Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on April 4th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
First in a mainstream contemporary romance series featuring successful, tight-knit former fraternity brothers from Kianna Alexander.
What would you give for a second chance?
Xavier Whitted has a lot on his plate. As a hardworking businessman, mentor to troubled teens, and aspiring politician in his Southern hometown, the daily demands never let up. A weekend at the beach for his best friend's wedding is exactly what he needs. What he doesn't need is to run into the woman who broke his heart ten years ago.
Imani Grant is more beautiful, confident and intelligent than ever, and their connection is still sizzling. But Imani harbors a secret that could destroy both their blossoming careers. She knows she has to keep her distance, but Xavier is determined to win back her heart--consequences be damned.
"A page-turner." --RT Book Reviews for This Tender Melody
Xavier stepped to the glass door and swung it open. “After you, Imani.”
She stepped outside, and immediately lamented the loss of air conditioning. The air was thick with the heat and humidity customary for early summer in North Carolina. The tart aroma of the salty waters lying just beyond the hotel property permeated the air. Lush tropical plants filled the small courtyard, some blooming with bright-colored flowers. In the center of it all, three stepping stones led to a wrought iron bench positioned among the leaves and vines.
He sat, patted the empty space next to him. “Come sit with me. I won’t bite unless you ask me to.”
The sexy wink he threw her made her traitorous nipples pebble again beneath her dress. Ignoring her body’s reaction as best she could, she eased into the spot.
Gently, he draped his arm around her bare shoulders.
The feel of his touch radiated through her, the growing warmth inside her far exceeding the temperature of the sultry June night. Being in his arms again didn’t feel foreign, the way it should have after so many years. His touch felt as natural and familiar as her own heartbeat. She noticed the rapid pace of her breathing, and wondered if he noticed it as well.
The low timbre of his voice broke the silence. “If I’m making you uncomfortable, just say so. That’s the last thing I want to do, baby.”
So he had picked up on her nervousness. She shook her head. While her mind told her not to let him get behind her defenses, her heart didn’t want him to withdraw his touch. Instead, she answered him, but kept her eyes directed at her lap. “No. It’s all right.”
“If you say so. I brought you out here to talk, so let’s talk. What have you been up to these last ten years, other than growing more beautiful?”
She felt the smile creep over her face at the smoothly-delivered compliment. “Let’s see. I did undergrad in biology at Spelman, then med school at Meharry, then my dermatology certification—”
“Whoa. Are you telling me all you’ve been doing for the last decade is being a student?”
She shrugged. “I guess so. But I had a goal in mind, and hard work and lots of school were the only ways to reach it.”
That drew a low, rumbling chuckle from him. “I can’t say I’m surprised, you always were intelligent and determined. I’m glad to see you’re accomplishing your goals.”
She took a chance and raised her gaze to his. His rich, dark eyes held the same sincerity she’d detected in his words. “Thank you, Xavier. I appreciate that.”
A silent moment passed between them, their gazes connecting.
When his scrutiny became too intense, she broke the silence. “So, uh, what have you been up to? I heard from Mama that you’re doing a lot of good work in the community.”
A broad smile spread across his face. “I’m glad to know Ma Alma speaks of me so highly. When I’m not in the office handling the books for my clients, I volunteer at a youth center in the old neighborhood, and I do a little work at Second Harvest Food Bank from time to time. I’m no saint, but I do what I can for the community.”
Listening to him talk about his good works in such a modest way, she realized he still had a wonderful heart. In the few weeks she’d been home, her mother had gone on and on about Xavier’s activism. As an all-star athlete and scholar in high school, he could have chosen any career path he’d wanted. But instead of taking some high-paying, high-profile position, he’d chosen to make a modest living so that he could give back to the community that had nurtured him as a child. Yes, Xavier Whitted was a rare bird, and if the look in his eyes were any indication, he was ready to build a nest.
