Hayden Owens is a graduate student in high performance engine design at a college in South Carolina. While at a donor’s event, Hayden meets an older man, Neal Kirchner. Neal, a silver fox with an Indian flair, sweeps Hayden off his feet, and the feeling is mutual. But, Hayden thinks he’s inadvertently indicated that he’s an heir to the Owens Coffee empire, because he works at an Owens coffee shop. Hayden is barely making ends meet, though.
Meanwhile, Neal is actually a very wealthy man. His family owns a tea empire and he’s on the board of directors—which takes him out of town often. Neal is also a successful architect. He owns a posh home and lets a penthouse apartment at a luxury hotel. Hayden fears his upscale clothes—borrowed from a clothing-design major friend—and his last name both have given Neal the wrong impression of his wealth. The more time that Neal and Hayden spend together, the more Hayden wants to clear the air on this, but each time he approaches the topic…some disaster intrudes. While they are spending time, they are holding off on physical affection; both Neal and Hayden want to build an emotional connection before they get physical. However, once they get closer, Hayden may find himself “unmasked” and ruin what they have built.
For me this one was just okay. The number of misunderstandings approached double digits and that was irritating. Hayden is really overwhelmed by life, work, and school, and seemed extremely naïve. I thought he was in his late teens as a result—and was later surprised to find he was a grad student. I often struggle with plots where the tension is only generated by a Big Secret, and it didn’t work for me here either. The “jilted, vindictive woman” from the blurb is a caricature, and her interference was small and would have been easily managed with a simple honest conversation. So, her villainy seemed overblown. I’ve usually liked books from this author, but this one seemed a little too formulaic and left me with more questions at the end about the inconsistencies that cropped up.
All in all, it’s an HEA with Neal and Hayden being muy muy in love and back together because Neal enlists a pal to trick Hayden to come to his hotel suite. They finally have an honest conversation, and that helps seal all the old hurts over. They do make a nice couple, and I like how it ended. If you like interracial romance, or May-December romance, this may be a book for you. Just be prepared for Hayden to act rather juvenile and Neal to be a little obtuse.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.