Julie Lessman's "Grace Like Rain," published in the Seekers of Seekerville's With This Kiss Historical Collection of novellas, returns to her Heart of San Francisco series to follow up with Blake "the Rake" McClare. With his friends all falling victim to matrimony, Blake is the only bachelor left and intends to remain so; however, drinking and womanizing suddenly lose their appeal when he starts spending more time with the firm's secretary, Patience Grace Peabody. Patience knows to avoid Blake and never let him into her heart; for one, she's a woman of faith, and for two, her mother already made that mistake. But can the leopard change his spots? Can a man of Blake's rakish reputation turn his life around?
As a brother of two heroines and a cousin of one, as well as a coworker and close friend of two heroes, Blake McClare could be said to be a fairly major character of The Heart of San Francisco series. It is only fitting that he should find love and be reformed too. Thus this novella is a fun coda to the trilogy--it brings back all the major elements and characters that made the series so loveable. (Even though this novella can stand alone, I do highly recommend reading the full-length novels first, seeing as it is always better to read books in order, but also because they're well worth reading).
Impressively, this novella (which must be a third the length of a full-length novel) still manages to pack quite a punch. Trademark Julie Lessman, there's intense romance and a plot twist to send the heart into overdrive. I like that the novella takes place over the course of months, not just days or weeks; it makes the changing hearts and attitudes more believable, so we don't have to worry that the Rake's flirtation with chastity is a momentary fling. And it gives him time to win over Patience's heart--something she won't hand over easily.
I really enjoyed the story. Most likely because I really enjoyed the first three books and was already invested in the characters, and therefore knew that Blake needed his story told too. And it was well told.
The Heart of San Francisco
1. Love at Any Cost
2. Dare to Love Again
3. Surprised by Love
3.5 "Grace Like Rain" (e-novella coda to the series, published in With This Kiss Historical Collection)
Other novellas in With This Kiss Historical Collection include:
"His Beloved Bride" by Ruth Logan Herne starts with a marriage of
convenience: Phillip needs a wife and child to come into his
inheritance, and Grace--newly widowed with a newborn--is in desperate
need of help. But can a marriage of convenience survive?
Hillman's "Meeting in the Middle" connects to neighbors who can't make
it on their own: Alaina, whose father just died, and widower Curt, who
is trying to watch two small girls and run a farm. They strike a bargain
to help each other get the cotton in, but maybe they need to meet in
the middle to make it work.
In "The Innkeeper's
Promise" by Cara Lynn Jones, Dane returns to his deceased uncle's inn,
only to discover his uncle's widow and stepdaughter have run it to the
ground. Lydia is fighting to keep the inn, even with its financial mess,
while Dane wants to sell; who will win the battle?
Bonus (and not as romantic) novella "Closer than Brothers" by Mary Connealy tells the story of how five men became true friends that are closer than brothers amidst the horrors of Andersonville Prison during the Civil War . . . a prequel to both the Trouble in Texas and Kincaid Brothers trilogies (focusing mostly on Trouble in Texas).