Friday, October 27, 2017

Review: Love in Dublin

Love in Dublin by Jennifer Gracen
Publisher: Tule Publishing (October 31, 2017)
Series: The McKinnon Brothers, 4
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Single father Colin McKinnon has roots and obligations that have kept him firmly in Dublin his entire life. He once planned to explore the world, but he was bound by duty and gave up on his dreams long ago. When he meets free-spirited American travel writer Maggie in a pub, he’s intrigued. She could help him get a taste of what he lost, rattle the chains of his self-imposed isolation. Instantly drawn to her light, beauty, and sense of adventure, Colin can’t stay away.

Maggie Spencer doesn’t just crave the open road, she needs it to survive. After a harrowing accident and life-changing loss, she rebuilt her life by exploring new places on her own. When she accepts a temporary job writing about day tours in Ireland, she falls in love with Dublin and the man she teaches to explore it. Through their daily adventures, they learn opposites do more than just attract—they can also help each other heal.

But can a man with deep roots keep a woman with wings by his side?

Where to Buy*:
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My Review:

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I have a deep, deep love for all things Ireland. I dream of going there one day, I dream of falling for a charming Irishman, and I adore reading about romances – contemporaries, especially – set in Ireland. Of which there are not nearly enough, by the way, and the few out there are ones I’ve already read. So it’s no wonder why Love in Dublin grabbed my attention while randomly scrolling through NetGalley the other day. And it’s no surprise that I started it right away, rather than sticking to the (haphazard) ARC schedule I already had in place. This was an impromptu read that turned into a top favorite for me, and introduced me to a new author to follow.

He was a handsome, sexy, intelligent man with a dry sense of humor and a heart of gold.

Colin, our Irish beta hero, is a divorced father in his 40s – well, 40 going on 41. He and his ex-wife married at a young age after a surprise pregnancy. They were in love, or at least lust, back then, but got married mostly out of a sense of responsibility. Their marriage was never great, and after three children and nearly 15 years of both of them being unhappy, he finally asked for a divorce. (In Ireland, where it’s very hard to do and takes an additional 5 years of living together after the papers are filed before the process is complete.) Trish wasn’t a bad person, nor is she cast as the shitty ex, which I appreciate. These two were simply never meant to be together, and they couldn’t make each other happy. They had something when they were young, and they dearly love their children, not regretting them for a moment, but their marriage was horrible for both of them, and finally getting the divorce allowed them to move on and find their own happiness. Trish is seeing someone now, and, as their children tell Colin, she’s finally smiling and happy. Now they want that for Colin, too.

Enter Maggie, an American travel writer in her 30s, currently in Ireland to do a large project on places to visit and things to do. Maggie has spent most of her life traveling the world, staying in one spot only long enough to enjoy the sights, write about it for her job, and then moving on to the next place. She’s got a serious case of wanderlust, and doesn’t even have a home to return to, instead having some of her things in storage at her parents’ house. This lifestyle is what makes her happy, what has literally kept her going in the 5 years since she lost her husband in a car accident. They were 25 and had only been married a year, but they loved each other deeply. While she’s doing much better now, the pain and loss is still there, following her from country to country.

In her experience, it was always the quiet men who were the most surprising. Who had hidden passion waiting to be tapped… sensual, intense men like Colin were the most explosive in bed. She had to admit, she wondered what Colin would be like if he just let go. If he gave in to his desires for once in his damn life. The man had years of pent-up emotion buried. She was dying to light a match to his carefully guarded, long repressed powder keg. Something told her he’d be astonishing.

Maggie walks into a local pub one night, and sees Colin, quiet and reserved, sitting in a back booth, writing. She strikes up a conversation with him, and over the next few days of meeting him there, they start to form an easy friendship. She invites him on some of her local trips around the country, wanting to spend time with him, but also wanting to encourage him to step out of this rut he’s been stuck in for nearly 20 years. She wants him to take control of his own life, to do things just for himself, to find what makes him happy, and while Colin’s not sure if he can do that, so used to his life as it is, he can’t deny that he’s captivated by her spark and sense of adventure – and, okay, her, in every sense.

