I waffled over the star count on this one, ultimately upping it to 4 but in reality it felt more like 3.5
Piper is the daughter of a famous boxer and the proprietress of two coffee shops. Joe is a IT tech guy who wanders into her shop to grab some coffee. The two are young, healthy twenty-somethings who are immediately attracted to each other and flirt outrageously, much to the amusement of the rest of the coffee house regulars. But just as they are on the cusp of taking their relationship to a higher level than double entendre flirting, responsibility intrudes.
Joe is already the custodial guardian of his 10-year old nephew Shane.
But Piper get's a taste of parenthood as a series of events leaves her with the temporary guardianship of her two pre-teen sisters. Suddenly this single, young woman with very few responsibilities is in loco parentis
. Regretfully she tables any further ideas on hitting the sheets with Joe to turn her full attention to her sisters.
But Joe isn't so easily tabled as their lives begin to twine with each other. The kids all go to the same school and become fast friends and the adults begin to spend more and more time with each other.
If you've read this author's first outing the very well done [b:Reye's Gold|8910088|Reye's Gold|Ruthie Robinson|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41CdshJ0YgL._SL75_.jpg|13786448] you'll have already met Joe. He was a bit of an abrasive jerk in that one but he was a memorable secondary character as he got a redemption arc that feeds well into this book. We learn a bit more about Joe and why he is so closed off and a bit of a commitment-phobe. Although I've seen this character tons of times in romance, this author made Joe feel very authentic. He is a tortured hero without all the angst or drama that label seems to convey. He just is the way he is. I felt a bit frustrated at him on behalf of Piper but not in a bad way, rather in a believable real-life way.
Piper was a delight. She is just the sort of heroine I like. She is confident without coming off as super smug. She surrounds herself with color and chaos. She felt fun and funky. I also liked that there was no guile with her. She falls in love with Joe and although all the signs are there that he is just too closed off to accept that emotion from anyone except his nephew, she can't help how she feels. She puts it out there and that is that. There were a couple of times that I thought she was too forgiving of Joe and how he handled his closed off emotions, I also felt that it was true to the character.
There were parts of the book outside the character and plotting that made the book very enjoyable. The writer does a great job of creating an eclectic atmosphere in the coffee shop as well in Piper's life. I liked Piper's patchwork family -- her father, his various ex-wives, her four sisters all different because of their mothers. Again there was an authentic feel about her family.
So why only 3.5 star? Well judging from her previous books, this author likes the slow burn, slow build romance. That pacing worked very effectively in [b:Reye's Gold|8910088|Reye's Gold|Ruthie Robinson|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41CdshJ0YgL._SL75_.jpg|13786448] but tended to sand-bag the story in [b:Steady|8910089|Steady|Ruthie Robinson|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51od0mRaupL._SL75_.jpg|13786449]. I think this book is somewhere in the middle. Piper and Joe immediately like each other and ratchet up the flirting pretty quickly. But once the kids are on scene the story lags a bit and gets taken over by the kid involvement stuff, the romance heat gets turned down quite a bit. But luckily it doesn't lag too much. The romance builds and heats up and the story takes off better in the second part of the book as soon as they truly get together. I liked that the primary conflict once they get together was that her feelings were outpacing his and the inner anxiety that seemed to produce for both of them. I also liked that Joe had to finally confront his past and enjoyed how that all played out.
Good book with quality writing, recommended.