By Bethany Lopez
Publication Date: February 28, 2013
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Roni’s dreams of becoming a contemporary dancer were smashed under the brutal rage of her ex-husband’s fists. Getting divorced and starting over at the age of twenty-two was never her plan, but maybe in Texas, she’ll find her path. When the town’s local player, Rich, opens a Rec Center, she sees a way to rekindle her dancing dreams…and maybe have a little fun with her sexy new boss.
Rich never expected to fulfill his dreams in the town he planned to leave behind, but that’s just what he’s doing. His reputation as a noncommittal ladies’ man might make it challenging to earn respect in the business world, but he’s willing to prove that he’s serious. In fact, when it comes to pursuing Roni, he’s more than willing. But she’s taking a page out of his book, not wanting to risk another relationship. Can he convince her that his playboy days are over and that she can trust him with her heart?
It’s not billed as one, but Lopez’ Friends and Lovers trilogy, for me, is the equivalent of a television miniseries. In the end, the way to get the most out of each book is to put it in context of all three combined, since the characters and the progressions of their relationships flowed right through the entire series. On its own, Trust in Me wasn’t a particularly strong book, but combined with the other two, it wrapped up several ongoing couples’ stories nicely. I’m also very glad that Rich’s story came last and I had a couple of books to get to like him because if his story came sooner, I’d have had a difficult time with him. That boy has been altogether too free with his affections, if you know what I mean.
The prologue to Roni’s story takes place before the first book in the trilogy starts. She’d married young, right out of high school, to a slightly older guy who she thought would take her away from her rotten, abusive household. It turned it out to be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire, only Hank was much worse, beating the hell out of her physically and emotionally. By the time she had the courage to call her twin brother Kent to come get her to take her with him to his new home in Texas, she was a mess.
Fast forward six months to today. The first two stories in the trilogy have been told: Bree and Colin are together, Kent and Nicole are together and Roni is hostessing at the restaurant where Bree and Nicole work. Rich, the fun guy that everyone but Roni adores has been in college and only back in town occasionally, but when he’s there, he’s definitely interested in her. While he’s away though…Rich is a guy who loves women. Really loves them. I have to be perfectly honest, even though all of the other characters made it sound like it was a great thing, that he was so appreciative of women and took the time to treat them well, that part of the story wasn’t that hot to me.
Rich has graduated and is heading home permanently, with big plans to open a Community Rec center. When he catches sight of Roni, he wonders if there might be a chance for something more between them, so he throws on his good ol’ boy charm. Roni knows all about his history with women and even though she doesn’t want to trust any man anymore, especially a womanizer, he’s hot enough that she’s had some thoughts of licking him like a Popsicle on a steamy day.
Hanging around Rich, Roni finds his love and ambition for the Rec Center inspiring and it makes her start thinking about dancing again. Hanging around a half-naked, usually sweaty and charming Rich makes her start thinking about jumping a certain Texan’s bones, as well. I kept forgetting that these two aren’t strangers, that the past two books have had them flitting through the background. If you’re reading this as a standalone without those two as context, it’s easy to imagine that their romance comes way too quickly. They do fall into a relationship, but it’s not always comfortable for Roni, given her past.
It’s difficult to separate out the Rich from the entire series from the Rich just from this book. Over the series, Rich has been the sweet, fun guy who’s always been there for everyone but never gets the girl. Here, he’s the sweet, fun guy who’s kind of a player (a nice one, no doubt), which I’ve never liked in a hero. He’s set his sights on Roni though, and I can’t say he doesn’t give her 100%. I liked his dedication to the Rec Center, although where he came up with the money for it confuses me just a little.
Roni has been a consistent character. She’s come out of her shell, but has always seemed a little sad. She’s gotten along with everyone but Rich, which you know can only mean smexy times ahead. I really loved the way her emotional situation was handled, from dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s abuse to her reactions to her friends and their relationships. It felt really appropriate and I thought it was a real step in helping her move forward with Rich.
And that brings me to the other couples. It was fun to see some of the little happily ever afters of the other couples come together. It took some book space away from Roni and Rich, but I think it was worked in well enough with their story that it enhanced it rather than distracted from it. I especially loved Kent and Nicole’s story; it was a little tear-jerker.
I hope Lopez puts all three stories together in some form someday, so they can easily be read one after another like one story. None are very long, but the impact for each character would be much better, especially for Roni and Rich. I think their book can definitely be read as a standalone and you’ll have a sweet, sexy little story with a message about domestic violence. Put together with the rest though, there are more histories that you’ll uncover, more couples whose stories cross paths and make up their circle of friends and a clearer picture of why these two belong together.
My Rating: B