Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on January 30th 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Cottonbloom. A beautiful, faraway place where a woman can escape her past—and find reason to stay forever. . .
Willa Brown never planned to stay in Cottonbloom. She was on the way to somewhere else when she landed there and found work at the Abbot brothers’ garage. . .and a sense of comfort and safety that she had never known. The same holds true for Jackson Abbott himself. With one glance in her direction, he can make Willa’s heart melt. But what begins as an unrequited crush turns into something far more powerful than Willa could have ever imagined. . .
Jackson’s most meaningful relationship has always been with his car—and he’s not afraid to admit it. Still, he can’t help but become emotionally entangled with his new star mechanic Willa, who is definitely hiding some dark secrets of her own beneath the hood. Jackson desperately wants Willa to trust him, and to seek protection in his arms. But even as the two slowly surrender to their shared attraction, the danger lurking in Willa’s past remains a stubborn obstacle. Can she open up enough to give them both a chance at having real and lasting love?
A bang shook the wall. No fist had come through the Sheetrock, and it hadn’t been violent enough to be a body. Probably a chair then. The break room sat a dozen feet from where Willa Brown worked. Indistinct male voices came in spurts and sometimes on top of each other. Overall, a typical Abbott family meeting. Good thing no customers were milling around to witness the fireworks.
Willa ducked her head back under the hood of Vera Carson’s Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. She wanted to do the car and Abbott Brothers Garage and Restoration proud, but even more, she wanted to do Jackson Abbott proud. While she’d learned the ins and outs of car mechanics from her father, she’d gained an appreciation of the classics over the last two years working with the brothers. Jackson in particular.
Another harder hit to the wall registered but she didn’t look up from where she was finger-tightening a bolt. While she had the disadvantage when it came to brute strength, none of the boys could match her dexterity in tight places.
The office door shot open and bounced against the wall, deepening the impression of the doorknob. Mack Abbott went out the front door and Wyatt out the back.
Jackson stalked out and slammed the door shut, looking like someone had borrowed his ’68 Mustang GT and gotten ketchup on the seats. If it were socially acceptable, Willa wouldn’t have been surprised to bear witness to Jackson marrying his Mustang.
Although twins, Jackson and Wyatt approached life from opposite directions. Wyatt was the wild charmer while Jackson was quieter and more circumspect. If past behaviors held, Wyatt was headed to the barn out back of the shop to expend his anger on a body-sized punching bag that hung from the rafters. Jackson would bottle up his aggression and let it explode all over the dirt track. She almost felt sorry for whoever raced him next.
Jackson headed straight for her. More likely his destination was the Cutlass. That knowledge didn’t stop her quick intake of breath as he drew close. He stopped next to her with his hands propped on the open hood, breathing like he’d gone for a sprint around the building. His anger vibrated the air around them. He definitely had a Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre vibe going on. Dark, brooding, mysterious.
She was used to the Abbotts. In fact, their idiosyncrasies made her feel right at home. Growing up, she knew more about cars than most guys which did not help her cred with the girls, who’d been more concerned with pageants and cheerleading. It had been just her and her dad for so long that being around men felt normal. Melancholy reared up and bit her in the ass. Whenever she thought about her dad and the life she’d left behind—had to leave behind—regrets threatened to swamp her.
She put her father and her past out of her head and focused instead on her favorite subject—Jackson Abbott. If he was a textbook, she would name him The Anatomy of the Perfect Male or if she was in a philosophical mindset, Dwelling on Jackson. Her mind tended to dwell on him in her waking and sleeping hours.
Not that he saw her as anything but an employee. In fact, sometimes she wasn’t sure he saw her at all. Like now. Even though they were three feet apart under the same hood, he ignored her. She thought about making a funny face to see how long it took him to notice. He probably wouldn’t and her face would freeze that way.
She smothered a laugh and checked him out from the corner of her eyes, one of her favorite pastimes. He wore baggy grey work coveralls, same as she did, but in deference to the warm snap, he’d peeled off the top and tied the sleeves around his waist. His black T-shirt molded to his thick chest and emphasized his brown hair. His jaw was tight and his biceps flexed as he stared into the engine compartment.
“So how was the family meeting?” she asked in a singsongy voice.
“Shitty.” His voice was more hoarse-sounding than usual which made her wonder if he’d been doing most of the hollering even though that was unlike him. He was more the strong, silent type. Or the closed-off, brooding type.
Her chest tightened. Was the shop in financial trouble? Had the decision to expand into car restoration and the recent upgrades been too much of a strain? Oh God, were they going to fire her?
Where would she go? She didn’t want to start over. Not again. Not when she’d finally found somewhere to settle for longer than a few months. Even though the Abbotts weren’t her family, they were all she had. They drove each other crazy more often than not, but at least they’d stuck together and had each other’s backs.
Unfortunately, she was the odd woman out in the equation. She straightened and faced him. “Am I being fired?”
“What?” Finally, he turned his attention to her. “Of course you’re not fired. Where would you get that idea?”
She averted her face and pretended to work on something in the depths of the engine block. Her breath shuddered out. She didn’t want Jackson to know how important this job was to her. Without it—without the Abbotts—she would be alone again.
“What was all the arguing about then?” she asked.
“It was about Ford. Ford and his need for something big, something quick. Instead of being patient and building our reputation through hard, honest work, he wants fast cash and is threatening to sell out if we can’t buy him out.”
Continue reading this chapter HERE
~~Reviewed by Evelyn~~
WHEN THE STARS COME OUT by Laura Trentham is our 5th visit to Cottonbloom, the small town uniquely split by a river and a state line. We also revisit the Abbott brothers who own and operate a garage in town that not only repairs vehicles but also restores vintage cars. This time it is Jackson Abbott, the quiet brother, who is the star of our story.
Jackson has worked beside Willa Brown ever since his father hired her as a mechanic in the family business. While he always respected her abilities as a mechanic, he never really noticed her as a woman. She was somewhat of an enigma in her ever-present overalls and baseball cap, and she was also very quiet, never talking about herself or her past. It slowly became obvious to everyone that she was hiding something. It was also becoming obvious to everyone around them that there was a growing attraction between Willa and Jackson. What will happen, however, when Jackson finds out what Willa is hiding?
Willa and Jackson’s romance has developed very slowly, but when it finally bursts, it is very hot and heavy with several explicit sex scenes. I’m going to have to go back to the previous books to be sure, but it seems like the sex in this fifth installment of the series was far more explicit than in the previous novels. Maybe it’s just my imagination?
Willa’s past is only one of the mysteries in this well-written novel. One of the Abbott brothers, Ford, has threatened to sell his share of the garage to an anonymous buyer and he has apparently disappeared. The story of the missing Ford brings some of the Ford brothers’ past into the story to give it depth. All of the mysteries are basically resolved by the end of the novel, but enough questions remain to feed into the next book of series.
WHEN THE STARS COME OUT is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and even though it helps to have read the other books in the series, I don’t think it is necessary. I think the author does a very good job of filling in the info that a first-time reader would need to know to make the book a good standalone novel.
Bring on the next visit to Cottonbloom!
I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book.