Xavier Jackson was the outstanding wunderkind of tiny Harper’s Cove, Maine. He grew up there, black and gay, hating the claustrophobic small-town life and anxious to leave. As soon as he was able, Xavier left for a business degree at NYU, and later an MBA at the University of Chicago. While in grad school, Xavier met Bradley, the uber-wealthy son of a prominent Chicago power broker. Xavier was short-listed for a prestigious fellowship in Berlin, which would surely cement his worth as a consultant or even green light him for executive control of any company. Everything seemed to be going right for Xavier, until Bradley broke up with him suddenly and Xavier was passed over for the fellowship. Without a job, and suddenly homeless, Xavier returns to Harper’s Cove, his pride pummeled.
Xavier’s licking his wounds, trying to reconnect with his childhood bestie, Mya, who loves Harper’s Cove and never wanted to leave. When the fellowship people call and offer Xavier the spot he wanted, he’s desperate to come up with the $5000 he needs to manage his travel and some expenses in Berlin. Being a small town, Harper’s Cove doesn’t have many employment opportunities. The one that could help him raise the cash he needs by the two months’ deadline would be working as a prep cook for a friend of Xavier’s mom, Logan O’Hare.
Logan is a divorced man with a teenaged daughter, Anne. He owns The Wharf, a homey seafood restaurant right on the water. He’s also a catch, by Harper’s Cove standards, and Mya’s pushing hard for Xavier to fall for Logan, because then he’d stay in town. Logan and Xavier did not hit it off when they first met; Xavier thought Logan was a home invader and acted accordingly. So, asking a man he pretty much attacked for the favor of a well-paying kitchen job is, well, really super hard for Xavier. Even if it’s necessary to achieve his goals.
And, it’s only worse when the man is dead sexy.
This small town romance was okay for me. Xavier was a difficult character to love. He’s judgmental and snarky, in a way I found annoying. He’s always coming at you with some snap-back, juvenile quip. It was tiresome. For a man desperate for people to see his worth, Xavier’s a lot of talk before we see much action. He has a lot of feelings and ideas about life, even though he’s barely lived it. He’s always up in his head, analyzing every move and every opportunity, and examining peoples’ motives for sincerity.
The romance between Xavier and Logan developed very fast, especially for a man like Xavier whose romantic and professional life had imploded in the past month. There’s a lack of on-page romance, compared with the excessive page time Xavier’s rants against small-town life took up in the first half of the book. In the second half, Xavier was pretty much extolling small-town virtues, which was a heck of a U-turn.
The supporting cast feels thin and felt one-dimensional, with Xavier having maybe one conversation with his father – in whose house he’s living – in eight weeks. Mya felt like she was only necessary when Xavier was heartbroken, and provided a weak example of the so-called idyllic married life of Harper’s Cove. Logan and his daughter were okay, but I lost a good bit of respect for Logan in the last quarter of the book. The inconsistencies with Logan’s responsibilities at the restaurant and at home gave me more questions than answers. He’s supposedly so kind and generous, but he cuts off Xavier for essentially helping him out. And, how does he leave his temporary prep cook in charge of the restaurant business so much? I felt like the book was trying to set up all these great scenes, but they got too long and unwieldy with Xavier’s internal monologuing and I lost the sentiment.
In all, I thought the plot was over seasoned and the ending only half-baked. Xavier couldn’t ever commit to himself, and Logan’s requests felt at once too much too soon, while paradoxically also being too little, too late. Considering the state of their relationship at that point, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Surprisingly, Xavier, who never met a situation he couldn’t overanalyze, decided it was a happy ending.