Destination wedding consultant Willow Ambrose has fought a battle with the scale for much of her life, but she has finally won the war. By putting her past behind her and cutting off all contact with anyone who knew her before and, of course, controlling everything she can, Willow has carved out a new body and a new life. But when she comes face to face with someone who left an indelible mark on her heart years before, all that threatens to crumble.
Navy SEAL Nick Hershey is on medical leave, doing a friend a favor as a stand in “man of honor” at a beach wedding. He might not be that interested in the nuptials, but the wedding planner catches his eye the minute they meet. When he realizes Willow is really a girl he knew in college—and a girl he unintentionally hurt to the core—he knows he has some making up to do.
Willow has learned how to beat every temptation…but Nick’s sweet-as-candy kisses just might be the one thing she can’t resist. But the closer they get, the more the past threatens to tear them apart. Can they finally let go of a painful past in order to find a forever future?
*Blurb from Goodreads*
St. Claire took on some of my favorite tropes with this new trilogy, weddings and small town romance. I fell in love with the Barefoot Bay gals with the last set of books, and was anxiously waiting to see what would come from the destination wedding girls.
Willow has changed her life around since college. She’s separated herself from her famous parents, changed her name, and lost a ton of weight. She is happy living her life as a wedding planner who has nothing to do with her parents, but when she meets one of her potential wedding guests, the past comes rushing back. The one man she offered her virginity to, and the one who turned her down, suddenly turns up in her guest cabin, butt naked.
Nick is standing in for his best friend as a man of honor, getting the free vacation is worth dealing with the annoying bride. Seeing Willow again is more than Nick ever expected, especially since she is still the same amazing woman that she was back in college. Nick isn’t sure that he is good enough for her, but he isn’t going to let Willow walk away without finding out. But they will both have to face their pasts, and greatest fears before they can move forward together.
I have to say, I adored Nick. He was such a wonderful hero. I loved that although he was attracted to Willow, he never made a big deal out of all the weight she lost. Instead, he worked to convince her that he was a little smitten with her even back in college when she was heavy and they were just friends. Nick was so sweet while dealing with Willow, and I loved that he didn’t try and hide his fascination with her parents. I thought it was hilarious the way he would always sing her dad’s rock songs – horribly off tune, of course – and try to serenade her with it. Everything about Nick, even the way he dealt with the pain and guilt of his actions in the military were so wonderful, I just adored him!
While I enjoyed a lot about Willow, there were a few things that started to bother me, mainly the epic way she was able to carry a grudge. She was obviously very hurt by her mother over the years, and she let it constantly bring her down. Once she decided to make a change. she cut her mother out of her life and refused to hear anything about the woman. I loved the way Willow really decided to make a change for herself, not for her mother, and that she did everything in her power to keep herself in a happy place. But her inability to see that people can grow and change almost cost her everything. There were a few times I wanted to throttle Willow for that.
The romance between Nick and Willow was such fun. I liked that they had to reestablish as friends, and work their way up to more. I liked the way that they danced around each other before committing to something serious and real. I enjoyed watching the two of them push at each other to try and deal with their past. I thought Willow did a wonderful job of pushing Nick to really face his fears of his time in the military, and deal with the memories in the only way he knew how. I also liked the way Nick was willing to be a bit sneaky about helping Willow come to grips with the relationship with her mother. Their partnership was sweet and supportive and super sexy!
One of the things I wish St. Claire would have spent more time on was developing the secondary characters. I didn’t really feel as if we got a good understanding of Willow’s best friends and business partners. I would have liked to see their friendship play out more on the page, as I always enjoy books with strong female friendships that take a center stage. I did, however, really enjoy the few moments we got with Willow’s Dad. I thought he was a fun character that provided a lot of smile throughout.
All in all, I think St. Claire has started off her new series on a good note. I do love all things wedding, and I’m looking forward to that theme carrying over into the next few books. I hope that we get to see more of Willow and Nick as they work more on their HEA in future books.
I give Barefoot in White a B-