Hold You Close by Corinne Michaels & Melanie Harlow ~ Sarah A’s Review

Hold You Close, an all-new second chance standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Corinne Michaels and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Harlow, is available now!

From NYT Bestseller Corinne Michaels & USA Today Bestseller Melanie Harlow, comes a second chance standalone romance.

Ian Chase broke my heart at seventeen, and I’ve spent the last eighteen years hating him for it.

He makes it easy, with his smart mouth and playboy lifestyle—which I unfortunately have to observe since he lives behind me. Every time I see him climbing out of his pool, practically naked and unreasonably sexy, my blood boils.

I’ve always loved to loathe him.

I never planned to need him.

***

London Parish is my little sister’s best friend, not that it stopped me from falling for her.

Our history is complicated. The only thing we have in common is being godparents to my sister’s three adorable kids—until our lives are changed in one tragic moment.

Now we’re trying to raise the children we love, mourn an unthinkable loss, and fight an undeniable attraction.

My life is already upside-down, and the last thing I need is for old feelings to resurface.

Because I’ll never be able to keep her, no matter how hard I try to hold her close.

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I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book, as I devour everything Corinne Michaels writes as soon as it’s published. I don’t know if I built Hold You Close up too much in my mind and it didn’t meet my lofty expectations or what, but it just didn’t do it for me. It was an okay story, but I found it overly predictable and lacking the depth of emotion I expect from Ms. Michaels, I can’t comment on the quality of the story regarding Ms. Harlow’s body of work as I haven’t read anything by her before this.

The first few chapters of Hold You Close were the high point of the story, for me. It was breathtaking and emotions ran high, as I anticipated from Corinne Michaels, but then we never reached that emotional high again in the book. Having the emotional crescendo that early in the novel felt like a mistake because there was no way to make the climax of the book compare to it.

I had a ton of issues with the main characters. Neither of them was very sympathetic. I wanted to love both of them for different reasons, but both London and Ian kept acting like insolent teenagers rather than thirty-something, successful adults. They couldn’t have a conversation about anything without resorting to insults and name-calling, they continually belittled one another, and I had a hard time seeing how they were putting the kids before their own issues. When they finally did connect in a meaningful way there was no transition from adversaries to lovers; it felt abrupt and unlikely at that point in their relationship.

Mostly, I felt like this book was missing huge chunks of story. We got several scenes of London and Ian at each other’s throats, a handful of sex scenes, some scenes where they seemed to really love one another, but NOTHING that showed them healing from the pains and mistakes of their past, the loss of Ian’s sister, or all the hatred they’d spewed at each other for years. I’m a person who needs to see the healing journey of the characters, not just have everything glossed over with a few pretty words, and I missed that in Hold You Close.

I felt like Hold You Close had a ton of potential but just missed the mark. Had the authors focused more on bringing the characters together and giving them a rewarding healing arc, I would have absolutely loved this book. Instead, we got too much fighting for me to see them having a healthy relationship. I get that this book was a second-chance, enemies-to-lovers romance, but there was too much focus on them being enemies for me to buy into their becoming lovers.

I am usually there for every single writing duo I can get my hands on but judging from this book I’m unsure if the pair of Corinne Michaels and Melanie Harlow is going to work for me. The story felt watered down from what I’ve come to expect from Ms. Michaels, and I’m unsure if it was because of the collaboration or if it was just that the concept itself didn’t work for me. I will likely try more of their work, should I have the opportunity, because I love Ms. Michaels’ work so much to see if this was a fluke.

“Ian,” my bartender, Toby, calls with his hand out.

“What’s up?”

“You have a call.” He pushes the phone toward me.

No one calls the club for me other than vendors, and it’s eleven-thirty at night, so whoever it is can wait.

“I have to deal with something now, send them to my voicemail.”

He shakes his head. “She’s called three times.” The annoyance in his voice is clear, even over the music.

She?

The only woman that would resort to calling the club is my ex-wife. God only knows what bullshit she wants now. For all I know she broke a nail, it’s my fault, and she thinks I should pay for her new manicure or a hand replacement. She’s like the gift you’ve tried to return but can’t find the receipt for, so you’re stuck with it. I hate unwanted presents, and I hate Jolene.

“Send the devil to my voicemail,” I say and walk away.

I head out to the sidewalk. Drea wasn’t kidding, the line is nuts. “Hello, Officer,” I say to the pudgy cop standing next to the bouncer.

“Mr. Chase, we’re getting complaints,” he says, looking down the sidewalk at the line.

“I can’t help that we’re popular.” I shrug. “I’m at capacity, and can’t kick out the paying customers to take care of the line.”

“You’re obstructing the entrances of other businesses because of the way your overflow lines are set up.”

How the hell would they like me to handle it? We’re not inside the casino, there’s no way to control the line. I’m not about to turn away people when we hit the number ten. This is a business, and part of the free marketing I get is thanks to the line.

“All right, I’ll figure something out.” I grip the back of my neck.

I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. If this is Jolene, I swear to God, I might lose my fucking mind.

