Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

About the Book: Book - Dare to Love Again
Author: Julie Lessman
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2014
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Series: The Heart of San Francisco – Book 2
Genre: Fiction; Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Back with only her second novel in her newest series, Julie Lessman tackles the sassy Allison McClare’s story, heartaches and the risks she takes to fall in love again. Working with her mother, Caitlyn and cousin, Cassidy at the new school for girls the McClare women have opened on the crime-ridden Barbary Coast and now run, Allison isn’t the average society girl nor one likely to be intimidated. Or so the brute of a detective Nick Barone soon learns. Through a  series of events, Nick is hired to teach Allison self-defense and what started out as less-than-polite interactions between the two soon blossoms into friendship – even if it’s a tenuous one. While Allison craves independence and living life on the edge of what’s “safe,” Nick changes her outlook on life… he both infuriates her and with time manages to touch her heart. But no matter the time the pair spends together, will Allison be able to trust Nick…? Or is his past riddled with secrets that will again break Allison’s trust in men… and her heart?

Just like we’ve come to expect from Lessman’s style of storytelling, all of the “signatures” that indicate her novels are fully accounted for. This book is occupied with familial ties, sparks flying and a sense of unrequited love. Staying true to her familiar elements, Julie explores blossoming (new) romance and counterbalances that against love that has spanned years. It’s an interesting splice though I cannot always get behind the latter yet fans of the love/hate romantic liaison concept are going to love Nick and Allison together. Detective Barone (pronounced with the long “e,” thank you) is a man who has carefully concealed his purpose for being close to the wealthy residents of Nob Hill and it’s these mysterious overtures that keep us guessing what Nick could be up too. We understand what is motivating his desire for revenge, just not the “who” or “what” it involves. Speaking of his moral character, Nick’s a decent fellow and though not my favorite hero, I didn’t mind him capturing Alli’s heart. Naturally, Alli is a spit-fire who wants to be taken seriously rather than be coddled by a protective family and would-be beau. Passion is always an intense theme in these novels and with Dare to Love Again, that thread has become more subtle and the prose is less about unhealthy passion between two lovers and more about learning to trust again though physical attraction doesn’t suffer in the least between Alli and Nick. Of that, I can assure potential readers, no one need worry – their attraction is still brimming with chemistry.

Anyone who is having a hard time saying goodbye to the O’Conner clan needn’t fret over liking this new family because they are the same sort of big, boisterous, loving clan – there are still tears to be cried, games of chess (or pool!) to best each other at, sassy retorts to be delivered and a faith in God that trumps all else. If you read book one in the series, you’ll enjoy catching up with favorite characters (though I confess the lack of acknowledgement to the “big reveal” in the prior book did mildly confound me) and experience the awkward albeit endearing Meg come into her own (sending her away was an interesting move and though I suspect the author won’t, it’d be interesting to get Meg’s story from a different location perspective). Any fan of Julie Lessman will enjoy Dare to Love Again. There’s plenty of mystery, romance and spunky characters. This reader is eager to see what comes next in the McClare line!

Synopsis: Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman, resorting to a mammoth hat pin for protection on her way to and from the school where she teaches. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast she quickly discovers she is no match for rum-soaked brute strength.

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite jiu-jitsu, but it seems he has little choice in the matter. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But when Nick suddenly leaves town, Allison realizes he’s a fraud just like all the rest of the men she’s cared for. Does she dare love again?

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Revell for a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.


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