Her Summer with the Marine (A Donovan Brothers Novel)
Entangled Bliss / March 10, 2014 / $.99 digital
The last person Ellie McDermott wanted to run into after returning to her hometown is Finn Donovan, her high school nemesis and the guy she crossed the line from enemies to lovers with one night years ago. Now ex-military, tattooed, and still sexy as hell, Finn is a complication Ellie doesn’t need—she needs to concentrate on saving her family business.
Finn’s entire life, Ellie was there, going head-to-head with him in every class, bee, and test. So it’s no surprise she’d show up just as he was about to take over her father's struggling business. It is a surprise, though, that his attraction to her is even more explosive than it had been. Acting on their attraction is one thing, but Finn has to turn a profit to save his own family, and nothing—not even love—will get in his way.
Benjamin Franklin once said “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Half of that concept is important in Susan Meier’s new contemporary romance, Her Summer with the Marine.
Ellie McDermott never imagined that celebrating a successful ad campaign pitch and bonus would be overshadowed by alarming news from home, until the Chief of Police calls to let her know her dad has been found sitting naked in the park—and hasn’t recognized the officers who picked him up. Those terrifying, middle-of-the-night calls can do it, though. Just pull you right out of your revelry, and ground you smack down in the middle of reality.
In the years since graduating high school, going home for Ellie was a little bittersweet. She and her dad were always close, but being home reminded her of the one night she let down her guard with her (then) lifelong nemesis, Finn Donovan. Adversaries from kindergarten, Finn and Ellie were numbers one and two, alternatively, in every contest that matters in childhood: spelling bees, science fairs, tests, class ranking. Until the night before their final exam in their senior year when Finn found a chink in her armor, breaking down the barrier between them long enough to take her virginity, and then scram.
So her dad went to her. Their visits were always done in Philadelphia, so she’d missed the signs of his waning health. And gotten walloped in the middle of the night with the scariest call she’d ever gotten. Scrambling to figure out how to best help her father, she moves back to her small hometown of Harmony Hills, Pennsylvania, back into the small upstairs apartment of her family’s mortuary, to run the family business for her dad.
Adult Finn is even sexier than teenage Finn, and when he hears about Mr. McDermott’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he offers to buy the family business since he knows that Ellie’s life is centered in the city. After Finn’s stint in the Marines, he's moved back home to handle the wonky affairs of his own family, and set up shop across town with his own funerary services. Since there’s not enough business in town to support two mortuarie’s, and Ellie needs the income from her family business to keep her dad in specialized housing, it’s pretty clear that somebody’s going to lose. And neither Ellie nor Finn are willing to fail.
“We’ll see if you beat me. You’re not the only one who needs the money. And you’re not the only one with business smarts.”
She stepped into his personal space. “Oh, yeah? What are you going to do?”
Right at that very second, if she were a normal girl, he would have kissed her. He would have kissed her because he was attracted to her. He would have kissed her to shut her up. He would have kissed her because that’s what his body was telling him to do.
When he didn’t answer, she took another step closer.
Now, she wasn’t merely in his personal space—their bodies were virtually touching. He could smell her shampoo, feel waves of femininity drifting from her, awakening his hormones.
These are two intelligent characters, both competitive people with a history. They grew up together, know what makes each other tick, and despite the life-altering yet disappointing evening they shared nine years ago, the chemistry is every bit as sharp.
Once the game’s afoot, nothing is sacred in terms of how Ellie and Finn approach the community in search of future business. Brochures, newspaper ads, billboard signs—nothing is too grandiose, or tacky. Not even a funeral.
“You look great in that dress, by the way. It makes your butt look very sexy.”
She pivoted to face him. “This is a church!”
He waved his hand in dismissal. “This is a church parking lot.” He smiled. “And you do look pretty.”
Her eyes narrowed, even as the syrupy warmth riding her blood melted and flooded her with unwanted heat.
Fighting to ignore that, she shook her head and strode away.
. . .
It was one thing to torment her, to fight for business, even to get a little smarmy in the way he kept himself in front of potential customers. It was another to make her feel …
She squeezed her eyes shut. That was exactly the problem. He made her feel.
The only other pop culture references of funeral homes that come to mind are Grandma Mazur in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and HBO’s retired series, Six Feet Under. And I have to tell you, one of the funniest scenes I have ever read was in Meier’s book. When Ellie goes to visit her dad in Harmony Hills Hideaway, on a rainy night wearing a black raincoat with a hood and big funeral umbrella, it never occured to her to think about how the other residents might react to her Grim Reaper-y look. One of the little old ladies, Agnes, had quite the scare when she realized Ellie wasn’t there to take her dad. When Ellie tried to help Agnes back to her room, the shit hit the fan.
“You’re not taking me anywhere!”
“No, Agnes. I’m not taking you. I’m just helping you back to your room.”
Agnes screamed and brought three nurses scrambling out into the hall. “Don’t let her take me! Don’t let her take me! I’m not dead!”
Ellie bounced away from the wheelchair. “I was just trying to help her.”
Wild-eyed, Agnes pointed at her. “She runs McDermott’s Funeral Home! She tried to take me!”
This is the first book in the Donovan Brothers series, and with two other brothers in the story, I think we can expect at least two more books. Meier has a great voice, with easy dialogue that drew me in. I’ll look forward to the next book in the series.
Learn more or order a copy of Her Summer with the Marine by Susan Meier, out now:
Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and this year her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.