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Release date: September 24, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Come home to Safe Haven, where the best Christmas surprises aren’t the ones under the tree.
Holly Gibson has one wish this Christmas season: to find her young niece’s father. And she’s traveled hundreds of miles to the small town of Safe Haven to make that wish come true. But the mysterious Cash O’Dwyer is nothing like she expected. Strong and kind, he makes her heart beat faster. And suddenly that little secret she’s keeping about her sister stirs up all kinds of guilt…
Cash is stunned—and more than a little wary—to discover he’s a father. Having a family of his own was never part of his plan…until sweet baby Penny and her fiercely independent aunt Holly arrive in town. Now he’s trimming trees and stuffing stockings for three. But when the ghosts of Cash’s past threaten the future of his fragile new family, he’ll do whatever it takes to be the father Penny needs—and the man Holly deserves—for more than just the holidays.
Before I share my thoughts I have an excerpt from the book to share!
On a mid-November evening, Cash O’Dwyer locked the door of his luxury condo and trotted down the steps, holding his phone to his ear to listen to the third message from his CFO in Atlanta. “Urgent that you return this—”
“Watch it!” The feminine voice was accompanied by a baby’s cry.
Cash stopped with one foot halfway down to the next step and squinted at the woman, who’d pressed herself flat against the railing on the landing, baby cradled protectively in her arms. He lifted a hand, palm out. “Sorry, sorry, ma’am, wasn’t watching where I was going.” He continued past them as he listened to the rest of his message. And then, as he processed what he’d seen, he clicked off his phone and turned back, shifting his focus from Atlanta and business deals to a very pretty young mother practically on his doorstep here in Safe Haven, South Carolina.
The woman was still on the landing, gently joggling the baby, whose cries were already dying out.
“Can I help you?” As he spoke, he checked the time on his phone. His brothers and their families would be waiting for him, the nieces and nephews getting more and more impatient, the wives ready to strangle him. His pockets full of candy and little toys wouldn’t make up for a night of fussy kids. He’d told them to go ahead without him, that he’d meet them at the holiday tree-lighting ceremony in the park, but his sisters-in-law had insisted that they all have dessert together first, at the Southern Comfort Café.
His sisters-in-law were big on tradition, something he and his brothers were pretty severely lacking.
Three messages flashed onto his lock screen. His sales manager, his brother Liam and his brother Sean’s wife, Anna.
Above him on the landing, the woman hadn’t moved, hadn’t spoken. The baby, who looked to be a girl and about a year old, settled against her shoulder with a gurgly sigh. “Can I help you?” he asked again. These stairs led to two condos, his own and that of an older businesswoman. “Are you looking for Hillary?”
“No.” She stared into his eyes and hers were strangely familiar. “We’re looking for you.”
A spark of anxiety climbed up his spine. He didn’t like it. “Is it an emergency? What’s your connection to me?”
Her eyebrow lifted just enough that he realized he sounded abrupt. Which was too bad, but that was how he was. Driven, impatient, materialistic. Not as bad as his father had been—at least Cash wasn’t violent about it. But still. The old man must have known what he was doing, giving him the name Cash. It was why he didn’t have a wife and kids, the way his brothers did.
“It’s…a long story,” she said. There was anxiety in her voice. “Is there somewhere we could talk?”
He glanced at his phone again, the time ticking away. “Not right now, no.” He tried to keep the irritation out of his tone. There were a lot of people in the world, especially in the South, for whom time had a different meaning than it did for him. People who didn’t mind having drop-in guests because their schedules were flexible or nonexistent.
Cash O’Dwyer wasn’t one of those people.
“Does the name Tiffany Gibson ring a bell?”
“Tiffany…yeah.” Involuntarily, he smiled. He’d shared a very lovely week with Tiffany, when she’d vacationed in a beach resort adjoining Safe Haven at the same time he’d been spending a rare week in his hometown. “I do remember Tiff,” he said.
“She’s my sister. I’m Holly Gibson.” She was watching him steadily, like that was going to mean something to him.
But he and Tiffany hadn’t spent their time together talking about their families. They hadn’t talked much, period. He didn’t think Tiffany had even mentioned she had a sister.
That must be why this woman’s big grey eyes had looked so familiar. He didn’t have time to piece together why Tiff’s sister had shown up on his doorstep with a baby, but she probably had a sob story and needed money. That didn’t even faze him anymore; as his bank account had expanded, so had the number of people who wanted to be his best friend. Couldn’t blame ’em for trying.
But this one had a baby, which got to him. “Look,” he said impulsively, starting down the stairs and gesturing for her to follow, “I’m late for this tree-lighting thing. It’s a tradition, and there are kids involved, kids I can’t disappoint. If you’d like to ride along, we can talk in the car. Or…” He frowned at the baby. “You can follow in your own car, if you’d be more comfortable.”
“I came in an Uber,” she said as she reached the bottom of the stairs, then half knelt and picked up a car seat she must’ve left there. “I can ride along with you.”
She’d come in an Uber? That meant she didn’t have a car. Definitely a sob story coming, but two more messages pinged onto his phone and he didn’t have time to deal with it. He just took the car seat out of her hands, opened the rear door of his Tesla and slid it in. From his brothers, he’d actually learned how kids’ car seats worked, so he attached the top tether strap to the anchor point, then stepped back to give her access.
“I’m impressed. Most guys can’t do that.” She bent over and carefully buckled in the baby.
Just as carefully, Cash tried to keep his eyes away from her sweet, shapely form. He focused on the sound of the waves lapping just beyond the parking lot, the sweet-smelling winter honeysuckle that climbed a lamppost, the stars emerging against the velvet-blue sky.
This is yet another series where I just jumped in midway without reading the two previous books but I was totally fine starting here. The author does a great job at providing just enough background information so you’re not lost, although she did make me curious about the other two O’Dwyer brothers so I may be going back to the beginning at some point. This seems to be my preferred way to read a series, backwards with no rhyme or reason but it works for me! 🤪
I love the premise of this one, the fact that Holly’s sister is the mother of Cash’s daughter was intriguing to me, the idea that the two of them had no history together and were meeting under these circumstances definitely kept me engaged. I found Holly to be relatable and sweet, I was rooting for her to find her HEA and thought she was admirable for doing her best to provide her baby niece with a stable and happy life. Cash was adorable as he tried to navigate how to be a dad and while he did drive me crazy a few times with his abrupt manner towards Holly, he won me over in the end.
This was a sweet, heartwarming little holiday romance and the setting matched the charm of the story perfectly. The residents of Safe Haven added even more heart to an already heartfelt story and I loved the side storylines that played out alongside the main plot. Definitely recommended by me, especially if you like small town romances!
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.