Grace Nolan is doing her best to conform to the rigid corporate world and put her history as a paid escort behind her. And even after seeing the worst that men have to offer, she still hasn’t given up on finding love with the right guy. But right now, Grace could use a distraction to take her mind off her nonexistent love life. The trouble is, giving fashion advice to a former fling with rock-hard abs and a bad-boy attitude isn’t exactly what she had in mind.
After working his way up from cameraman to vice president of an adult media company, Ben Lockwood is floundering. While he reevaluates his future, he asks the most poised and polished woman he knows to make him look respectable. Ben even swears off sex, which makes spending time with Grace pure torture. It’s only a matter of time before they give in to the heat—but unless Ben confronts what his heart has been denying, they may both get burned.
After reading the first installment in the White Lace series, set in the world of porn production, I was immediately in withdrawal while waiting for this enjoyable story full of inner conflict to hit bookshelves. The wait was worthwhile though for this story that's full of personal change and preconceived notions in the burgeoning romance between the charming playboy Ben and the emotionally hardened Grace. While it wasn't as fresh as the previous book I still enjoyed its setting and the non-judgemental way the porn world is presented and hope to see more stories set amidst this compelling and steamy world in the future.
Ben's been a part of the Levin family, and their White Lace Productions business, from a very early age as they rescued him from an uncaring mother and nonexistent father. They bathed him in love and acceptance, introduced him to a best friend who's more like a brother, and made him part of their business by fueling his film-making talents. For all they've done he feels an obligation which leaves him conflicted as more pressure has been put on him with his recent promotion. It leaves him feeling lost, full of tension, and with a fear of failure as the story opens and it affects every move he makes from the first page to the last. His attempts to fulfill his new role and make the fatherly figure of Mr. Levin proud has led him to becoming celibate and beating himself up relentlessly over his fear of not being good enough. It's an emotional tug of war in his head at a time where temptation's being dangled before him like never before in the form of former escort Grace, who he's been obsessed with since their unforgettable one-time encounter. His attempts to stay away from her only bring her closer in their burgeoning friends to lovers romance tainted by their pasts and the world he works in which leads to lots of conflict, angst, and winds of change. Ben's an immensely appealing character going through some understandable life changes stemming from his promotion and his friend's finding love. He's sexy, snarky, and very charming but quick to assume the worse of women thanks to his mother always reneging on her promises to him. Since then he's never felt good enough and sees his body and sex as the only thing he can offer a woman. He never sees himself as any woman's knight in shining armor or HEA which is what keeps him from Grace and readers frustrated. Through all the highs and lows he learns more about himself, and through Grace's business teachings, he tries things he never thought himself capable of before. Being with Grace shows him to be a protective man, one who values honesty and loyalty, and even though their relationship has moments of frustration it all leads to a cheer-inducing and romantic ending that shows Ben at his most thoughtful and charming.
This was a quick read featuring two unforgettable characters from the previous book that was full of steamy sexual interludes with bits of angst and moments of frustrating push and pull. Despite their doubts in making a future together it's clear that Ben and Grace have a crackling connection full of longing looks and banter teeming with sexual tension. They're both judged by their work in the world of sex which is what brings them together at first and that has them forming a deeper connection throughout the story. Lots of scorching encounters lead to surprisingly heartfelt talks that show a vulnerable side to them both which goes a long way in explaining Ben's issues and make it a bit easier to forgive those moments where his doubts came to the forefront. Characters from the previous book show up here to offer more life changes of their own while supporting Ben and Grace through the changes they're trying to make. College student Cory made an impression as well while interning for Ben, giving him a glimpse of future possibilities while charming readers with his sweetness and subtle support. Sadie may not have been present for most of the book, but a traumatic event befalls her late in the story that has lasting repercussions for her and causes a big speed bump in Ben and Grace's relationship. It's a defining moment for her, as well as Ben and Grace as individuals, and is what fuels the memorably romantic and cute conclusion that will leave readers saying awwww. On a whole I found this to be a satisfying read but not quite as good as the previous installment due to all the frustrating push and pull moments. While I liked Grace there were still times that left me cold regarding her personality, but it's understandable considering how she's lived her life. Not only is this a book about personal change but big change comes to White Lace too, changes I didn't see coming and I hope it doesn't take us out of this world as I love the uniqueness of this setting. I see plenty of opportunities and characters, namely Sadie, to fuel many more scorching stories in the future and I beg the author to revisit this world as it's one I would wholeheartedly miss. Romance readers looking for a unique setting and a combustible couple who work hard for their HEA will find this this an enjoyable, if slightly flawed, read that gives lots of scorching afternoon delight.
My rating for this is a B.
*I got this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.