There, beneath his searching gaze, she could feel her very soul opening up. Once upon a time, she’d been certain she’d marry this man. Now, she felt like an inexperienced adolescent. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t look away from him.
The heartbreak she’d suffered at Xavier’s hands had colored her perception of men. He’d been her first love, and had shown her a first glimpse of real pain. Maybe she should thank him for that, because it had allowed her to focus on her goals, rather than be consumed by chasing after a suitable mate.
“Imani, I’m going to kiss you. Is that all right?”
She heard his soft words, and even as her brain yelled at her to back away before she lost her heart to him a second time, no words would come. All she could manage was to look into the endless pools of his eyes.
An instant later, his lips touched hers. The sweetness of his kiss and the buttery softness of his lips made her eyes shut. Her body overtook her brain once again, and she pressed herself closer to him. He pulled her close, surrounding her with his strong arms, and she loved it, God help her. The kiss deepened, and as his skilled tongue stroked against the interior of her mouth, she felt her insides melting down into her shoes like hot wax.
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~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Dr. Imani Grant is in Atlantic Beach to be a bridesmaid, again; it doesn’t help that her mother is always pestering her to get herself a boyfriend. Imani’s college roommate Georgia is getting married, which makes her think of Xavier Whitted, Imani’s high school boyfriend. To Imani’s astonishment, Xavier is the best man! Xavier had ended the relationship 10 years ago, and they both went their own way. Xavier is now a respected businessman, active in the community, and intends to run for city council. They both discover quickly that the old chemistry is still there, but Imani has a secret that might make any sort of relationship impossible…
Kianna Alexander was a new author to me, and what a wonderful writer she is! Her prose is elegant, understated, and I felt bathed in a soft, glowing glow; it all felt so lovely and cozy. I love that both Imani and Xavier are nice, normal, successful professionals; they both have dependable and sympathetic relatives and friends. I loved Maya, Imani’s cousin and manager of Imani’s dermatologist practice, and I thought it was a shame that Maya already had her happy-ever-after, because I would have loved to read her romance. Maybe the author could take us back someday?
BACK TO YOUR LOVE is the first book in Ms. Alexander’s new series, Brothers of Theta Delta Theta, (that’s a mouthful!), and as expected the characters of the future instalments are introduced, and this is extremely well done; it never feels like some obligatory filler or heavy set-up, as it often happens. Each character is well defined, and I really enjoyed meeting Xavier’s frat brothers. Why then may you ask the low rating? Xavier appeared the perfect boyfriend; he is wonderful, and is willing to wait until Imani is sure she wants them to get back together; he is caring, charming and a real gentleman. Until that dreaded misunderstanding, miscommunication, lack of communication, the bane of the romance novel. Imani’s secret has to do with something that happened in Atlanta, and I was dying to know what it was, and it was dreadful indeed; Imani was ashamed, and I could understand why. But. But, why, oh why, couldn’t this intelligent woman speak when it was time, even if she’d had to be a bit tougher with Xavier and tell him to listen? Of course, the excrement hit the fan, and I was utterly shocked at how the perfect, understanding, and kind gentleman could suddenly turn into such a jackass! And that got me angry, and I stayed angry. Xavier’s frat buddies were on Imani’s side, but Xavier, well… I had totally loved Imani until that point, when a strong, confident, brave woman turned into a limp noodle, and I lost all respect for her with how she reacted to Xavier’s lack of trust. He should have grovelled for a solid hundred pages! What happened to Imani was awful, and I would have expected some compassion from Xavier, the knight in shining armour to his community, but no. I was mad at him for behaving so selfishly, but even more at Imani for how she handled it. And, unless I missed something, I don’t believe the reason why they had broken up in the first place was ever addressed. BACK TO YOUR LOVE had been such a lovely, adult, pleasant second-chance romance until the “misunderstanding” ruined it all for me. Sometimes, I can brush aside some event that displeases me in a story, this time I just could not.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.