The first book in the Friday Harbor series, published in 2010.
Entrusted with the guardianship of his orphaned niece Holly, Mark Nolan plans to marry his longtime girlfriend Shelby. But an unwelcome and tantalizing distraction appears in the form of Maggie Conroy, a young widow who has recently opened a toy shop at Friday Harbor. Mark is a cynic and a realist, but Maggie is a dreamer who hopes to make him believe in magic . . .
When Holly’s mother dies in a car accident, her brother Mark is stunned to find out he is appointed as Holly’s guardian. How on earth is he going to manage a 6 year old girl? It is not like he and his brothers had a good example growing up. Their parents fought constantly, and punished their children without much thought. His bachelor one-bedroom condo in Friday Harbor is no place to raise a child, so he convinces his younger brother Sam to let them move in with him. Sam has bought a vineyard with a huge rambling Victorian mansion, which has room enough for the both of them. It only needs an enormous amount of work to make it habitable and safe for a child. Of course, the very first rooms that are finished, are Holly’s bedroom and her bathroom, and then the kitchen.
Both men become attached to Holly very fast, never knowing they could actually feel love. And the brothers become closer to each other as well. But one thing worries them: since her mothers death six months ago, Holly hasn’t spoken a single word. The paediatrician tells them it will take time, and not to force anything, but Mark is worried about Holly.
Then one day, they are visiting the local toy store. Holly becomes entranced with a faery house up on display, and the owner of the toyshop explains everything about faeries to Holly. Mark is not so happy with that, as he sees no point to let Holly believe in things that are not real, like magic. But he has never seen Holly bond with a woman so fast, even taking her hand. He himself is also very attracted to Maggie, even though he has a steady girlfriend whom he is even contemplating marriage to. Of course he is not in love with Shelby, but still they could have a good life together.
Then Maggie gives Holly a large seashell, and tells her to whisper her secrets in it, to hear them come back at her, and after a while, Holly really does whisper, and suddenly starts talking to her uncle. Mark is so very relieved and happy with it, he doesn’t object any more.
Maggie is a widow of 28, who lost her husband to cancer. It was hard to see him die, and to stay strong for him, she doesn’t know if she can go through that again, but Mark and Holly are getting to her. Even though he has a girlfriend, she is attracted to him, something she hasn’t felt for a long time. Her family and friends want her to start dating again, after all it has been two years now, time to get on with her life.
When one night Holly gets very ill, Mark finally realises Shelby is not meant for him. It is Maggie he wants, and Maggie he needs in his life, and in Hollies too. But convincing Maggie of that, is not going to be easy.
I liked this little book, a lovely contemporary romance, with no suspense whatsoever. It has been a long time since I read something like it. I fell for the characters right away. Lisa Kleypas has a great writing style, she makes them come really alive for me. Humor and compassion are tightly interwoven. No rush rush romance, where they fall into bed at once, and are almost married at the end of the week. They have time to get to know each other, to know their own feelings.
I am really looking forward to the rest of the series, though I will always prefer her historical romances.