Saturday, December 3, 2022

Kate Clayborn - Luck of the Draw

Sure, winning the lottery allows Zoe Ferris to quit her job as a cutthroat corporate attorney, but no amount of cash will clear her conscience about the way her firm treated the O’Leary family in a wrongful death case. So she sets out to make things right, only to find gruff, grieving Aiden O’Leary doesn’t need—or want—her apology. He does, however, need something else from her. Something Zoe is more than willing to give, if only to ease the pain in her heart, a sorrow she sees mirrored in his eyes...
Aiden doesn’t know what possesses him to ask his family’s enemy to be his fake fiancée. But he needs a bride if he hopes to be the winning bid on the campground he wants to purchase as part of his beloved brother’s legacy. Skilled in the art of deception, the cool beauty certainly fits the bill. Only Aiden didn’t expect all the humor and heart Zoe brings to their partnership—or the desire that runs deep between them. Now he’s struggling with his own dark truth—that he’s falling for the very woman he vowed never to forgive.

Comment: Last year I've read the first book in this Chance of a Lifetime trilogy and liked it. Reading my comment on it, though, I see I'd have liked to see some elements done better, but thankfully enough time has passed that I remembered only the basics, and going into this one was almost as if I hadn't read that one, so I could appreciate it as if it was a standalone.

Zoe, Kit and Greer won the lottery, not one of those numbers that allow one to not work ever again, but enough to help with their lives or plans they put on hold. Zoe is a lawyer and has worked to fill in the steps her late father would have liked to see her in. However, her last case before the lottery win was one she doesn't feel proud of and now, an year after, she is still thinking about the people she needs to solve things with in order to ease her guilt feelings. She tries with the older couple she believes weren't treated fairly on that last case but when she rings their house, it's their son there instead.
Aiden is angry still, and mourning the loss of his brother, and he doesn't want anything to do with Zoe but since she wants to make amends he says she can help him with a business deal he wants to make, owing the summer camp where his family spent so many wonderful years. The problem is the current owners only want to sell to a family man and Aiden is single, unlike his competition. Will this "deal of convenience" work for the two of them?

I don't think it's any surprise to say this story isn't as simple as the blurb indicates but it is true the tone of this story is a lot more serious than what the expected shenanigans at the summer camp might suggest. Although this is primarily a romance and there is a highlight on how romantic feelings can help people unblock other feelings they might need in their lives, the actual core of the story is Zoe and Aiden's need to let go of their losses and feelings of inadequacy.

I'd say this story more obviously stays at that middle ground between romance and woman's fiction and, of course, sometimes I wasn't too certain if I liked one or the other element the most or that the one left wasn't done as good as it could. I had a good time reading this most of the time but there were scenes that I feel weren't as well used as they could, yes.

Zoe is a good character in the sense she feels she hasn't respected her father's memory well, she hasn't always been the kind of person he might have wanted her to be. Of course anyone can see how this is unfair, how can someone ever measure up to an impossible ideal of perfection, which often isn't expected at all by whoever we place in a pedestal, but I could see how this would affect Zoe's actions now so much. Aren't we all engineered to feel guilt, how some never have it seems quite a feat...?

Anyway, Zoe decides to be proactive in solving her issues and the money is a way to make it easier. That old cliché is real, money might not buy happiness but it certainly helps going after it. However, apart from solving her sense of a bad deal with the O'Learies, she also wanted to do other things and I'm not sure we got to see her actually take steps about it, since the plot is totally focused on her acceptance to help Aiden and how their relationship develops.

I think the romance was believable enough, subtle and unassuming. What starts as a favor, a way to downplay feelings of guilt turns into genuine care and, at some point, romantic feelings too. I think the fact this was a slow paced plot and romance helped me accept that they were falling in love, and also that they would be spending longer time together on the camp, sort of "bonding" too, was interesting to follow. Of course, part of this slowness notion is because Aiden is very reserved and sort of aloof.

I do think Aiden is the most intriguing of the characters, harder to read on the page but more interesting from a psychological POV. He is mourning the loss of his twin to an overdose and that is why he wants to make summer camp a way to help people recovering from addictions. His plans are well intended but his heart isn't truly in it for he isn't doing it for his own, he is doing it for duty, as expiation over what he perceives as not having been present enough for his brother. I could see his conflicting sensations over everything and part of me liked him more for it, another wished he had been able to understand whatever he had to in a quicker way.

I think I'm ending up having the same kind of thoughts about this book as I did about the first one. There is some romantic passion missing to elevate the story, to make it more intense and heartfelt. I hope the last one is more captivating but I think it is more likely it will be just like these two as well. 
Grade: 7/10

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