Harlequin HQN / February 26, 2013 / $7.99 print, $6.15 digital
Combat medic Vance Smith made a promise to a fallen officer: to treat the man's young daughter to an idyllic vacation at Beach House No. 9. One month, some sun and surf, a “helmet list” of activities to check off and Vance will move on. But the “little girl” he's expecting turns out to be a full-grown woman. With silky hair, big brown eyes and smelling sweetly of the cupcakes she makes for her mobile bakery, Layla Parker is irresistible. And Vance shouldn't lay a finger on her. Honor—and one heck of a scarred heart—says so.
To Layla, Vance is a hero who was injured trying to save her father's life. She intends to spend their month of lazy days and warm nights taking very good care of the gorgeous soldier—inside and out….
Bungalow Nights is the second novel (plus a prequel novella) in Christie Ridgway’s Beach House No. 9 series, all set in a California beach house that may have the magical power to bring true lovers together. But before they can achieve their HEA, the lead characters and two of the secondary characters must reject the self-concepts they adopted at an early age.
Vance Smith is a combat medic who was wounded in Afghanistan. He expects to return for another tour once his injuries heal rather than take the medical discharge for which he is eligible. To set himself apart from his overachieving, perfect older brother, Vance became the family bad boy, constantly testing the limits and risking his life.
“...I was too reckless to trust. I...liked recess instead of reading, sports instead of studying. Then adolescence arrived and I perfected that position, becoming the absolute best at playing, partying and generally screwing around.”
Not exactly estranged from his family, he maintains his distance, seeing them rarely and keeping the details of his life private. He wants a life on the land his family has farmed for generations, and he wants Layla Parker to share that life. But neither of his desires can be fulfilled until Vance realizes he is not a black sheep but a responsible, even nurturing, adult, one with deep roots and big dreams.
Layla Parker was a military kid, constantly moving to a new place, and never forming lasting friendships. Her mother abandoned her, and her officer father was often deployed, leaving her in the care of a bachelor uncle. She is still grieving over the loss of her father who was killed in Afghanistan. She is afraid to love Vance because everyone she loves leaves her.
You could avoid the cracks in the sidewalk, bargain with some higher power or just your inner fears, and the unthinkable still could happen. A mother would leave her husband and her small daughter. A man’s letter would fail to arrive. One day there’d be a knock on the door and the sight of the uniform on the other side told you all you needed to know but never wanted to hear.
Loving someone meant you set yourself up for hurt.
Baxter Smith, Vance’s cousin, has a secure place in the family business, one that rewards him with an impressive salary and with his family’s approval. He is living his life exactly according to plan—the BSLS, the Baxter Smith Life Schedule.
He was Golden Boy Baxter. His real life was ideal, ordered, and full of people who cared about him.
...he reminded himself he was no longer a twenty-three-year-old hothead. Which, actually, was a weird reminder in itself, because he’d never been a hothead. Not at fourteen, not at eighteen, not at twenty-three. Baxter had been focused on the BSLS.
He hasn’t deviated from the plan since he made it as a teenager, except for one impulsive, passionate night. He can’t forget that night or the woman, scarcely more than a girl then, with whom he shared it. Baxter is beginning to realize that he hates his job and his sixteen-hour work day; he wants Addy with her spontaneity and enthusiasm. But first he has to see himself as capable of being someone other than the slave to structure and order that he has always been.
Addison March, who once found solace from the emotional barrenness of her childhood in the fantasies offered by books, movies, and food, is now a gorgeous graduate student in film studies. She is passionate about her subject and about Baxter Smith, the hero of her childhood dreams. She is vocal about her first passion and silent about the other, believing that one perfect night is all she’ll ever have of Baxter. When he makes clear that he’s interested in a relationship with her, she won’t allow herself to believe him. She can see herself only as the plain, fat, lonely child she was. She has to let go of that outdated image if she is to grasp the life that she can have.
She leaned her head against his shoulder and inspected their images in the glass. Despite his words, the sincerity in them, it still wasn’t easy. Did the frog prince still see his old warts once he’d been kissed by his beautiful lady?
Ridgway’s characters learn that sometimes you have to let go of a false image in order to hold on to what you want most.
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.