It's a slow, delicious burn between these two, and it’s very much Maggie who makes most of the first moves. The buildup is done so wonderfully that I didn’t even notice that their first kiss didn’t come until nearly 40% in. But oh, those first kisses were delightful and sexy and sweet. And when they decide to take the next step? Damn! These two have chemistry that both jumps off the page, burning in its intensity, while also being so intimate and sweet and sensual. It’s just the perfect combination of everything I want in a romance sex scene, and Gracen did a fantastic job with the scenes. Here’s a little tease:

But when she reached for him, he shifted her body around, pressing her back to his front. She turned her head to meet his eyes over her shoulder, confused until he made his intentions clear; he hooked her leg up, then angled her so he could slide into her from behind, still holding her as they lay on their sides. 
The sound that came from her almost wasn’t human, and certainly wasn’t quiet.

“I can feel more of you this way, ya see.” His hot whisper in her ear made her shudder. Kissing her neck, his arms banded around her, one hand on her breast and the other feathering her clit, as he slowly thrust in and out of her. Her head swam. “Yessss, Maggie… I get to hold you, stroke you, and take you all at the same time.” 
Between the low, red hot words and his labored, heavy breathing in her ear, his hands on her body, the feel of him stretching her as he moved inside her… all her senses reeled and spun out. She closed her eyes as the sensations battered every part of her, lighting up her nerves, sending her soaring.  
“I love it,” she whispered. “Take me however you want.” 
He bit her earlobe in response and she moaned with ecstasy.

They spend the next few months exploring Ireland, learning more about each other, and yes, continuing to burn up the sheets (and my ereader!). But Colin knows that this isn’t going to last much longer, because very soon Maggie’s job there will be done and she’ll be off to another location. He can’t clip her wings, but he can’t leave his roots, either. He knows it’s going to hurt when she goes, but that doesn’t stop him from giving her everything he has, from loving her as hard as he can before letting her go. And he does, which is for the best because Maggie needs to work through her own things. She feels guilt over loving another man, still grieves and misses her late husband, and worries that she might not be able to stay in one spot, to put down roots like Colin needs and deserves. But in the end, she can’t leave him behind, can’t deal with the hurt of losing two men, especially not when she has the chance of keeping Colin. She surprises him in Ireland, and they work things out so that they can each have what they want, and build a happy life together, without abandoning what they each love – his family, her travel bug, etc.

“I’ve never loved anyone like I love you,” he said fiercely. “And I’m not going to. So yes, I’d wait for you. Either way, I’m certainly not going to be looking to meet someone else. My heart belongs to you now.” A muscle jumped in his jaw. “Whether you want it or not, it’s yours. I’m yours. That’s just how it is.”

This was a beautiful, sweet, and sexy romance, with just a bit of angst mixed in as well. It made me smile and laugh, it made me sigh with pure romance reader pleasure, and yes, at times it made my heart ache for these two. In the end, I was happy with how everything turned out and thoroughly in love with this book.

That being said, I wanted a bit stronger of an ending. I wanted to know what happened to his writing, which was brought up early on, perhaps as a potential new passion or job for him to go after, as he was so unhappy in his job (finance department at a local university). Instead, it’s kind of dropped after their first meetings, and doesn’t factor in to their HEA in any way. I also wanted to know more about his strained relationship with his siblings, but since this is book 4, and they’ve each got their own story already, perhaps that part is covered more in the previous books? Though even if that’s the case, I would have liked to see more of it in *this* book, since his relationship with his family should be part of his own story arc and character development, too. Regardless, these were little things, and by no means did they ruin my Happy Reader experience.

If you’re looking for a lovely romance between a beta Irishman who needs to find himself and a fiery American widow who shows him how to live, Love in Dublin is the book you probably didn’t even know you needed in your life. But you do, trust me, you do. I’ll be going back to read about Colin’s siblings as soon as I can, and since I very much enjoyed Gracen’s writing style and voice, I’ll be keeping an eye out for her romances in general.

4 1/2 STARS! 

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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

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Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on November 30th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

Have you read Jennifer Gracen before?


Until Next Time,

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