Review by Veronica

Series Name: Hometown Brothers, # 3 

“I’m Deena Clark,” she said. “But Willow is the important one.”

The baby held a small rubber doll out to Luis. He took it from her, hid it behind his back and then held it out again, jiggling it, making her laugh. “Why is Willow the important one?” he asked.

“Because,” the woman said, “she’s your daughter.”

The Beach Reads Bookshop is a heartfelt romance about found family and learning to open your heart to new possibilities. 

Running a bookstore on a quaint Chesapeake island is exactly the life Deena Clark would have chosen for herself. But helping billionaire businessman Luis Dominguez figure out fatherhood is part of the package. Can bonding over books and one little girl help them open their hearts to each other? 

Y’all know how much I love a romance book that takes place in or around a bookstore. When I stumbled upon this book on NetGalley, I knew I needed to read it. I hate to admit this, but this wasn’t my most favourite bookish love story to read. It just missed the mark for me. That isn’t to say that this wasn’t a well-written or well-plotted book, but I didn’t connect with the characters, which was disappointing. Let’s start with the positive stuff first. I think fans of the Hometown Brothers series will enjoy its latest installment. But if you are like me and haven’t read the previous books, that is ok. You will still be able to understand what is going on. The author does a great job of bringing readers up to speed with what has happened in the series. 

The overall story is interesting and heartfelt. I felt engaged enough with the story and I didn’t find my mind wandering while reading it. A lot that happens in this book would only happen in romance land or for romance reasons, which I was ok with. I don’t read romance books and expect them to be realistic. What I hope for when I read a romance book is to connect with its characters, laugh, swoon, and get that delightful HEA ending. This is a more serious romance book, and while there are a few light and happy moments in this book, the overall tone is more subdued, which I wasn’t expecting. I was anticipating something more fluffy. I was surprised at the depth of the story and loved how the author tackled more serious issues around Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, assault, and infidelity.    

My biggest problem with this story was Luis’s character. I usually don’t mind an alpha, bossy male main character because I love watching them come undone by the heroine. But that didn’t happen here. Luis is a hard character to love. His heart is often in the right place, but his actions often come off as insensitive and overbearing. I think what turned me against him was when he threatened to take Willow away from Deena at the beginning of the book. Deena has taken care of Willow since she was born and loved the little girl. I hated the fact that Luis made her feel like she wasn’t doing a good job. I also didn’t love how he bulldozed over Deena when she was trying to run the bookshop. His actions just didn’t sit right with me. 

The romance between Deena and Luis has this slight slow-burn feel to it. The physical attraction between these two is there right from the beginning. But they just don’t click for me as a couple. They slowly get to know each other as they take care of Willow and work on opening the bookshop. I wished there were more deeper conversations between them. Maybe that would have helped me see them more as a couple. 

Thank you, Harlequin Trade Publishing, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.