Review + Excerpt: When We Met by Susan Mallery

Format: Mass Market
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 352 pages
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Source of my copy: Meryl Moss Media Relations
Series: Fool's Gold #13
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery invites you back to Fool's Gold, where a newcomer to town might finally meet the man she never knew she needed…
Angel Whittaker earned his scars the hard way, but the scars that can't be seen are the ones that haunt him the most. Since he moved to Fool's Gold, California, he's cobbled together a life for himself as a bodyguard trainer. If he's not exactly happy, at least his heart is safe.
Working with pro-football superstars taught tough-talking PR woman Taryn Crawford one thing—she can go toe to toe with any man. But then dark, dangerous former Special Ops Angel targets her for seduction…and challenges her to resist his tempting kisses.
Even in four-inch heels, Taryn never backs down. Unless, somehow, Angel can convince her that surrender might feel even better than victory.

When We Met was my first Susan Mallery novel and I don't know why I waited so long to pick up any of her books, especially her Fool's Gold series books. When I think of similar books, Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor series and Carly Phillips' Serendipity's Finest series comes to mind. 

I liked When We Met. It was a slice of life kind of read--no mystery to solve, no crazy antics of a dead relative trying to play matchmaker from beyond the grave, etc. Just life in a small-town and it follows two people who were not looking to fall in love (but do), and their day-to-day jobs and friends. It was nice and relaxing to read it.

I really enjoy small town romances and Fool's Gold was a great town to be in. It was great meeting the townspeople, like wily Mayor Marsha, the friendly women (who starred in their own novels in previous Fool's Gold books) who embraced Taryn and quickly took her into their fold, and the hardworking men (who didn't make as much of an impression as the women, at least in this novel).

The focus of the story were Angel (our hero, whose name threw me off a little in the beginning) and Taryn (our very stylish heroine). Angel was a former military sniper and a widower who lost his wife and teenaged son in a car accident a few years ago. Taryn was new in town, after she and her business partners moved their PR business to Fool's Gold. Angel and Taryn started dating, though neither of them had any plans for anything serious. Angel still felt guilt over his wife and son's accident and Taryn, because she was abused by her alcoholic father when she was young, didn't feel she had it in her to fall in love. 

Taryn and Angel were great, likable characters. I loved the scenes with Angel, Taryn and the FWM (Future Warriors of the Maa-zib--similar to Girl Scouts) girls. Angel wanted to volunteer in town and Mayor Marsha thought he'd be a great FWM Grove Keeper for the Acorns, which turned out to be a group of seven-year-old girls. Soon the big, scarred ex-Special Ops was learning to French braid with help from Taryn. The scenes with Angel, Taryn and the girls were so, so cute and brought a smile to my face.

I really liked how Taryn and Angel's relationship progressed. They were older (mid- to late thirties) and they were established in their careers and they had a calmness about them that I really liked. It wasn't all fire and drama and shenanigans that I'm used to with younger characters (new adult novels I'm looking at you) in other contemporary romances that I've been reading lately, but it doesn't lack for chemistry and heat. I was pleasantly surprised that the sex scenes were pretty steamy--I had it in my head that sex scenes in Susan Mallery's books are written in a way where much is left to the reader's imagination but it's actually more like a Nora Roberts or a Cathy Maxwell.

After reading When We Met, I am definitely going to be picking up more of the Fool's Gold books. I'm especially really excited for the follow-up books to this one because they will feature Taryn's ex-football player business partners--all three made an impression in this novel. When We Met was a sweet, light, romantic contemporary read that took me away from reality for a little while. Read When We Met if you need a romantic pick-me-up on a lazy weekend or bring it to the beach with you--it's a good summer read. 

This scene** was during one of Angel and Taryn's dates. Angel just found out what he got himself into when he signed up to volunteer to be a Grove Keeper and what the job entailed.
"You know that old saying 'no good deed goes unpunished'?"

She nodded.

"A couple of weeks ago I talked to Mayor Marsha about getting involved in town. I wanted a volunteer activity."

And the surprises kept on coming, Taryn thought.

Angel's expression turned sheepish. "It's how I was raised. Small town, people took care of each other. Once I knew I was staying here, I wanted to be helping people. She suggested the Future Warriors of the Maa-zib."

Taryn laughed. "Future what? Are you serious? Is this weapons training for teenaged boys?"

"I wish. I figured it was a program for young men." He hesitated for a second, making her think there was something he wasn't telling her, but then he continued. "There are stages. Acorns, Sprouts and so on up to Mighty Oaks. The adult is called a Grove Keeper."

Angel was a big, scary guy. He had scars and secrets and he was the last person she could imagine volunteering to work with children. The fact that he had done so made her even more interested in him.

"Good for you. So what's the problem? I can't imagine you being worried about a bunch of unruly boys."

Angel shifted on his seat. "They're not boys. They're girls. Little girls. My Acorns are seven-year-old girls. They ear beads for activities. The keeper handbook is pink. He began to speak faster and the tone of his voice tightened. "They're supposed to learn regular stuff like knots and map reading, but there are also beads for face painting and families and..." He paused, then shuddered. "The feminine cycle."

Taryn was relieved their drinks hadn't arrived yet, because if she'd been drinking, she knew she would have started to choke. As it was, laughter spilled our of her. "The feminine cycle?"

He glared at her. "It's not funny."

"Oh yeah. It is."

**The excerpt is from an Advance Reader's Copy edition of When We Met and may be subject to change in the final edition.

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