Dare to Love Again
By Julie Lessman
Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman, resorting to a mammoth hat pin for protection on her way to and from the school where she teaches. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast she quickly discovers she is no match for rum-soaked brute strength.
Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite jiu-jitsu, but it seems he has little choice in the matter. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But when Nick suddenly leaves town, Allison realizes he's a fraud just like all the rest of the men she's cared for. Does she dare love again?
The lushness of the glorious Gilded Age beautifully showcases Lessman's passion as a writer in this engaging love story written with humor and heart. From the glamour of San Francisco's Nob Hill to the seedy gambling dens of the Barbary Coast, Dare to Love Again is a journey to find a love that never fails.
After reading a few of Julie's books, I've grown to love her unique style, enthusiasm, and characterization; I like the anticipation of a new storyline coupled with the comfortable feeling of knowing generally what to expect. And she never disappoints! In fact, I was so eager to read Julie's new book, second in the Hearts of San Francisco series, that I was sorely tempted to put other review commitments on hold just so I could start Dare to Love Again.
One of the strengths of this story is characterization - and with the McClare family of San Francisco, Julie has created a family dynamic of genuinely flawed characters who are unashamedly open, not only in voicing their love for each other, but showing it as well, and will go to the ends of the earth in order to protect a loved one.
Nick and Alli are great lead characters, and I loved them from the very beginning. Nick, a "penniless womanizer cop who breaks hearts for a living" according to Logan, initially comes across as slightly rough around the edges, but we quickly see his soft side with Miss Penny and the orphans she takes in. The love of 6-year-old Lottie is especially touching.
Alli realizes she has been blessed by God and wants to give back by reaching out to disadvantaged young women through the Hand of Hope school that her mother, Cait, started in the Barbary Coast area. But to Nick, Alli is just "another rich dame appeasing her guilt by dabbling in charity between high tea and tennis on the lawn."
To Alli, riding the cable car
But as much as I enjoyed the chemistry between Nick and Alli, it's Logan and Cait who steal the show. Julie does such a good job at incorporating attraction and romance between an older couple - and just when I think their story will have a happy resolution, she throws in another twist! Logan tells Cait, "I understand that you are a hard taskmaster, Cait, one whose trust I can never satisfy no matter what I do. . . . I guess I should be grateful it's only my heart that's captive and not my soul, lest I be a man lost forever."
From Nob Hill to the Barbary Coast, from Chinatown to Telegraph Hill, the San Francisco Gilded Age setting is one of vividly-drawn contrasts. The narrative moves at a steady pace and is laced with humor; secondary characters like Miss Penny, Lottie, and servants Hadley and Rosie are a special delight. Spiritual elements - such as the ease of praying spontaneously, caring for those in need, learning to let go of anger, forgiveness - feel like a natural part of the storyline and I found them to be both moving and challenging.
I highly recommend Dare to Love Again to romance fans everywhere.
Be sure to come back next week when Julie will be my guest and give away a copy of her book to one of you!
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston and The Winds of Change series and was ACFW’s 2009 Debut Author of the Year. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction list and is the recipient of fifteen RWA awards.
Learn more about Julie and her books at www.julielessman.com.
Thank you to Lanette Haskins and Revell for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Available January 2014 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.