Susan Mallery’s Fool’s
Gold series focuses on an all-American small town, full of quirky
characters, close friendships, and busy bodies. This setting makes for a sweet
and cozy romance that you can sink into instantly, surrounded by loving
families and loyal friends.
Just One Kiss is
the first in a new cycle of Fool’s
books focusing around a group of former military special forces members, a few
with previous connections to the town, who move in to start a bodyguard academy
and corporate retreat called CDS. We begin with Justice Garret, a former
soldier and private bodyguard who once lived in the town while in witness
protection as a teenager. During the brief year he spent posing as a 16
year-old high school student instead of the 18 year old graduate he was,
Justice befriended 14 year-old Patience McGraw.
Before their relationship could move beyond friendship,
Justice’s father was spotted in town and he was forced to flee, leaving without
explanation. The town searched for the missing boy but never found answers.
Fourteen years later, Patience is a single mother with a 10 year
old daughter, working at the town salon and dreaming of opening her own coffee
shop. Abandoned by her husband only weeks after her daughter Lillie was born,
Patience is used to fending for herself. She’s never forgotten the boy her 14
year-old self was so desperately in love with but never heard from again.
Needless to say, she’s shocked when he walks into her salon and back into her
life, informing her of his plans to open a bodyguard academy in the town.
Despite the fact that Justice believes himself tainted by
his experiences in the military and his criminal father (the reason he needed
to be in witness protection in the first place), his relationship with Patience
and Lillie blossoms. Lillie, who has never had a father figure, turns to
Justice for protection from the weird boy in her class who stares at her and
loans him her stuffed animals while he is recovering from an injury received on
his final body-guarding assignment. His gentle, sweet interactions with her add
an appealing component to the story and prevent him from falling into the
stereotypical alpha male mold.
Aside from the central romance, Patience gets her own
subplot, as she accomplishes her dream of opening a coffee shop, called
Brew-haha, with the help of the other women of the town. The novel’s focus on
loyal, caring female friendships adds another layer of interest to the story.
The reader is introduced to characters like Felicia and Isabel, who will
certainly be heroines in their own right in Mallery’s next couple of Fool’s
Overall, what makes Malley’s newest trip to Fool’s
Gold so engrossing is its focus
on family—both the one you’re born with and the one you choose. A nice escape
into a world where someone always has your back, a soothing latte or margarita
in hand, Just One Kiss is a pleasant
summer read for anyone who has yearned for an idyllic small town life.
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