I love books that are set in an area new to me and that evoke local color so dramatically that I feel that I am there or that I want to be there [in my case, now I want to go visit Galveston, Texas!].
This is a story with plenty of color, and one which takes a standard plotline - rich stuffy banker meets wild child - and sets it on its ear. Rich characterization helps, and the secondary characters are multidimensional living human beings who have their own life histories. There are some funny scenes, but what counted for me in this book was the wonderful evocation of a city in small-town mode, the twists and turns in the relationship between the banker and the "wild child", and the hints at family secrets between the two of them.
The plotline is simple - Oliver Chancellor "Chance" is a banker whose father has just sold his small family-owned bank to an East Coast group. He is still expected to spend his life with the bank, to behave suitably and to marry suitably. His intended bride Paige is the daughter of old family friends. However, Oliver finds himself attracted to the sister of a schoolmate. Aurora "Rory" St Claire comes from an unconventional and almost disreputable family, with a famous local scandal in their past. She is a tour guide, her brother is a chef, and her sister works for a gallery. Nothing particularly special about Rory, except her stunning looks and her bubbly personality. Rory has self-esteem issues (we soon learn why), but she desperately wants to run her own B&B. When a house belonging to an ancestor is up for sale (after foreclosure by Chance's bank), Rory tries to obtain a loan to buy the property and get the B&B started. Oliver helps out, as much because he wants to help start a new business and see what else he is capable of, as because he wants to spend time with Rory against his better judgement. However, the loan from Chance's bank falls through. [I am going to end here to prevent spoilers].
The plot is complicated by secrets in Rory's families, the long-term effects of their family scandal (the most famous in Galveston), and by the contradictions within Oliver and Rory themselves. Oliver knows that he desires Rory, but he considers her an unsuitable wife for a small-town banker (which she is). He is prepared to marry a woman he does not love, simply to meet the expectations of their families, friends and the community. Rory often acts without thinking and creates trouble down the road for herself. But her vision of a B&B helps her to stumble along, discovering much of her hidden potential. If you are looking for a modern romance where a heroine makes a go out of a demanding new career (i.e does not downsize), this is a great book.
There are some scenes of lovemaking (including one rather sudden burst of passion, with the aftermath described in funny detail), but these do not take up very much space. The passion, the sexual attraction between the couple is described through other means - the first kiss (when you just have to compare Rory's reaction to Paige's), the fact that Chance keeps thinking about Rory at work and with other people, the reactions of other people to their relationship.
What I loved about this book was the quirky relationships between the protagonists and the secondary characters, the way in which local history and geography was incorporated into a romance, the fact that secondary romances (past and present) existed but did not detract from the relationship between Chance and Rory. I also loved the fact that the author was clearly setting us up for at least one sequel, with major changes to Chance's lifestyle by the end of the book and a hinted-at romance for Rory's older sister.
I did have mixed feelings about Chance and Rory. I was annoyed with him for being so blind about his true love, for not really wondering earlier what he wanted to do with his life. I also criticized Rory for keeping her secret, a secret. But these were minor problems.
If you like books about strong modern (or post-modern) characters with plenty of local color and with some quirky humor, try this book.