The name flashes across the screen, London Parish. For fuck’s sake. Like I need to deal with my sister’s uptight, irritating best friend right now. London would be incredibly hot if she wasn’t such a raging bitch. I look at my call log and see this is the third time she’s called.

I walk down the strip a little, and after a few deep breaths, I call her back.

“Ian, you need to come to my house.”

I smirk. “Well, this is a first. Did you have the stick removed from your ass?”

“Don’t. Not today, please. Just come here.” I hear her sniff and my protectiveness kicks in. Someone made her cry. We don’t get along at all—partly because we’re polar opposites and partly because of our history—but no one gets to make her cry.

“Are you hurt?” I ask.

“Not in the way you think.” Her voice hitches.

I’ve known London for twenty-five years. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen or heard her cry—I was the reason one of those times.

“What’s wrong? Is it an emergency? Because I’m at work and the club—”

“Now, Ian. You need to come here now.”

She also doesn’t play games.

Fuck.

I look at my watch and blow a deep breath through my nose. It’ll take me at least thirty minutes to get there. This is seriously a shitty night. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Just . . . hurry,” London says and hangs up.

Dread pulls at my stomach, telling me there’s something going on. I don’t know what, but I know I need to get there.

“Get rid of the line, no more get in,” I tell the bouncer, and then head inside.

Drea is at the bar, and my anxiety is starting to grow. London needs me there, why? What happened? Did someone break into her house? Mine? Maybe it has to do with an ex, if she even has one, or it could be nothing like that. Regardless, her voice was shaky and I can’t waste time wondering.

“I have to go,” I tell Drea.

Her eyes widen. “Go? Go where? It’s a packed house.”

“I’m aware of that, but something came up. I need you to handle things tonight.” I turn to Toby. “Stay until Drea is done closing and I want you to escort her to her car at the end of the night.”

He nods.

I never let her walk out of here alone. Even if I have someone coming home with me, Drea’s not going to be unescorted. Too many men get the wrong impression because she’s nice to them. Over my dead body will she be hurt as a result of working at my club.

After I get in the car, my mind is racing. I drive faster than I should, telling myself that London is just being dramatic.

And then I remember . . . she has my nephew and nieces at her house.

My foot pushes down on the pedal of my Jaguar, making the engine howl with each mile. I turn into the development where we both live, pass my house, and head to hers. I still hate that our backyards touch. Every damn day I see her sitting out on her deck, reading her books, looking down at me with her disapproving attitude.

When I get there, the flashing lights of a police car brighten the road. I don’t think. I don’t know if I even put the car in park before I’m out of the vehicle.

“London!” I yell as I rush through the door. “Christopher? Morgan? Ruby?” I call out for the kids, praying it’s not one of them.

When I get to the living room, I release a heavy sigh—they’re all there, not hurt.

Then I see the tears streaming down Morgan’s face. London gets to her feet. Her eyes are red, puffy, and black mascara runs down her cheeks. “Ian.” She chokes on my name.

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

The girls start to cry again, and my nephew pulls them into his arms.

London moves toward me, placing her hand on my chest. “They’re gone.”

“Who?” I ask, confused.

“Sabrina and David,” she whispers.

Yeah, they went on a trip. Why the hell are they crying? “This is what you called me for? They’ll be home in a few days. Why are you crying too?” I ask.

Her green eyes meet mine and her lips part. “No.” She shakes her head. “They won’t.”

I look over at the kids again, and then to the muted television. My feet move closer, because I have to be sure the words flashing across the screen say what I think they say. “Flight 1184 crashes off the coast of Hawaii. Three hundred missing and presumed dead.”

My sister was going to Hawaii.

My sister is gone.

I sink to my knees in front of the kids, unsure what to say. They just lost their parents, and my heart is breaking. My sister was my best friend. She was the one who pushed me to open Veil and do what I wanted. I’ve always had her support, and now she’s gone.

Christopher lifts his head, his brown eyes filled with unshed tears. “They’ll find them,” he says with conviction.

“Okay,” I reply. We both know it’s a lie, but it’s one he has to tell himself. I remember being fifteen; there was no telling me I was wrong.

“Dad wouldn’t . . .” he starts, and then stops as his lip quivers.

My own tears start to fall, as Morgan grabs my hand. “What do we do now?”

I have no fucking clue. How do I tell these kids how to survive? I’m the last person in the world equipped to give this advice. I look to London. Her hand touches my shoulder and she wipes the tears that fall silently down her cheeks.

“We hold each other close,” she says.

New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Corinne Michaels is the author of nine romance novels. She’s an emotional, witty, sarcastic, and fun loving mom of two beautiful children. Corinne is happily married to the man of her dreams and is a former Navy wife.

After spending months away from her husband while he was deployed, reading and writing was her escape from the loneliness. She enjoys putting her characters through intense heartbreak and finding a way to heal them through their struggles. Her stories are chock full of emotion, humor, and unrelenting love.

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USA Today Bestselling Author Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.

Melanie is the author of the AFTER WE FALL series, the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.

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