Can a summer fling turn into love that lasts a lifetime? Former underwear model turned entrepreneur Clay Stryker has loved, tragically lost and vowed that he’ll never risk his heart again. After making his fortune, the youngest of the rugged Stryker brothers returns to Fool’s Gold, California, to put down roots on a ranch of his own. But he’s frustrated to discover that even in his hometown, people see him only for his world-famous…assets.
Firefighter Chantal (Charlie) Dixon grew up an ugly duckling beside her delicately beautiful mother, a feeling reinforced long ago by a man who left soul-deep scars. Now she has good friends, a solid job and the itch to start a family-yet she can’t move toward the future while she’s haunted by painful memories.
Clay finds an unexpected ally, and unexpected temptation, in tomboyish Charlie, the only person who sees beyond his dazzling good looks to the real man beneath. But when Charlie comes to him with an indecent proposal, will they be able to overcome their pasts and find a love that lasts beyond one incredible summer?
Favorite Quote: His world was ruled by those who were flawless. She was broken. Maybe not where anyone could see and she’d sure learned how to fake normal. But she knew the truth.
She just stood there, on the sidewalk, her cheek all tingly and her insides doing some kind of fertility dance. Even someone with her lack of experience got the message. She was attracted to Clay. Sexually attracted. Based on how quickly she was thawing, after a few more meetings she would be reduced to a screaming, sobbing groupie.
Clay Stryker returns to Fool’s Gold with a goal in mind, to convince his family to go into business with him. He’s been all over the place, as a model and movie butt-double, but his wife died a few years ago and he’s tired of the lifestyle. Clay’s problem is not that he would not be able to make his endeavors work, it’s that everyone sees him as the butt model, not the smart, successful man that he’s become (thanks in part to his wife’s insistance that he go to college).
Charlie has finally reached a point where she’s decided that she wants a child. Her problem is that after one very disasterous experience, she’s afraid of men. She doesn’t date and has no interest in it at all. But she wants a child and she wants her child to have a father because her father was so important to her. So to get over her fear, she propositions Clay to help her to ease into the intricacies of intimacy.
She could not have picked a better person. Clay’s wife was the love of his life and he doesn’t want to replace her. So when Charlie and he become friends and she ultimately asks him to help her, he’s a little wary. But Charlie’s not like other women. Clay’s amazing good looks have caused many a sane woman to drop all pretence of civility and adopt a more masculine style way to show their appreciation, but Charlie doesn’t care what he looks like, she cares that he’s a nice guy.
I LOVE CLAY! He is the best Stryker brother, BY FAR! He’s just so genuine and sweet and decent. Despite the random women on the street pawing at him or making innuendos towards or about him, or pinching his butt (I can’t remember if that actually happened in the book, but it’s not a long shot to think that it could), he’d just turned a blind eye. Sure, it annoyed him, but he was so used to it and he couldn’t be an ass about it (even though I would have totally gave them the evil eye). He eased Charlie into their relationship was just so subtley and a careful touch.
Charlie is very much the tomboy. She’s not a woman given to romanticizing anything. She’s straight-forward and blunt. Charlie’s a firefighter and she pulls no punches. She’s no delicate flower, but I loved that Clay could make her blush. Her longing for a child was heartbreaking when you realize that she has a real intimacy issue. I really liked her. She never played the victim and she never compromised her integrity. In fact, if you would accuse her of doing so, she would knock you out. Her reactions to Clay were funny and endearing. At the end of the day, I liked everything about her and wanted to take her home and make her tea.
The love story was beautiful and a little unpredictable, but very sweet as it was about two friends, as different as night and day, healing with the other’s help. Their gradual feelings for each other was realistic and the intensity of the attraction was obvious.
The conflict at the end was a little difficult to take because I wanted and expected better from my Clay, but I guess there had to be some chink in his armor. And now, looking back, it seems a little out of character. I wanted to rail against Clay for what he did, I wanted to cry for the pain he put Charlie through because she didn’t deserve it. I wanted to slap him. That would feel good. But he’s still my favorite Fool’s Gold Hero and this is my favorite Fool’s Gold book. We need more like this, please.