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cover87807-mediumJust a Kiss

A Summer Harbor Novel

by Denise Hunter

For fans of JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You and Nicholas Sparks’ The Choice comes a breathtaking story of second chances, friendship, and true love in all its forms by bestselling novelist, Denise Hunter. Watch the Author Interview!  http://blog.netgalley.com/author-chat-with-denise-hunter/

Riley Callahan’s plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend are ruined when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.

Watching the love of his life falling for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.

But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.

Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances he’s adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. He has nightmares and mood swings, and his unwavering independence keeps him from accepting help from anyone, including her. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up the money needed to save it.

As the weeks wear on with the two in such close proximity, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into unchartered territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his corded arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

When you see that a book is part of a series that you’ve not been reading, you’re always taking a chance that the book isn’t a true stand alone.  I almost always take the chance unless there is a clear indication otherwise – sometimes it works out really well, sometimes not out all, and sometimes I’m mostly OK.  This is definitely that last one.  Technically I think you could say that this one is a stand lone, but it seems like you would have a better understanding of Paige, Riley and their relationship if you’d read the other stories.

They’ve been friends for a long time and I get the feeling that this story was one in the making for a while.  Paige loves Riley but doesn’t see him in a romantic light.  Riley on the other hand has had deeper feelings for years and being around Paige while she’s dating his brother is more than he can handle.  So he enlists in the Marines, only to come home injured in body and spirit.

He has a lot of issues trying to acclimate to his new situation, dealing with his feelings over what happened to him overseas, and spending a large amount of time with Paige.  It’s hard to see him struggle so – you know that he needs to get professional help but he’s not in a mind to do it.

Paige is trying her best to be understanding but it’s hard as the time spent with her friend has her looking at him with new eyes.  You get a good feel for her conflict – not just with the new romantic feelings but also with trying to help someone that doesn’t want it.

I really think that Hunter does a fantastic job with the resolution of Paige and Riley’s feelings, his issues and their futures.  It’s not an easy road for them but they have friends, family and their faith to see them through it.