Once and Again (Petal, Georgia #1)

Once and AgainBy Lauren Dane

Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased

This time, he plans to do it with class. Style. And more than a little groveling…

Petal, Georgia, Book 1

Seven years ago, Lily Travis was only too glad to see her hometown of Petal, Georgia, in her rearview mirror. Thanks to her father running off with a twenty-year-old, though, here she is, trying to pick up the pieces. First order of business: meet with her brother’s teacher in a quest to pull his grades out of a downward spiral.

Nathan Murphy is pretty much resigned to his bachelor status—until he looks up from his desk to see an all-grown-up Lily walking into his classroom. Of all the women who turned out to be totally wrong for him, she’s the only one who felt right. At least until his foolish, immature mistake drove her away.

Lily has to admit that time has been more than kind to gorgeous, sexy Nathan. Except there’s no room on her full plate for another complication. Especially with a man who broke her heart once before.

With a little help from his friends, Nathan has a plan to rekindle the flame. It isn’t long before they’re burning up the sheets. Winning her heart? That’s another matter.

Warning: Hot, sexy high school teacher in denim and boots. Strong-willed females abound. Bad words and naughtiness, too. Come on, you know you want to read it.

Goodreads Summary

When Lily Travis’ self-absorbed jerk of a father took off with a bimbette younger than she was, he left one hell of a mess behind. His wife can’t seem to cope with much of anything and his son Chris went from a great kid getting great grades to one who’s hanging out with delinquents and may not make it out of his sophomore year on his first try. She has a successful life outside of Petal, but when her brother needs her, there’s no question that Lily will be coming home.

Lily was Nathan Murphy’s sister Beth’s best friend first and she was his friend too before they became lovers in college. He did something stupid, compounded it by doing something even dumber and managed to foul up the one relationship that could have been right for him. When she walks into his classroom to talk about her brother’s grades, he figures he’s been handed a gift – a sexy little polka-dot wrapped one. All he needs is an in, because he still cares about her and he thinks she still cares about him.

Her problems with her mother and brother are bigger than she anticipated and she can’t just drop everything to let him romance her again. The hurt between them runs deep – it’s not something a couple of dates at the Tonk will fix, but the same old chemistry still simmers between them.

I probably know the Chase Brothers series like the back of my hand by now, I’ve read it so often. I was so, so pleased when I heard Dane was going to do a little offshoot series from it set in Petal with some familiar characters and I was crossing all sorts of body parts (the crossable ones) that she’d retain the flavor of the original series. She really did. And this is so, so good.

To sort out how this fits into the series picture, Nathan is Tate’s younger brother. Tate married Matt Chase, the firefighter/paramedic in the final book in the series. Got that? There’ll be a quiz later. It might be a long one, there are a passel of Murphy siblings, Chase wives and oh man, the babies! They bred like rabbits since the end of the last book.

Dane did an incredible job giving Lily a lot of the attributes I like so much in her other contemporary books – book smart, street smart, sexy with attitude, strong and assertive without being a bitch about it and funny – and she threw this layer of slow southern honey all over it. Lily wears retro clothes (which are described deliciously), but there’s also an attitude of it in what she says and the way she acts. When her brother disobeys her and is late to class, she hauls him in and sits in the back of the room, just like she said she would. You know he wasn’t late to that class again.

Lily and her family’s story really was the focal point and her reconciliation with Nathan dovetailed into it. Her situation with her mother was worse than she thought and the entire Murphy family was a big support system for her – it was another way for her to reconnect with Nathan and another example of the way the series really is about the entire community of Petal. Lily’s mother’s storyline drew in all sorts of other characters including Polly Chase, the rather terrifying family matriarch with gigantic hair, a poor driving record and a penchant for matchmaking.

Nathan didn’t get as much character development as Lily so I often thought of him more as “Tate’s brother,” rather than “Lily’s boyfriend” until he finally got his woo on and he started really chasing her down. I really don’t know why, but I have this mental block and refuse to see him with a beard and mustache. It just isn’t happening.

Just like in the previous books that take place in Petal, there are some very sexy and hot scenes but that’s not the focus of the book. They’re used more to show the intimacy between Lily and Nathan and in one case in particular, to show how much fun the two have with each other and how much they enjoy who the other person has grown to be.

I can’t give any sort of glowing review without tossing a quibble on the pile. I thought the ending was a little abrupt. I wanted one more chapter or at least a handful more pages. My progress bar on my Kindle said 87% and I was sort of stumped. I know that for a lot of books it won’t go all the way to the end but I still felt a little cut off when the story ended. I wanted to see just a tiny bit more of the story.

My Summary: If you’re expecting the same type of super steam level that you’d get from one of Dane’s other series’ like the Brown Siblings, you might be surprised with this one. It’s a little slower, a little more subtle but still nice and sexy. This is a sort of a languid, southern small-town set of stories where you get to know the community and places, the language and even the food. When a couple starts to get together, it becomes a whole family effort (and usually involves Polly Chase, her enormous purse and some sort of pie) and it always makes me want to go back to the first book and read them all over again. I’m so glad Dane decided to go back to Petal – and it’s the same little small town it was when she left it.

**It’s not necessary to read any of the Chase Brothers books to read this – it’s a completely new series with characters that are related to characters from it and the Chase brothers and their wives appear sort of incidentally.  I personally think it enhances the whole experience and I’m one of the series’ biggest cheerleaders, but it’s not a requirement.  (But go buy them anyway because they are awesome ~ my opinion.)  🙂

Barbara

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