The second installment of Julie Lessman's series is just as rich and complex as the first, except even better! Allison McClare, unlucky in love three times over, bears a grudge against the male race a mile wide, and brash, cranky detective Nick Barone (with a long e) does nothing to improve that attitude. To be fair, Nick is also bearing a grudge against all the stuck-up nobs of the world, which includes Alli, but when her uncle hires him to guard the school where she works and teach her self-defense, he has a hard time hanging onto the hurt. As friendship blossoms and attraction sparks, Alli dares to risk her heart again - but is Nick the hard-nosed cop that he seems?
While the first book in the series was an interesting introduction to pre-earthquake-of-1906 San Francisco, this one takes the reader deeper into San Francisco's history and geography, with a foray into Chinatown and injustices done there during a breakout of the bubonic plague. These books offer a fun glimpse of the city.
I enjoyed the romance of this book better than the first one; though there is some physical attraction, Alli and Nick develop a friendship (albeit a very rocky friendship to start with) before pursuing a romance. And outside of insulting Alli when he loses his temper, Nick treats her with respect, not allowing lust or ambition any rein. I appreciated the toned-down physical aspects of the romance.
The author proves quite sneaky and clever - I was duped by a certain plot twist, only to be surprised with the characters in the end! It was not at all what I was expecting, but it pleased me highly. To elaborate more would certainly spoil it, and we can't have that! While this book can be read as a stand-alone, it is also part of a cohesive series; subplots begun in the first book continue through this one, connecting them well and making it easy to invest in the characters, who are present through the series. And because those subplots remain unresolved, I eagerly await the next book!
The Heart of San Francisco
1. Love at Any Cost
2. Dare to Love Again
3. Surprised by Love
3.5: "Grace Like Rain" (novella coda)