Lovely. I can't think of a better word to describe this book. I must say Lisa Kleypas had really impressed with her transition from historical romance to contemporary. She is one of the few authors, I believe, who has done it not only successfully, but stellarly.
This is just the latest in a very deep bench of really good contemporary romances by this author to stand right along side her wealth of great historical romances.
The rhythms of the book are lyrical, relaxed, almost whimsical. The writing and tone of the this book match the plot perfectly. We first meet Luce Marrin and her family when she is seven years old. We are with her when she discovers her love of all things glass, especially the creation of art with it (only later will she discover the science of it). We are also there when she discovers the existence magic.
We are also with many years later when her boyfriend of three years dumps her for another woman -- her own sister, Alice. Lucy is rightfully hurt and bitter and protective of herself. So when she meets Sam Nolan she's wary. In her mind she doesn't do relationships well and Sam's background as a child of alcoholics doesn't lend itself to creating great relationships either. But they do enter into a lovely (there's that word again!) friendship that blossoms into something really quite magical.
There are many elements that make this book a winner in my eyes. First and foremost is the build of the relationship between Sam and Luce. They meet right at the aftermath of her devastating break-up. Sam hits just the right tone right from the beginning, imo. He is funny, a bit sarcastic and very matter of fact. The one thing that is never in doubt between these two is their communication skills with each other. They talk, they explain, they listen. And yes, sometimes they even prevaricate a bit to protect themselves toward the end, but that doesn't matter because by then they have built up a solid trust.
I also particularly liked how Kleypas built the Marrin family dynamic. At the very beginning of the book, there is a pivot point where the relationship roles between the sisters are set. These roles define much of their personality and follows them into adult-hood. It would have been so easy for the author to simply set Alice up as being spoiled and selfish and Lucy as being long suffering and victimized and the parents as playing favorites and a bit neglectful. But the characters go a bit deeper than that. The author displays a deft touch with the family and each character had nuance and depth because of it.
And since I am not a fan of the Noble Heroine, I was frankly glad to see that Lucy held onto her hurt and her bitterness and her resentment of Alice that went a lot deeper than just Alice stealing her boyfriend. She didn't just smile and forgive, she had a right to her feelings of betrayal and the author let us and Luce righteously feel that for a bit.
But lest you think the book is all angst it isn't. The sisterly betrayal is just a set piece of the book. It is nicely balanced by the romance and the wonder of the magic that is a part of Lucy and her glass creations.
It was also great to re-visit Maggie, Mark and Holly from the Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor first book and meet a slew of truly excellent supporting characters including a group of Hell's Angels bikers who take Luce under their wing and a pair of best girlfriends, Justine and Zoe, who are there when Luce needs them most.