful and fun to downright dirty, it’s clear there’s a spark between them. When they can no longer deny their desire for each other, they give in to temptation, and their coupling is so hot it’s a wonder the pages didn’t catch alight.
Jason has already set the wheels of retirement from the Navy in motion, so he’s due to finish up in three months. He already has a new mission: he wants to track down the woman who has been writing to him once a year since he was a child. He lost his father in a violent crime, and every year her letter shows up like clockwork. Her letters are what have given him strength to get through the years sometimes, and he wants to find her in person and see if they might have a future together.
But the latest letter from Matilda has been left unopened since he met Tessa. For the first time ever, a woman has piqued his interest and made the heart he no longer believed he had beat faster. He’s known as the Tin Man for a good reason, but this redheaded whirlwind of a woman might change all that, if he lets her in.
Jason has made it clear there is no future for them, but Tessa finds herself in love with him anyway. The night before she leaves Nowhere, they have unprotected sex and she tells him she’ll let him know if she’s pregnant. She’s not bothered by the notion of creating a little human with this man, and the scenes in which she does the pregnancy tests are cleverly ambiguous, so you don’t actually know if she is pregnant or not for a couple of chapters.
When Jason’s out the military for good, he already has a job lined up with a security firm, but he can’t stop thinking about Tessa. So he seeks her out and they see if maybe that spark is still there. When they decide to try and make something of their relationship, it’s threatened when Jason discovers a secret about Tessa. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are a few twists that were so brilliantly done it left me speechless.
But the love they have for each other turns out to be deeper than any secrets which could tear them apart, and the epilogue was so touching that I cried. I don’t cry much reading books, but this was so heartfelt and beautiful that I couldn’t help it. I also adored Jason’s nickname for Tessa: bud. He started calling her bud (short for buddy) just after they met, in an attempt to keep her at arm’s length and remind them both they’re just friends, but it became oddly endearing to have him call her that, even when they were a couple. This book will stay with me for a very long time, and if you give it a read, it will stay with you, too.