FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Kensington Books (via NetGalley).
Series: The O'Learys #6
Publisher: Lyrical Press on July 21, 2015
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (Adult)
Leave it to the O'Learys to make romance a family affair…
Maggie O'Leary is finally coming home to Chicago. After more than a year in Ireland, she's ready to make a plan for her future. But first, she'll have to confront the tragedy that scarred her so deeply. Asking for a job in the family bar is the first step, and it's one her family isn't entirely happy about. At least Shane Callahan, her best friend in the world, is behind her a hundred percent. He's also a hundred percent more lovable than she remembered…
Shane is determined to keep Maggie safe, even if it means working three jobs and giving up sleep to be around during her shifts at the bar. But when Maggie boldly tells him she needs more than a loyal friend now, Shane knows a single night together won't be possible. The idea of spirited Maggie in his bed is electrifying, but will she believe he wants to give her his heart, too?
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
After a terribly traumatic experience followed by years away from home, Maggie’s returned to the States to get her life back. And who better to help her figure it all out than her best friend Shane? Except Shane’s been in love with her forever, and Maggie’s about to ask him for a favor that will change things between them forever.
I didn’t really even look to see what this story was about before grabbing it. I just knew that I’d read everything else so far in the series, and I didn’t want to miss the next one. So if you know anything about my favorite kinds of romance novels, you certainly aren’t surprised that I was thrilled to find out Hold Me Close is about best friends falling in love.
First of all, trigger warning. The incident is well in the past and not disgustingly graphic, but fair warning to those who who’d prefer to avoid the subject matter of sexual assault in a story. Moving on…
Maggie was raped by an ex-boyfriend and has had all kind of (understandable) trouble gaining her confidence and sense of security again. For the last several years, she’s been in Europe, but now she’s back and ready to take control of her life. Shane, her best friend, has been more or less in love with her since the beginning of time (or somewhere close to that), but time and circumstances were never in their favor. Now that she’s back, he’s hoping he’ll finally have his chance, but he never expected it to be the kind of chance she throws at him.
Moving forward with her life again, Maggie’s in a better place, but sex hasn’t been a very comfortable thought for a long time. However, she trusts Shane, knows that she can be vulnerable with him without any fear of being hurt emotionally or physically, and for this reason she asks him to help her get over the final hurdle standing in her way. Sex.
Shane wants what happens between them to be more than just physical or therapeutic. He wants it to be everything, the way she’s been his everything for so long. But he knows better than to push or take advantage of the situation, and so we meet one of the sweetest, most patient romance novel heroes I’ve read about in a long, long time.
It’s not often that a plot that takes this turn can truly hold my attention without sending me into manic eyerolls, but the strong, genuine, established friendship between these two kept things pretty interesting and believable. It’s clear they love one another dearly, even when they haven’t really crossed the friendship line, and before long, they’re trying to figure out just how much this agreement they have is changing things. Obviously the friendship can never be the same, but moving full steam ahead into a relationship, as much as Shane may want that, is something Maggie faces with no small degree of trepidation.
The characters were complex, and the story was a strong, fresh take on what would otherwise be a standard plot. Schroeder manages to weave deep friendship, fun banter, and sad circumstances of the past together into a truly hopeful romance without glossing over the issues Maggie has to overcome. It’s a tough subject to include and treat appropriately, and while it does get the happily ever after treatment (as anyone would hope when it comes to a romance novel) plenty of attention is paid to Maggie’s feelings and recovery (for lack of a better word). Hold Me Close is easily one of the sweetest best-friends-to-more stories I’ve read, and if Shane doesn’t steal your heart, there’s something very, very wrong with you.