Dear Ms. Mallery:
July, August, and September sees the release of your Keys’ Bakery sisters series. The series begins with Claire, a piano virtuoso. Claire has been estranged from her family since, well, almost forever. When she was 3 years old, she walked up to a piano and started playing and her life changed forever. She began lessons and practicing and at age 6 left the home with her grandmother to start her career as a classical pianist. When she was older, her mother left her family to be with Claire. Nicole and Jesse were left behind and Nicole, at age 12, had to be mother, daughter, and bakery worker. Jesse was the irresponsible one. They both blamed Claire for the failure of their family and want nothing to do with her.
But then Jesse calls and tells Claire that Nicole is going to have surgery and that Nicole wants Claire to come and help. Claire thinks this is a chance, an opportunity to reconnect with the only family she has. She’s also got some performance issues so running off to help her sister is a two fold blessing.
Claire is a very nice woman whose life might be one of riches and fame but because of being a child prodigy, she’s had very few ordinary experiences, like driving a car, cooking, or being with a man. (Yes, my readers, she’s a virgin).
Wyatt Knight is Nicole’s best friend and he’s spent years learning what a delinquent, unfeeling sister Claire really is which is why he can’t really figure out what game she is playing when she shows up to "take care" of Nicole during her convalescence. He’s determined not to let her bother Nicole but the minute that he even shakes Claire’s hand, he recognizes that there is a powerful physical attraction between the two of them. One that he does not want.
Goddamn sonofabitch, he thought grimly, jerking back his hand and stuffing it in his jacket pocket. No way. Not her. Dear God, anyone but her.
Claire was babbling on, probably thanking him. He wasn’t listening. Instead he was wondering why, of all the women in all the world, he’d had to feel that hot, bright, sexual heat with her.
As for Claire, first she doesn’t recognize what she’s feeling is lust and then when she does recognize it, she’s excited about it and Wyatt. It doesn’t really matter to her that he doesn’t want to feel it back or even that he’s a bit of a jerk to her. Like a new born puppy trying to experience everything from rabbits to mailmen, Claire is delighted. She wants to have sex and is willing to use the physical attraction between the two of them to get what she wants.
Claire’s good humor in the face of really gut wrenchingly poor treatment from her sisters, Nicole and Jesse, and some from Wyatt, is nothing short of a miracle. Nicole, at some point, mentions that Claire is the strongest emotional person she knows. It’s the truth. You’d have to be an emotional warrior to withstand the crap that Nicole tosses out. I never felt that Claire was a martyr though or that she was annoyingly plucky. Being accommodating is part of Claire’s strength and part of her weakness.
What we see of Claire is a woman whose emotional and psychological profiles were stunted because of her gift and when her gift fails her because she can no longer play due to panic attacks, it allows her to embrace life. Claire’s character is one of those who is glass is half full and you can’t help but be charmed by her and her outlook.
Wyatt is also an appealing figure. He’s raised his deaf daughter by himself. He’s very protective of Nicole. He’s a straight shooter, finally admitting to Claire his wants but being up front about the inability to care for anyone on a long term basis besides his daughter.
While Wyatt’s excuses for not being able to be with Claire on a permanent basis are thin, there is enough chemistry and emotional development for both that the reader isn’t left wanting. It’s a fun, emotional, and sexy read. A good way to spend an evening. B-