I don’t usually read “chick-lit” or “women’s fiction” or “romance” or “romantic comedy” or whatever you want to call this, but I got this ebook for free via Amazon First Reads last May and figured I’d give it a try. In the first chapter we’re introduced to Dylan Delacroix, a corporate productivity consultant in Houston: her job is to turn things around for companies struggling with management issues, PR issues, or both. Her last assignment went really well, and she’s expecting a sweet gig in Paris as a reward, but is dismayed to learn that instead, she’s been given an extremely difficult placement with a company called Technocore in Seattle, where she grew up. Dylan is polished and put-together: someone who wears Manolos and has to cancel all her “standard appointments” before flying to Washington: “eyebrow threading, manicures, blowouts, and waxing”. She thinks of herself as nothing like her family: her parents and both of her sisters (one of whom lives in New York, the other of whom lives at home still) are all artists. Dylan isn’t thrilled about the idea of staying in her childhood bedroom, but her boss makes it clear she doesn’t really have a choice: she’s expected to stay with her family to save the company money. She’s also not thrilled about being away from her boyfriend, Nicolas, and all their routines. (We learn they have a “nighttime ritual: email, dinner, more email, then bed.” Yeah, not much heat there, but Dylan’s fine with it.)

Since her job is what it is, Dylan packs her bags and heads home, where she arrives to find her dad’s latest sculpture “glaring at her from the dead center of the yard”: it’s an “eight-foot-tall tiger clutching a beach ball,” and the Robinsons, who live across the street and are always dismayed by the Delacroix family’s art and chaos, are not pleased. Dylan’s parents, meanwhile, are not pleased by the “new motion-sensor light” over the Robinsons’ driveway, which shines right into their bedroom. They send Dylan over to complain, and she finds herself not talking to Patricia Robinson or her wife, Linda, but to their son, Mike, who’s grown up to be even more handsome than he was in high school.

You can probably guess where this is going, but it’s fun watching Dylan navigate the craziness of her job (as Technocore’s CEO keeps doing tone-deaf things and as her boss in Houston continually undermines her), the slow-dawning realization that her boyfriend sucks, and the dynamics of family and friendship, all while low-key flirting (and then more) with Mike. The dialogue is clunky in places (it feels like the characters use way fewer contractions than actual people do) but by the end of the book I was willing to overlook that because I was so charmed. I also like how Woolridge writes about Seattle, a city I’ve never been to but would like to visit. There’s this, when Dylan and Mike visit a museum together: “The Seattle gloom had a living quality to it. It had shifted while they were inside, and the gray now made the world look like it was bathed in a bright smoke. It wasn’t anything close to sunny, but it was as close as the city was likely to get. The familiarity of it made Dylan feel at home.” And this, when Dylan picks Nicolas up from the airport for an ill-fated weekend visit: “The drive into the city from the airport was one of the most gorgeous views from any airport ever. Even on the wettest days, the picture-postcard skyline, complete with cranes and the Space Needle, seemed to reach out of the water, its lights twinkling like rare gems. It was always stunning. No matter what, she always felt like she was home the moment she saw it.”

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