The First Kiss of Spring
by Emily March
In desperate need of a change, Caitlin Timberlake embraces the chance to return to her Colorado roots. As a bridesmaid in the upcoming wedding of an old friend, the petite blonde is sure that this respite from her crazy New York life as a textile specialist will be just the medicine the doctor ordered. She’s in search of a reset, and she is intent upon settling into those other two important “R” words – Rest and Relaxation.
What she expected when she landed in the quaint little mountainside town of Telluride, was weather as crispy sweet as a freshly fallen Washington apple. What she didn’t expect was the impromptu smack of a “R” word she’d previously given up on – Romance .
Getting stuck on a rising gondola with his wheelchair-bound dachshund Penny was a rather unexpected inconvenience. But Josh Tarkington is no stranger to bad luck or ill-conceived situations, and he couldn’t say he was surprised to find himself dangling hundreds of feet in the air by just a few strategically hung cables. A man with a thundercloud past and a presumed stormy future, Josh wasn’t looking for commitments of any kind. He had his dog and his established business as a mechanic in a nice, unassuming town, and that was all he really needed. Finding himself trapped with the pretty little blonde had him thinking otherwise – if only for a few moments. She had spirit and sass, and her eyes were hard to look away from, not to mention the palpable beat of electricity humming between them. Unfortunately for both Caitlin and Josh, the chemistry they were both feeling couldn’t go anywhere permanent – Josh just couldn’t take any chances.
After her encounter with the ruggedly mysterious Josh, Caitlin can’t seem to stop thinking about him. The trip back home to Eternity Springs helped solidify a move she’d been thinking of making for years, and the prospect of something more happening between herself and the stoic mechanic is only icing on the cake. Throwing caution to the wind and keeping the opinions of her parents firmly ensconced in the background of her determined mind, Caitlin packs up her life in New York and moves back home, intent upon putting her dreams of opening up a daycare and becoming a childcare provider into action. And if romance is in the cards, so be it.
When Josh hears that Caitlin is back in town, he nearly panics. He had a hard enough time keeping away from her the few days she was in Eternity Springs the last time. He is definitely not on the market for love, and no matter how many times he’s made that abundantly clear, she has stars dancing in her eyes every time she looks his way. Not to mention she’s a Timberlake – one of the most affluent families in the community – and he isn’t exactly what one would call “upstanding.” He’s respected and taken seriously enough as a mechanic and business owner, but that’s where the novelty of Josh Tarkington ends . . . and he likes it that way. He’s worked hard to carve out a slice of peaceful living for himself in the quiet Colorado town, and he’s not keen to make any long-standing attachments. Friendships lead to questions and questions lead to a past he’d rather soon forget. Unfortunately for Josh, Caitlin decides to set up shop right down the street from his own business, and he finds it impossible to ignore her gravitational pull.
Unable to help himself from giving in, Josh strike a bargain with the headstrong Caitlin Timberlake. He’ll give her what she wants – in the physical sense only. Any emotional or relationship ties are strictly off the table, and they have to keep their romance under wraps. Discretion is key in a small town like Eternity Springs, a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business and no one is afraid to butt-in where they may or may not belong. Josh has enough problems of his own and he doesn’t need the drama that could come with publicly dating the Timberlake girl, so he is clear on the fact that she must keep things hidden. But when he sees her father pressing her into dating an out-of-towner with all the right boyfriend characteristics (on paper at least) Josh feels something primal and instinctual come bubbling to the surface. Caitlin belongs to him, even if he doesn’t want to admit it to himself.
Caitlin knows what Josh won’t admit – that they are good together. She’s content to keep things on the down low for now, but she knows it won’t be long before her heart is in too deep. After a freak accident lands Josh in the hospital and down with broken ribs on top of other injuries that leave him practically bedridden, Caitlin moves herself into his spare bedroom amidst his grumbles and growls. She knows if she can just show him what it could be like, he’d cave and give her everything she’s asking for. But pushing the issue gives Caitlin much more than she ever bargained for, and when Josh’s demons push themselves into the forefront of his life and threaten to demolish everything he’s worked so hard for, both parties will have to make some hard choices and put it all on the line.
The First Kiss of Spring is the 14th installment in the popular Eternity Springs series by romance writer Emily March. While all are considered stand-alone books, each novel is set in the same charming Colorado town and feature sprinklings of familiar faces and celebrated families.
This was the first Eternity Springs novel I’d picked up, and I received an ARC copy for an honest review. It wasn’t quite what I expected. I’ve read a lot of romance novels. I went through a particular romance phase about ten years ago when I was new to a small Oklahoma town and had no friends . . . I frequented the library and ran through books like they were going out of style. Lori Foster, Patti Berg – I think I read every book they wrote in a two month period. Quick plots, steamy sexual encounters, love-at-first-sight nuances being the dominant factor in all – that was what a romance novel was to me.
The First Kiss of Spring had a lot of the qualities I remember from those romance novels. But it also came with an underlying theme of something else – truth. The realistic storyline of Josh’s fall from grace into the dingy world of substance abuse and his perpetual clawing crawl out of it hit close to home for me. My husband is a survivor of substance abuse and I saw with my own two eyes what it can do to a person. Being clean and sober essentially means living with yourself in an authentic state and facing demons. It’s something that can be overwhelmingly harsh and oftentimes difficult for others to understand. Josh’s point of view was infinitely the more intriguing and interesting of the two perspectives, and I really wished March had took the opportunity to dig a bit deeper. Things wrapped up too quickly and too prettily.
If you’re looking for a steamy romance, this isn’t the one for you. There are a couple of sexual scenes but they don’t really have much detail or what you’d expect from a typical romance novel. This was more story-based instead of romance to me. It was an evolution of two characters who made their way to one another, but not necessarily about their progression as a couple. There were some aspects that had me rolling my eyes, but I think it may have been the author’s attempt to keep her series feeling steady and cohesive. I could have done without the parents’ storyline, but maybe if you’d read the other Eternity Springs books you would be more interested.
At the end of the day I give The First Kiss of Spring 3.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to those who enjoy lighter fare romance novels, but I do want to give a disclaimer that it may contain some triggering subject matter for those two have dealt with substance abuse and child abuse.