FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley).
Jane’s life revolves around her son, and right now that means proving herself at work, building a better life for them, and making sure he has everything he needs. It does not mean falling for her boss, a man who is far too charming for his own good, and giving her ex a reason to challenge custody.
Judging Covers: This is where continuity pays off. You see, I finish another book every day or so, so you can imagine how impossible it is to remember every title, author, and series name. But when I saw this cover, I immediately knew this was one I wanted to read. I had to check the synopsis to remind myself which series it belonged to, but the layout and font style did their job in telling me in an instant that this book is part of one of the many series I’m trying not to lose track of. And that picture? Simply beautiful.
The Verdict: Jane’s managed to keep her head above water since leaving her ex, but just barely. The bakery where she was working closed when the building being leased was sold out from under them, but she landed a job as a pastry chef at the Briarwood Golf and Yacht Club, and if she can prove herself during her ninety-day probationary period, she’ll have herself a permanent position where she can grow and continue to bring in enough money to support herself and her son.
Her abusive ex is hardly out of the picture, though. He may not be popping up from behind every shrub and corner, but his very existence is a constant threat, and Jane doesn’t have the financial resources to keep fighting him in court every time he decides to torture her by threatening to take custody of their son. And it’s her single-minded commitment to being the best mother she can be that has her hesitating to give into any flirting with Preston North, the once playboy, hard-partying co-owner of the club.
Press is a much more complex guy than I would have guessed from the previous books. A recovering alcoholic, he’s got a rather jaded view of everyone around him, and he even dresses the part that he expects people judge him to be, simply because that’s what they expect. In his world, someone like Jane is a breath of fresh air, and while she seems to be holding him at arm’s length, he’s willing to patiently wait her out and hope she gives him a real chance.
Jane’s reasoning for keeping Press at a distance didn’t seem like the typical half-hearted excuse you get in most romances. With Press’s reputation and past drinking problem, he’s just the kind of ammunition her ex would use against her in court, and Jane knows it. She’s also worked hard to give her son a new, stable life, away from the fear-filled home in which they lived with his father, and she doesn’t want any potentially temporary attachments to a new man to undo her progress. But Press is big-hearted and understanding, and he wins both Jane and her son over even before she fully lets him in.
I have to say that I absolutely loved Jane’s story. She’s been beaten down, both literally and figuratively, and there’s evidence of that in the cautious way she’s trying to put her life back together. But she’s also determined to stand on her own two feet, and she refuses to give in to her ex’s demands and pressure, even when it seems like he may hold all the cards. She’s pretty much the epitome of single mothers everywhere who stay strong for their kids, even as the world keeps trying to kick them down. Press, of course, is just wonderful. He’s great with Jane’s son Andy, understanding of Jane’s need for independence, and (of course) all kinds of hot. For all his sweetness, when things heat up between him and Jane, they really heat up!
I also love the way that the situation with Jane’s ex was somewhat easily resolved. While I was expecting a lot more drama on his part, the way it played out was more true to life. Not every custody battle is worthy of the evening news, and it was a good show of how Jane handled things well on her own. Instead of Press having to save the day with his money or influence, it was Jane’s character and perseverance that won the battle.
The Best of Me is a heartwarming and romantic story of a single mom not just trying to make it on her own but succeeding. The love story is somewhat slow to develop, as it should be when a kid is involved, but when it does, it becomes a wonderful, emotion-filled path to happily ever after.