Ben Porter may be living the dream, but it’s not his.
His dad’s health scare might not be the ideal reason to come home for the summer, but it’s a welcome break from the stellar glitz of Ben’s life in Los Angeles. Even if modeling has him rivaling Marky Mark’s fame, posing isn’t his passion. Landing a role with a Boston Shakespeare theater brings him closer to fulfilling his dreams of being a real actor.
Facing the reason he went west in the first place? That’s another story.
Lucy Minola’s dreams were shattered seven years ago when a drunk driver smashed into her brother’s car. She knows it was her fault. So as penance, she works hard to care for her family, goes to confession faithfully, and buries all the feelings she had for the person who left when she needed him most: her brother’s best friend.
When an injured dog brings them back together, Lucy’s good-girl facade begins to crack. Women everywhere are obsessed with the rad body they see in magazines, but she’s the only one Ben seems to notice.
She can’t trust herself with the man who walked away… but can she let him go a second time?
Falling in love, killing a guy by accident and mortally wounding myself when it appears that my bride has taken her life is a lot. Doing it six times in four days is just too much. The addition of two weekend matinees to Shakespeare Boston’s Romeo and Juliet schedule must be taking its toll. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This year—just like the past seven—began in Los Angeles, where modeling work has dominated my life, keeping me far from home and too busy to do theater. Six months into 1988, due to circumstances I never expected to face, I’m back in Boston performing for a live audience. It feeds my soul, so I don’t care if I’m exhausted.
I’m tired at the end of every weekend, but on this particular late-August Monday morning, I might be hallucinating. Adrenaline spiking, heart in my throat, it takes a few beats for me to figure out what just happened. My hands grip the railing that kept me from falling off my second-floor porch as I take in the lump I just tripped over on my way out the door.
It’s a mottled gray color, and I think that’s fur. Not moving, though. Wondering if it’s alive, I step closer. It makes a snuffling noise, unfolding itself, and I release the breath I’ve been holding. It’s not some weird package from a mega-fan; it’s a dog. With tufted brows and a whiskery muzzle, he looks like the dog in that movie when we were kids—Benji.
“Where the heck did you come from, little guy?”
Where did he come from?
My heart takes off again, and I scan the backyard. Thankfully, no rabid fans or paparazzi seem to be lurking in the shadows. I’ve worked hard to keep this address a secret. I don’t want my dad or his neighbors to have to deal with that level of crazy. Habitually, I check one particular neighbor’s back yard, but as usual, it’s empty. No one at that house is a fan of mine, that’s for sure.
Eyes back on my visitor, I squat and hold out the back of my hand, just like Lucy taught me to do back when we were kids. He sniffs it, gives it a polite lick, then holds up his paw like he wants to shake hands. When I reach for it, though, he whimpers.
“It’s okay, buddy,” I say soothingly, but it actually looks like he’s not okay. The paw is bleeding.
“Sorry, dude. I guess we should do something about that.” Looks like my run isn’t happening this morning. Maintaining a contractually mandated body- fat ratio and weight and muscle definition was way easier out in Los Angeles, where I had access to Callum Keen Enterprise’s in-house chefs and gym along with a daily routine full of go-sees, meetings and shoots. I could skip today’s workout, but that’s a slippery slope. Next thing you know, I’ll be eating steak and pasta.
Ah, pasta. I miss you so. Not as much as a certain former neighbor, but at least there’s a chance I’ll have you again.
An image of a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs presented to me with the most beautiful smile I’ve ever known hovers in my mind for a few precious moments. A guy can dream. But right now, this guy needs to take care of a mutt.
(audiobook) That was fun. And sad. And beautiful. And smart. A real rollercoaster! I loved every second of it.
The narration was on point. Emma Wilder’s quavers bring the characters’ emotions to life. You can’t help but feel with them. Oh so many feels! The sound of a rewound tape that announces flashbacks was a stroke of genius, as it serves its purpose while giving an 80’s touch to the narration.
The whole story revolves around Puck, the stray dog found by Ben. He gives a new meaning to Ben’s life, changes Lucy’s career, and brings his talent on stage. And without him, Ben and Lucy wouldn’t have found each other again. Another great idea.
I found this book a bit sadder than the previous one in the series. I didn’t mind, because I enjoy all the feels. But grief, and how it affects people, is a big element in the story. The way they all deal with it felt pretty realistic and made a lot of sense.
I think this author brings fresh air to romance novels, and I can’t wait for her next book.
- Series: Boston classics #2 (can be read as a standalone)
- Hashtags: #romcom #80’s #second chance #Shakespeare #dog
- Triggers: past death
- Main couple: Lucy Minola & Ben Porter
- Hotness: 4/5
- Romance: 5/5
- + the way to announce flashbacks? genius!
- – Catholic guilt trip… goes well in the story, but ugh