Charlotte Agoston's life on the outside was perfect for her first 22 years. VERY rich family, she had it all. Yet she didn't exactly had a mind of her own with her demanding parents. She did what she was expected. Her life changed when her father is found guilty of stealing BILLIONS of dollars and as the money itself was never found, he is sentenced to eons in jail and she runs for her life not to become an accomplish to his foul deeds.
Landing in New Orleans seems a good idea. She gets a cheap apartment from Harriet (a family member from her college days) and two jobs she can get paid in cash - the first is Voodoo Ink where Constantine "Con" Leahy, her boss, fast becomes her best friend and confidante (though not about what made her run from her life..) they also have a sort of casual relationship which suits both of them at the moment. The second job is at the "Dirty Dog" a vintage clothing store where she also finds a close friendship with the owner Yve Santos. These three, besides her huge Great Dane-English Mastiff mix rescue dog Huck, are her only friends in the world. They might not know her real name or anything about where she came from and why, but they are content just being her friends no question asked.
Life is simple as Charlie Stone. So much more than it used to be back "home" in New York, yet she LOVES it here. She needs to look over her shoulder, never get caught, never use her ID or credit card, but with the money she brought with her, and the money she was making working HARD she manages to create a life for herself in the colorful city. What she DOESN'T need is the interest of a very public figure in town - Simon Duchesne - former Navy fighter pilot, son of a congressman and by all the rumors he'll be soon announcing his OWN campaign for congress. The WORST way of staying hidden from the FBI is entwining herself with THIS GUY.
Yet Simon isn't just persistent once he sees her on an almost random visit to Voodoo Ink, he is also a stand up guy who keeps helping her out and being there for her no question asked. Humiliatingly enough throwing herself at him for a single night doesn't make him comply, just work better to make her realize they can have so much MORE. She is terrified but somehow she keeps making those baby steps into his arms and once she is wrapped around him she knows she won't ever let him go, not if she can help it. To answer his request not to break his heart she answer truthfully - Not without shattering mine. She can give him so little of her truth, but what she gives him is enough for him to know he wants her no matter what her past is.
I liked Simon though at times he was too pushy. Yet being his pushy self made him the exact person she needs. Someone who takes care of her and appreciates her exactly like she needs and wouldn't have asked herself. He is considerate, caring and loving. At 31 (to her 23) he knows what he wants and when he sees it - her - in front of him, he is willing to go on the long run to get her. To make her realize being together is simply RIGHT.
There was something simply wonderful about Charlie. Even though the last word I can describe her with can be "Free", in a way she was. She was being herself. She was living the life she truly wanted even if she had (materially) so much more in her past life she didn't need any of that. She tattoos her body with her new self, lives in a beautiful yet small apartment right in the quarter where all the activities she enjoys seeing is right in front of her. She is confident, she says what she wants and when she wants to take her cloths of and enjoy the man in front of her she feels no shame. I LOVED that. She was so authentic. Even if she gave nothing of her past she gave 100% of herself. She was out-there even if she wasn't. I could totally understand what Simon saw in her. Yeah a mysterious woman is always a turn on, yet he could SEE who she is - a confident young woman living the life she wants surrounded by her people, her good friends who are there for her every step of the way.
I really enjoyed this book. It was quite a colorful angsty ride. I'm not a crowd person myself but I enjoyed "by proxy" the unique surrounding of New Orleans, the colorful characters and the beautiful collection of people Charlie can now call her new family. The story is told from both Charlie and Simon with short chapters going from one POV to the other making this book fast paced. For most of the story it's about them finding their HEA as well as seeing the home Charlie build herself for the last year in this city. Yet getting close to the end is where Charlie realizes she needs to get back to being Charlotte even for a short while to FINALLY be able to be herself. There is one last thing she can give the FBI so she can be rid of her past.. To put it mildly things DOES NOT go her way. It was horrific to read. But in the end with the help of the person whom she shouldn't have fallen in love with, yet she did (!) she can finally be free.
Can't wait to get to read about Con (the next installment) as well as Yve (4th installment). I'll be visiting their stories in a very short while. Happy I found another series and author to delve into.
BTW I got this book for free a while ago and as I was adding the purchase links I saw it's also available for free now! Go check it out :)
Important Note: Though I've LOVED this book and gulped it down with pleasure the next book in the series made me drop the whole thing. It promoted an abusive behavior from the "hero" toward the heroine which is simply unacceptable for me. Won't be reading more of this series or author ever again. This book WAS a 5 stars rating but I can't recommend it OR the author considering the next installment.
7 September 2018