REVIEW: Perfectly Charming by Liz Talley
Morning Glory native Jess Culpepper is desperate to get out of town after divorcing the only man she’s ever dated. She takes a temporary nursing job in Florida and, thanks to the bequest of her late friend, Lacy, has the funds to rent a condo right on the beach. She’s not prepared to literally trip over her old high school lab partner—and definitely not prepared for how deliciously hot he is now.
Ryan Reyes, once known as “The Brain,” has worked hard to become more than the skinny nerd that jocks bullied and girls politely tolerated. At twenty-six, he has retired from science to run a charter fishing business in Pensacola and spend his leisure time catching up on the debauchery he missed. But when the unattainable girl of his teenage fantasies moves in down the beach, old feelings come flooding back.
Their scorching attraction soon leads them into bed—but what starts as no-strings-attached fun is complicated by a return to Morning Glory and the shadows of their shared past. Can the head cheerleader and the geek redefine themselves and forge ahead to find their happily ever after?
Dear Ms. Talley,
I know it’s been a while since I reviewed one of your books but wow, what a way to get back in the saddle. I enjoy second chance stories and crossed with a (in this case) Cinderfella theme I just had to read this. Oh, and I’ve already gone back and bought the first book in the series.
Recent divorcee Jess supposedly had the perfect life and husband until he started banging the local florist – who fixed the bouquet he handed to Jess even as he told her he wanted out of their marriage. Bastard. Now she needs someplace new, away from the pity of her small hometown. Beach! She just never expected to trip over the Brain while going to ask the neighbors to turn down the music.
Ryan has deliberately put nerddom behind him. A boy genius who spent adolescence being picked on, in science labs and earning both a MD and PhD degrees, he has chucked it all, taken down his Star Trek posters, put away his action figures, hidden his MST3K (yay!) and Dr. Who dvds and transformed into Regular Guy. He just never expected to be tripped over by the girl of his teenage dreams while lying naked on the beach. Yeah, it was some party.
Both Jess and Ryan lived lives planned out. Jess did her own planning but Ryan’s parents arranged his. He’s had the courage and insight to toss his over while Jess had it done for her by her cheating ex. After a few missteps it takes a bad double date to get both of them to (separately) decide “why the hell not?” He’s always wanted her and now he looks good enough to sop up with a biscuit as well as being kind, thoughtful and sweet. And since she’s only planning on being in Pensacola for a few months, if things go badly, it’s not as if she’ll be dodging him in the grocery store.
Ryan might have calculated how much time living like a player frat boy playing the field he needed in order to catch up with where he thought he should be in life but he never counted on his heart. NOT that he’s in love with Jess – no, not that. He also thought he didn’t need to return home to show off his hotness. But Jess still needs a crutch when she returns home for a wedding. Guess who she talks into being her “+ one”?
Ah the trip back home. How much have either of them – deep down – really changed? Passing the “Welcome to Morning Glory” city sign brings back all Ryan’s insecurities. Meanwhile Jess goes all “squealing Southern woman” (and I say this as a born and bred Southern Woman) with her friends. Then her ex husband begins circling like a shark.
Now is when the rubber really meets the road in this story and where it rises to earn its grade. I had wondered what would cause these two to examine their relationship and move past the easy and physical. Some hard truths smack them in the face and cause some true soul searching. It isn’t easy and definitely not pretty but it’s what was needed for them to reach a HEA I can buy into for the long term. And it didn’t even require the services of the Elvis impersonator either! Though that would have been cool. Maybe for their own wedding down the road… B+