Essien Dodd is the fire chief in the sleepy little Florida town of Mangrove. He is raising his daughter alone, after his wonderful and beautiful ex-wife lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. Mangrove is exactly the kind of place both he and his daughter needed, and the last six months have been amazing for them. After coming out later in life, Essien had more than his fair share of hook-ups. But he’s focused on his teenage daughter, Ivy, and he doesn’t want to get involved with anyone.
Roark Hammond, the town pediatrician, has always had his interest and Essien can’t figure out why the other man seems to always be running away. Essien knows the attraction goes both ways, so he just can’t understand. When he finally gets Roark to confess exactly what’s going on, Essien is stunned and more than a little wary. Roark has a very valid reason for steering clear of Essien, despite their obvious attraction. But both men come to realize very quickly that they are meant to be together, and if they can just get past their roadblocks, what they could have would see them through to forever.
This is the fifth and final installment of the Mangrove series, and oh what a great conclusion it is. Now, all along, I’ve said that the stories work as standalones, and that you just get a little something extra by having read the previous stories first. That’s even more so the case here. Yes, technically, letter of the law, it works on its own. But let me tell you, if I hadn’t read the rest of the series, I know I would have felt like I was missing a little something. If you haven’t read the books, then this feels like a story with just the right amount of exposition and it probably would make you want to go back and read the other books. But if you have read them, then it feels like a lovely way for all the ends to be tied up and to get closure on everyone else, while at the same time watching Essien and Roark finally take that leap and fall in love.
Here’s the thing, and I’m going to fully admit this: I’m pretty sure I’m biased when it comes to this book. Let me explain. See, I definitely had a few quibbles when it came to this story. I felt like we needed a bit more background from Essien and Roark, to have seen more of their relationship beforehand, and then, perhaps, see a bit more of them together afterwards. So yeah, this part felt a little lacking for me, and normally would have dropped my rating about another quarter of a point. But this book gets the higher rating simply because not only did we get great characters, but we also got a perfect conclusion with excellent closure to the series. This book had a lot to live up to, being both a story about a new couple but also ending a series, and I can tell you that it absolutely hit the mark for me.
Calmes has this ability to craft characters that I instantly fall in love with, and Essien Dodd is no exception. He’s almost too good to be true, but he definitely has his flaws. Even if most of the world doesn’t see them. Essien knows they are there, and he’s fully aware of them. But he’s got a huge heart, and he’s a natural caretaker. What I love is that he embraces his part of himself, accepts it fully, and just puts it out there. It’s what he does, what he likes doing, and he’s most happy when he’s doing it. I thought his actions and reactions were spot on for his character, and I always love it when the character remains consistent. I like, too, that he didn’t jump into anything with Roark blindly. What’s been holding Roark back is big and would affect them both, though I’m not going to tell you what it is, and I liked that Essien gave it the proper amount of thought and really took the time to weigh his options so he could make the best decision for him, Roark, and Ivy.
I wanted to know Roark better, though. I would have liked to see just a few parts fleshed out a little more so that I could really know him. However, we understand him well enough, and can accept where he’s coming from and his thought process. There were some really beautiful moments of vulnerability from him that just had my heart squeezing and let me wanting to hug him tightly. And on top of that, add the insane chemistry between the two MCs. I’m not even just talking about sexual chemistry here, thought that was enough set the page on fire. But more than that, these guys understood and got one another. They fit together in that perfect way you always want to see your heroes fit. And there was just enough drama to keep it from feeling over the top or too fairytale like.
So, yeah. Guys, this is a highly recommended read. The characters work so well together, that the parts that were a little lacking were easy for me to ignore. And speaking as someone who adores series with a fiery passion, this was a conclusion that was immensely satisfying. This one was my favorite of the bunch, despite wishing for a little bit more from the MCs relationship. Or maybe I wanted more because they are my favorite. Either way, you won’t regret reading this book or this series. And Sleeping ‘til Sunrise was a fantastic end.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.