**Part of a series but a standalone, you don't have to read the other book first**
This book is kind of a variation on the Cinderella theme which I really enjoy. In this book, Harlow is cast as the flawed Cinderella and the entire town of Strawberry Valley plays the role of the evil step family. It turns out that Harlow was a notorious bully in high school and even though that was years ago, no one has forgotten it or forgiven her for the torture she visited on them and their loved ones, So unlike poor Cinderella, Harlow maaaaay have had something to do with her treatment by others. Similar to Cinderella, however, Harlow finds herself in some tough financial times which puts her at the mercy of the town that hates her. As she is struggling to recover without leaving the town that she (inexplicably) loves, Harlow meets Beck and he ain't no Prince Charming.
Beck is struggling with his own demons from the past. In fact, Beck's past experiences have given him the impression that true love and lasting relationships are a myth. Beck has lived his life on the 'one night' train that so many of our favorite book boyfriends can't seem to stay off of. Beck is immediately attracted to Harlow and recognizes that his feelings for her are unlike any he has had for other pump and dump chicks in his life but he spends most of the book not being able to overcome his past.
I love the relationship between Harlow and Beck as it develops. Beck was protective of Harlow and wanted to protect her from nearly day one. Despite his feelings he gets the idea that the way to get Harlow out of his mind is to hook her up with someone else. This leads to all sorts of predictable shenanigans. For Harlow's part, after she accepts the fact that she has feelings for Beck, she refuses to accept anything that is temporary. Beck thinks he can only give her temporary, they struggle with communication issues and Harlow struggles with her life of poverty and scorn.
The thing that really sets this book a part in my mind is Harlow's story. I don't think I've ever read a romance about a former bully. And it wasn't just Harlow being a former bully that drew me in, it was the way she valiantly tried to do penance despite the fact that the people of Strawberry Valley were petty as hell and couldn't let go of anything. I had moments where Harlow's attempts to win people over drove me a little crazy (especially the hotel scenes) but mostly I thought that it added a lot of depth to her character and made her an unforgettable heroine. I especially appreciated that Harlow refused to give up on what she wanted out of a relationship. There was a point at which she could have settled for less but sticking to her guns gave her and Beck a better chance at having something genuine.
There is great dialogue in this book with lots of witty banter. The supporting cast is also pretty good. Harlow makes friends with some of the women who previously hated her and they guide her through her romance with Beck since she doesn't know much about romance. There were moments that I found the girls group a bit high schoolish but for the most part they were just really funny and added a lot of entertainment to the book. Beck's friends also added entertainment value to the story and I'm really looking forward to reading the next installment in this series. There wasn't as much of the steamy stuff as I usually prefer but what was lacking in steam was made up for in the overall story. This is a true romance and it's well worth the read.
**ARC provided by RockStarLit PR**