Emma Jensen has guarded her heart since her emotionally abusive husband's death a year ago, despite the advances of many eligible bachelors in her hometown. The only man she can bring herself to trust is her childhood friend, Jeff Kendall, who always brightens her day when she enters his diner to buy lunch. Little does she know that Jeff has been in love with her since that day in Sunday School where they both reached for the same crayon. Jeff has been too shy to say anything, but now that young men are creeping out of the woodwork of their town to compete for Emma's affections, it may be time to try to finally tell Emma how he feels.
This is my third foray into the Love Inspired series from Harlequin and, like they say, third time lucky! I absolutely adored this story. Yes, it uses a stereotypical romance plot but Jillian Hart is a wonderful writer and really made me care about these characters. I completely fell in love with the small-town feel of this novella and I wish I could have read more about the residents of Emma and Jeff's hometown. It was amusing to watch Emma and Jeff attempt to thwart attempts to pair them up, yet slowly coming to realise that maybe their neighbours weren't being unrealistic.
Due to the shortness of this novella, Emma and Jeff's relationship progressed rapidly. Yet I still felt that they were portrayed realistically considering their circumstances and I was anxiously awaiting the moment when one of them would confess their love to the other. My only real complaint would be that I wasn't entirely convinced by Jeff's "shyness" having stopped him from telling Emma how he felt about her. From the way he acted around her and the playful, bantering tones of their conversations, you wouldn't think that he was shy at all. I would have preferred it if it was simply that Jeff didn't want to seem to forward in asking out someone who had recently been widowed. But truth be told, I've never been overly fond of the "I've secretly been in love with you forever" plots.
While I wasn't too keen on the premise of the story, I was immediately drawn into it and immersed in the lives of the characters and their hometown. This is a wonderful novella for anyone who is an avid Love Inspired fan or someone trying this series for the first time. I will definitely be reading more from Jillian Hart in the future. 9/10
You can download this novella from the Tell Harlequin website, here.