Nick Caratelli lives in Philadelphia, has a good job as a lawyer, and a fiancée. After his fiancée ends their engagement and he becomes disenchanted with the law and the big city, Nick moves to a small town in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Nick buys a large, old house with the intention of turning it into a bed and breakfast. However, it needs a lot of work and he is in over his head.
Sam Hildebrandt lives across the road from Nick. He’s a contractor and he’s taking care of his niece, Ellie, while Ellie’s mom is in prison. After Ellie throws a huge party while Sam is at work, he becomes concerned she will be taken from him if the social worker finds out. Sam offers Nick a deal. He’ll help Nick renovate the house in exchange for Nick watching over Ellie while Sam is working at his other job.
As they work together on the house, Nick finds himself growing closer to Sam and Ellie. The attraction between the men becomes stronger every day. However, it’s very possible, thanks to a big misunderstanding and some issues with Ellie’s custody, that their relationship could end before it has a chance to get started.
I have never been disappointed by a story from the Dreamspinner Press States of Love collection, so when I saw Just For Nice, I was excited. The concept is great, and it’s exactly up my alley: city boy in the country, a man who knows how to use his hands, a precocious, somewhat bratty kid, and a gradual love story. Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say I didn’t connect with Just For Nice.
Nick and Sam are great guys…individually. However, I just didn’t feel much for them as a couple. There wasn’t much chemistry between them. I’m sure part of it is because this is a relatively short novella, so there wasn’t enough time to develop the characters. In fact, I had a difficult time remembering who was who. I kept getting Nick and Sam mixed up because their personalities weren’t that developed.
At first, I thought the main focus would be about Nick moving to the country to get over his breakup, but it turns out Sam’s custody of Ellie was what was in the forefront. Sam had to worry about the social worker in charge of their case. There could be nothing untoward in his life, and he was afraid being in a relationship with Nick could hurt his cause.
There was one sex scene in the story, but I didn’t feel the heat that I expected. Since their chemistry wasn’t all that spectacular in the first place, that carried over into the scene. When they did make love, it came down to a few sentences. Their first time was in the barn:
It wasn’t until they were shut up in the barn, trying to decide if they could turn it into an event space, that they finally decided it definitely counted (the three date rule). Without a word between them, Sam had used a pocket knife to cut the cord on a hay bale and then proceeded to screw Nick senseless on top of it.
I guess I had higher expectations since Sam was a virgin. I thought there would be more kisses, caresses, words of love…you know…romantic. I was left feeling sorely disappointed, and it wasn’t because I didn’t get a detailed sex scene. It was more like I felt like Sam didn’t get the care and attention I wanted him to have.
The only major background character was Ellie. She was a bit of a brat, but she was intelligent and not all bad. She was going through a lot. Her father was killed and her mother became addicted to pain meds and wound up causing a deadly accident and is in prison. I could understand her pain. There is a brief scene with Nick’s former fiancée, and an even more brief appearance from Nick’s mother. They were all pretty well written and I’ll even go so far as to say I liked Ellie a tad more than I liked Nick and Sam.
The story takes place in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. It’s a different way of life there. Most of the residents are Pennsylvania Dutch Plain Folk, or Mennonite. The book does provide an explanation of the differences between each other, and the differences of both of them from the Amish. I’m actually from not far from the area, so I was aware of all this. However, it’s good to see the explanation.
All in all, Just for nice wasn’t a bad book. It had potential, but that potential wasn’t lived up to. I found myself wishing it was longer. I think if that were the case, Nick and Sam could have been more developed and I’d have had the chance to relate to them a bit more.
Even though this is part of the States of Love collection, each book is a stand alone and not connected to any of the other stories at all, so there is no worry about being lost or any crossover characters. I cautiously recommend Just for Nice, and I recommend checking out the whole collection.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.