With her long ponytail and sparkling green eyes, Tessa Donovan looks more like the girl next door than a businesswoman — or a heartbreaker. Which may explain why Detective Luke Asher barely notices her when he arrives to investigate a break-in at her family’s brewery. He’s got his own problems — starting with the fact that his partner Simone is pregnant and everyone thinks he’s the father. The last thing he needs is a nice girl like Tessa getting under his skin.
Tessa has her hands full, too. Her brother’s playboy ways may be threatening the business, and the tensions could tear her tight-knit family apart. In fact, the only thing that could unite the Donovan boys is seeing a man come after their “baby” sister. Especially a man like Luke Asher. But Tessa sees past the rumors to the man beneath.
Favorite Quote: She could feel him watching her, but when she turned around, she didn’t even catch a flicker of his eyes. Yeah, he was good. And a gentleman. When she walked down the porch steps, Luke put his hand under her elbow, and he didn’t even accidentally brush her breast with his fingers.
And: Tessa Donovan, protector of families and savior of breweries. Oh, and defiler of men, if she had anything to say about it. Yes, indeed.
Book one in the Donovan Brother’s Brewery series by Victoria Dahl, whose previous series, Tumble Creek (Talk Me Down, Start Me Up, and Lead Me On), I really enjoyed, and it follows a novella in the anthology Guys Next Door that centers on older brother, Eric.
This book begins in the aftermath of a break-in at a family-run brewery. Someone has stolen a keg and a computer. Tessa immediately assumes that her brother, Jamie, the family screw up and bartender at the brewery, had something to do with it. (Maybe Jamie forgot to set the alarm? Nope, he’s off the hook in that respect.) Turns out, after his shift the night before, Jamie took home and slept with Monica, the daughter of Roland Kendall, who the Donovan’s are attempting to become business partners with. But rather than let Jamie tell Eric this (because Eric would jump on Jamie, blaming him for the break-in, and the brothers’ relationship is tense, at best), Tessa covers for Jamie (against Jamie’s wishes). But they are not off the hook, because Kendall senior is aware of Monica and Jamie’s hook-up and Tessa feels she has to fix the situation in order to keep the Kendall’s interested in their brewery and keep Eric out of the loop regarding Jamie’s transgression. Whew. That’s a whole lot of stuff going on and the chapter is not even over yet.
At the crime scene, we meet Detective Luke Asher. Luke is an old college friend of Jamie’s, we learn, and Jamie is up to date on the gossip on Luke, including his failed marriage and pregnant partner, regardless of whether said gossip is true because Luke will not confirm or deny anything, refuses to even talk about it. Luke, upon meeting Tessa, is immediately attracted to her (of course), although “his life was way too complicated to leave room for noticing how a pretty girl smelled.” Talk about complicated. His partner, who is NOT pregnant by him, will not confide in him and has withdrawn from him. Their partnership and friendship is fragile because of her reticence and his insistence to help in some way. Dude, it’s admirable and you’re a good guy and everything, but you suffer from the same malady as many of your kind (i. e., men). She said she doesn’t want help. Leave it alone!
When Luke returns to the brewery to inform the Donovan’s about the investigation, Jamie suspects interest between Luke and Tessa and he quickly warns Luke off. But, when sneaking around Eric’s office to find Roland Kendall’s number, the only one she could grab was Luke’s, Tessa calls and invites Luke to dinner, which gets the ball rolling on their romance. There were several bumps in their path, some funny (like the reason Jamie gave Luke to make him think twice about seeing Tessa), and some were driven by their emotional issues. Tessa tended to have a problem with believing others before asking for the truth from Luke, which was a little frustrating.
I sat reading this book with a smile on my face. I want to be like Tessa Donovan when I grow up. She was smart, funny, and sincere. She asked for what she wanted and went after it. It seemed like poor Luke couldn’t catch a break. Everyone was on his case about something. Luke and Tessa make a great match. True, they had more issues than The Enquirer, but it all worked itself out in the end. The background mysteries (the break-in, Simone’s pregnancy, Luke’s past) were interesting and ultimately satisfying. The family stuff was genuine and made me want to learn more about the brothers. This made for a solid start to the series!