Seth Marino is the co-owner/bartender at the Blue Blossom Bed and Breakfast in Lavender Shores, CA. He’s everybody’s friend, charming and sexy, and he’s notorious for his no strings hookups.
Charley Perez moved to Lavender Shores with the dream of being head chef in his own restaurant. While working in another restaurant, Charley saved and saved, and when the perfect piece of property became available, his dream became closer, until…Seth and his business partner (and BFF) swooped in and bought it to build the Blue Blossom.
Needless to say, Charley is angry and bitter. He begins to focus all that vitriol on Seth and transfers it to other people in his life. And now? The town decides to host a Food Network food and wine festival. Seth and Charley are forced to work together to help make the event a success.
They’re obviously attracted to one another, but attraction isn’t enough. That bitterness and anger is still in the forefront of their relationship and threatens to destroy it before there’s any chance for it to grow.
I’ve struggled a bit with this review and I’ve had to give careful consideration about how I wanted to word it. Now, I’m a huge fan of the Lavender Shores series. It’s been one of my all time favorites. I was anxiously waiting for this new book because I’ve been a bit of a fan of Seth’s and he would finally be getting his own story. I hate to admit, though, I was disappointed with it.
Let me start with the good. Rosalind Abel has an incredible writing style. Her characters are multi-faceted and real. She uses alternative POVs, and transitions are flawless. You are always positive whose head you’re in. The world building is amazing. Through nine books, the town of Lavender Shores becomes a little clearer and it keeps growing. There are a lot of residents, and each has a role…some small, some large. I’m overwhelmed by the author’s skill at keeping everything in perfect order. Each book will even have the Lavender Shores family trees so keeping up with each one is easier, and all connections are explained.
All the main characters are well fleshed out. Their personalities are distinct and strong. I feel as if I know them personally. There’s a depth to them you don’t always find. Each situation is well plotted and easy to follow, and they’re compelling enough to hold my interest.
All of this is why I was so disappointed in The Victorian. The characters are, as I said, multi-faceted, but I didn’t like any of those facets. Charley despises Seth so much, he tries to ruin his reputation through gossip, writing fake bad Yelp reviews for the B&B, and he says the most cruel things…I mean cruel. Seth doesn’t quite understand Charley’s hatred, but he’s not the nicest guy, either. He says things that aren’t quite so hurtful, but they still have a punch behind them. I found myself actually squirming during their fights. I’m not saying it’s bad to dislike an MC, but there is usually some sort of redeeming quality they have that makes you care about their future…and I didn’t care for either of these men.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. I will tell you Charley does have a reason to be an angry and bitter person, but we don’t learn about it until later in the book. By then, he’s already gone off the deep end. Even as I didn’t really feel connected to Charley, I felt for him. No child deserves the life he was dealt. To me, that did add a dimension to Charley that kept me from hating him completely. Something happened after things started to look up, but it seemed to have come out of the blue. I felt thrown by it. It was resolved quickly though, and it did add another layer to Charley’s complex personality. I didn’t connect with Seth either. I wanted to because he was so nice to people in the previous books. However, those stories didn’t exactly reveal how arrogant he is.
This book is very sexy. The scenes have an urgency about them. I lot of it is what I would consider “hate sex.” Hate or no, it was hot. I wouldn’t consider any of it gratuitous. Sex is an important part of the personality of both men, so it felt natural to see what role it played as they became closer. I was a little confused at the end, however. Of course, Seth and Charley will get a Happily Ever After, but I wasn’t sure if they were open or monogamous.
There were a fair number of background characters in the story, ranging from Heather, Seth’s partner and BFF, to Mabel and Sapphire, Charley’s mentor/friends. All three of these women are very important to the plot and influence decisions Seth and Charley make. Plenty of lesser characters are mentioned as well. Some of them are crossovers from the other books, and others are only just mentioned in The Victorian. Even these characters help propel the story along without being overwhelming.
Toward the end of the book, I finally found myself understanding Seth and Charley and their relationship. I won’t go so far as to say I began to like them, though. I like to think they’ll continue down a positive road, and they’ll become even better people, but I’d definitely reserve that opinion until I learned more about their progress.
The ending was well written and left me with a feeling of some hope. There was a lot of smiling and sweet talking, and that was nice. There was a bit of loving humor, and I think that made it end on a high note.
As mentioned in the title, The Victorian is the 9th book in the Lavender Shores series. I do not recommend you start with this one. All the books have crossover characters, and the family tree changes with each installment. Trust me when I say this is an excellent series, even if I wasn’t crazy about this one. I never hesitate to recommend it to people when they ask about good books. The town of Lavender Shores will grab your heart and keep it. I would love to be able to live there…or at least drop in for a visit every now and then. Give these stories a shot.