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cover76344-mediumNext to You

A Phlox Beauty Novel

by Julia Gabriel

A sexy Beauty and the Beast romance from contemporary romance author Julia Gabriel

A scarred and lonely billionaire hiding from his past …

Jared Connor lost his innocence at the age of ten when his father poured gasoline around the family home and left his two young sons to die in the flames. Now an adult, he’s carefully crafted a pretend life where he can hide his scars and his death row father behind the disguise of a caretaker’s pickup truck and a pair of gardening shears. But when a beautiful woman with scars of her own barges into his quiet, solitary life, Jared finds it increasingly difficult to hide from what he really wants.

A successful young businesswoman ill at ease in her newfound beauty …

Phlox Miller was never the pretty girl and no magic mascara or secret serum was ever going to change that—not even one manufactured by her own company. When an accident at her country home burns her face and body, she spares no expense on her recovery and plastic surgery. Now she turns heads on the street, but can’t recognize herself in the mirror—and can’t convince the man she loves that he’s beautiful, too.

Can two people see beyond their physical and emotional scars to find true love and lasting acceptance?

The beauty and the beast plot is one of my favorites – it is pretty much a given that I will pick up the story if it even hints at it 🙂  And I’m very happy to say that here it works very well.

Phlox is a wonderful heroine.  She’s smart and fun, but she’s also got a solid head on her shoulders.  She may be gorgeous but she hasn’t always been and she had to go thru a horrible experience where she was burned badly.  These things have given her a different take on beauty and other people’s reaction to it, which is a good thing because anyone who dares to fall for Jared needs a lot of understanding and patience.

Jared has carried around a lot of baggage.  Not only because of his scars but because of what his father did to his family.  It’s colored absolutely everything about his life and he’s still letting it impact his interactions with others.  When he first sees Phlox he allows her beauty to impact how he treats her but she doesn’t let him blow her off and he quickly learns there is so much more to her than her face.  It’s going to take a lot though to get him to let down his walls.  Luckily Phlox may just be the person for the job.

**Warning: there is some spoilerish info below**

I really enjoyed this story but there were a couple of things I didn’t understand.  There was a fight between the brothers that seemed to come out of left field because they had what I thought was a good relationship up to that point.  Some suggestion was made that there was some undercurrent with how Jared saved Jake from the fire, but either I didn’t get it or it wasn’t detailed enough to make the impact needed for that fight to make sense to me.  And then the deal with their dad wasn’t ever really resolved.  An argument could be made that Jared just needed to accept and let it go but I felt like closure really was needed for him to truly heal.

Overall though the rest of the book worked really well for me and I loved the romance that developed between Jared and Phlox.  It’s a tough go for both of them but Gabriel handled their troubles very well and gave them a great HEA.


(Buy on Amazon)