The second installment of Julie Lessman's series is just as rich and complex as the first, except even better! Allison McClare, unlucky in love three times over, bears a grudge against the male race a mile wide, and brash, cranky detective Nick Barone (with a long e) does nothing to improve that attitude. To be fair, Nick is also bearing a grudge against all the stuck-up nobs of the world, which includes Alli, but when her uncle hires him to guard the school where she works and teach her self-defense, he has a hard time hanging onto the hurt. As friendship blossoms and attraction sparks, Alli dares to risk her heart again - but is Nick the hard-nosed cop that he seems?
While the first book in the series was an interesting introduction to pre-earthquake-of-1906 San Francisco, this one takes the reader deeper into San Francisco's history and geography, with a foray into Chinatown and injustices done there during a breakout of the bubonic plague. These books offer a fun glimpse of the city.
I enjoyed the romance of this book better than the first one; though there is some physical attraction, Alli and Nick develop a friendship (albeit a very rocky friendship to start with) before pursuing a romance. And outside of insulting Alli when he loses his temper, Nick treats her with respect, not allowing lust or ambition any rein. I appreciated the toned-down physical aspects of the romance.
The author proves quite sneaky and clever - I was duped by a certain plot twist, only to be surprised with the characters in the end! It was not at all what I was expecting, but it pleased me highly. To elaborate more would certainly spoil it, and we can't have that! While this book can be read as a stand-alone, it is also part of a cohesive series; subplots begun in the first book continue through this one, connecting them well and making it easy to invest in the characters, who are present through the series. And because those subplots remain unresolved, I eagerly await the next book!
"Dare to Love Again" is the second novel in The Heart of San Francisco trilogy of the McClare family, from award-winning author, Julie Lessman. Socialite Allison McClare's goal to be an independent woman is met with opposition from Detective Nick Barone (long e), whose beat is the streets of the wild Barbary Coast, in which the Hand of Hope School for girls - where Allison is the new teacher of English and drama - is located. Nick's secrets from the past have left him with a grudge against the upper class - Allison's belief that all men are liars, frauds, or fortune hunters, stems from the pain caused by a broken relationship. The humorous barbs between Nick and Allison start on the first page and don't let up until the last page of this delightful novel. Nick and Allison are equally surprised when romantic sparks between them start to fly.
From Julie Lessman's description of a "lighter, shorter, less complicated series - with less romantic and spiritual passion" (as compared to her Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change trilogies), I wasn't sure what to expect with this series. What I DID expect was to be thoroughly entertained and inspired - as Julie is a masterful writer - and I wasn't disappointed!!
Julie's heart-warming characters are in abundance, as usual. The girls and staff of Mercy House Orphanage are a touching addition to the story - watch out for little Lottie, she'll "steal your heart"! The "on-again, off-again" romantic relationship between Allison's mother, Caitlyn, and Allison's deceased father's brother, Logan, will have you cheering for, and sympathizing with, each of them before the story ends.
"Dare to Love Again" is chock-full of humor, suspense, passion, drama, secrets, romance, realistic characters, redemption, forgiveness, warm family settings, hope, regret, love, faith, and the ever-wonderful happy ending - it's a treat for ALL readers!! The McClare family is a delight - just as the O'Connor family was in Julie's two previous series!! I've loved each and every novel she's written, and I await - however impatiently - the October 2014 release of the final novel in the series, "Surprised By Love"!!
Oh my goodness! Where to begin? I absolutely loved this book! I wish I could give it more than 5 stars! When I read Cassie and Jamie's book, Love at Any Cost, I didn't think Julie could top it, but once again, she has proven me wrong! Dare to Love Again is definitely my favorite of her books, so far!
Allison was wonderful! I liked her a lot in the first book, but I completely fell in love with her in this one! She's so sweet, but sassy too. I enjoyed how she stood up to Nick, with her sharp wit and even sharper tongue (and of course, the infamous stick). Allison had been hurt before and wanted nothing to do with any men, until she meets Nick Barone. Saying they "hit it off" would be the perfect comment for their first meeting, emphasis on "hit." It was so funny that I just sat and laughed! I loved watching Allison grow, learning to take care of herself, but also learning that sometimes you have to rely on family and most importantly, God.
I adored Nick, too! He was the perfect match for Allison, gruff, cranky, and equally stubborn. The two of them together is like, as Allison put it, kerosene and a lit match. As we get to know him better, his softer side comes out and we see that his cranky personality is because of all that has happened in his life. I enjoyed watching Allison's sweetness smooth out some of his rough edges, though it did nothing for either of their tempers!
The spiritual part was undoubtedly my favorite. It focuses on forgiveness and not allowing hurt and bitterness to separate us from God. Allison had to learn this from the perspective of having her heart broken over and over. Nick had to trust God enough to release his hurt and do things His way. It was a journey for both of them, but also for me too. Julie's books always challenge my faith and this one is no exception.
We also continue to follow Caitlyn and Logan's floundering relationship, which I enjoyed immensely. I can't wait to see where Julie takes it in the final book, Surprised by Love, which unfortunately doesn't come out until October 21.
As always with Julie's books, the writing was excellent and the descriptions so vivid, it seems as though you are actually there, walking the streets or sparring with the characters!
While Dare to Love Again is the second book in the Heart of San Francisco series, it can be read as a stand-alone. The story comes together quite well in the end and only leaves a few loose ends to be tied up in the final book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical romance!
Julie Lessman is an amazing writer. If you haven't read any of her work yet and you love historical romance, you need to get your hands on one of her books and give her a try. Why not start with Dare to Love Again?
In this book we have two very stubborn characters, Allison and Nick. They had me wanting to pull my hair out.
The book opens with them meeting and then arguing, which leads to Allison actually hitting Nick with her teaching stick. She definitely has the hot Irish temper (not that I would know anything about that).
It seems every time the two try to play nice, which is encouraged by other characters in the book, something happens to set them off again and before you know it Allison is coming after Nick with a new weapon of choice.
Julie does such a great job building the tension up between these two that you will find yourself just waiting for that first kiss, which if you have read Julie's books before you know will have your heart twisting for the lovebirds.
Not only is the plot great but you will enjoy this glimpse into San Francisco and taking a ride on a cable car.
I have no doubt you historical romance readers out there will enjoy this book.
A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Dare to Love Again was such an entertaining sequel to Love at Any Cost. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Julie Lessman's writing and I have even more so enjoyed getting to know the McClare's and all their friends.
Dare to Love Again stars Allison McClare and Nick Barone. Allison McClare is determined to become an independent woman. After having her heart broken one time too many, she has no interest in falling for any more sweet talking men. Allison has become a schoolteacher at a school her mother has recently opened in one of the worst places in town. When she runs into some trouble, her Uncle Logan hires a bodyguard to teach Alli how to defend herself and to keep her out of danger.
In steps Nick Barone, the grumpy police detective who has no interest in high-class women. Despite his reluctance, he agrees to Logan McClare's terms. His own past is quite secretive and despite the mutual hatred between Allison and Nick, they somehow manage to form a friendship that slowly blossoms into more.
If you're looking for a fun, romantic, witty, entertaining read, look no further. Dare to Love Again has it all and I guarantee you will find yourself falling in love with the McClare family. I was so excited to join their world again and I can't wait to go back to San Francisco and visit them again. I have fallen in love with Julie Lessman's writing and will certainly try to read her other series in the very near future.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no compensation for this book, nor was I required to write a positive review. All opinions stated are my own.