Fiona Riley writes fun and engaging characters that pretty much sizzle with chemistry. Not Since You doesn’t disappoint – a perfect beach read to put a smile on your face and perhaps a flush or two during certain scenes. This is a light romance – not angsty but definitely steamy.
With an admirable attitude of “fuck it”, Charlotte Southwick boards a luxury cruise ship to enjoy the honeymoon cabin and resort in Aruba without her adulterous former fiance. She paid for the trip, so she’s going to “make this vacation my bitch”. She’s a bit bristly at first – understandably – and I wasn’t sure I was going to really like her but as the story unfolds, Riley captures a nice mix of vulnerability and a steely resolve in Charlotte as she is determined to make the best of things. Little does she know that Lexi Bronson, her first love, is working on the ship as the head bartender and Charlotte’s VIP concierge. Despite Charlotte’s dumping of Lexi when they were teenagers, she never forgot her and always regretted succumbing to the pressure of family and going overseas to pursue her education.
Hit with the one-two punch of losing Charlotte and then her father, Lexi signed up with a cruise line and never looked back. In spite of the nomadic lifestyle parsed out in six month contracts, she’s built a new family of close friends. She’s developed her own sense of worth and identity as she’s worked her way to head bartender and is lined up for a promotion to the full time VIP concierge if she wants it – all with an eye of retiring from the cruise lifestyle and buying a bar on shore of one of the many Caribbean islands she’s visited. She’s smart, serious about her responsibilities on-board but at the same time a fun and supportive friend. When Charlotte answers the door of the Honeymoon Suite, Lexi is flummoxed – but the initial awkwardness is quickly replaced with the rekindling of the connection they once had. There’s a wonderful undertone of humour and wistfulness in their early interactions which quickly heats up.
Although this is a second chance romance, Ms. Riley didn’t pepper the story with flashbacks to demonstrate their early relationship – which alleviates some of the angst and likely the anger that both Lexi and the reader should harbour against Charlotte for the rather abrupt end of their teenage relationship. Early on, there’s some serious discussion and closure around the past – Charlotte’s honesty and regret and Lexi’s acceptance and understanding was pretty fast and relatively painless. From that point on, all bets are off with lingering glances and flirtatious banter. At times, I was wondering what, other than the sizzling chemistry, will keep them together. I would have liked to see a bit more of a build to the relationship – although there may have been a shared past, there’s still a lot of time and growth since they were in their teens and it would have been nice to have a bit of a slower progression or some connection outside of the stateroom.
There’s a ridiculously off-the-charts physical chemistry between Charlotte and Lexi which, coupled with the setting of a luxury cruise ship and exotic locales, seems to overwhelm both of them. For Charlotte, rekindling the romance has less risk – she’s always regretted the way she ended things and never really fell out of love. For Lexi, as a crew member, romantic liaisons with passengers is strictly forbidden but the physical draw is just too hard to resist. Lexi’s risking everything was a bit bothersome to me – there was a bit of an imbalance Charlotte is on vacation as a passenger and has nothing really to lose whereas Lexi is risking her career and dreams.
Overall, I enjoyed the book – Ms. Riley is adept weaving humour, tension and likable characters into a sweet and steamy romance.
Thank you to Netgalley and BSB for providing an advance copy for review.