Looking for charming contemporary romance for some Summer reading? Light Up the Night by Laura Trentham should be at the top of the list!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
Last year, Laura Trentham’s Cottonbloom series was one of the highlights on my summer. Between May and August 2016, Laura released three novels that brought us the sweetest, small-town romance.
If you’ll recall, the series takes place in two sister-cities, both named Cottonbloom. Many years ago, after an argument over fishing rights, Cottonbloom split into two towns separated by the river: Cottonbloom, Louisiana and Cottonbloom, Mississippi. After the events of the third book in the series, Till I Kissed You, we had a feeling that relations between the two towns were thawing out. (For my full, flaily review of the initial trilogy, go HERE.)
Earlier this week, I was so happy to learn that Laura Trentham is taking readers back to Cottonbloom in two already released novellas, and a forthcoming novel (Leave the Night On, August 1, 2017).
Candy Cane Christmas (October 25, 2016), the first novella, follows two side-characters we’ve already met, Kayla Redmond and Jeremy Whitehurst. In Kiss Me That Way, Kayla is one of the young girls Monroe Kirby mentors. When she gets into some dangerous trouble with an abusive boyfriend, Jeremy steps in to help. Candy Cane Christmas picks up a couple years later with Kayla trying to get her life together and finding a kindred spirit in former bad-boy Jeremy.
Light Up the Night (March 7, 2017) picks up with Thaddeus Preston, Police Chief of Cottonbloom, Mississippi. We meet Thad just as he’s been called to check out a break-in at a relatively well-to-do neighborhood. When he arrives, he’s immediately taken with the homeowner, Sadie Wren, a professor of psychology at Cottonbloom College.
Though their initial interaction is brief, they quickly strike up a friendship. When she’s with him, Thad’s competence and grit provide Sadie with a sense of security. This is particularly important because Sadie is still experiencing elements of PTSD after a brutal attack while she was in grad school. At the same time, Thad can open up and talk to Sadie in a way he can’t with anyone else. He’s dealing with a lot of guilt regarding a crime he committed when he was a kid, for which his older brother Clayton takes the rap and serves nine years in prison. In fact, up until that very moment, Thad lives a life of penance and celibacy, wanting to make up for his mistakes and be in solidarity with his brother. Even when Clayton is released from prison, Thad isn’t sure how to make amends or build a new relationship with his brother. Yet, with Sadie he’s able to work on his concerns and get some encouragement.
And once Thad lets go of some of his guilt and Sadie overcomes some of her fears, they find much needed comfort:
“Your brother is why you went into law enforcement, isn’t it? Something good did come out of a terrible situation.”
The absolution in her voice washed away a good portion of his guilt and left him on the brink of abject embarrassment. Before he could topple, she stroked a hand over his back. He tensed, but the soothing circles turned his spine to rubber, and he bowed over the steering wheel like a cat arching. It had been years since he’d allowed himself the pleasure of another’s touch…
…She reached over and put her hand over his where it lay on the console between them. He kept his attention on the road, his heart rate and breathing ramping up. The feeling wasn’t unpleasant though. It was more like the exhilaration of a roller coaster. Instead of pulling away from her touch, he flipped his hand so their palms touched. Her hand was so small her fingertips brushed his second knuckle. He curled his fingers slightly and, as if performing a dance, hers moved in synchronicity, knitting between his. He rubbed his thumb along the back of her hand, the skin unbearably tender compared to his.
He’d seen her at her worst and accepted her. He’d earned her trust, and with him, the fears of the night were kept at bay. And God, it had been a long time. She surrendered to the sensation of his lips sliding along hers. With a throaty moan, she opened her mouth and touched his tongue with hers. His chest rumbled with an answering call. He seemed as desperate and out of control as she felt.
Hoping she wouldn’t notice his shaking hand, he trailed a finger inside one of the cups, brushing over her peaked nipple. She gasped and arched into his touch.
“Take it off.”
His voice was hoarse and more begging than commanding, but she reached behind her, and they drew the bra off together. He ran his hands up her torso and cupped her breasts. They filled his hands perfectly. Dropping over her, he flicked one nipple with his tongue while he played with the other. She bucked against him, reminding him there were other places to play. He needed her to climax before he did. That was a lesson he remembered. Together they shimmied her out the final barrier, and he lay next to her, his hand keeping her on her back as he pressed his erection against her hip. He glided a finger through her core, and her hips bucked. Even before his self-imposed celibacy, he hadn’t exactly been a Casanova. Clayton had inherited all the charm. What if he didn’t remember how to get a woman off? Insecurities didn’t have time to take root. She pressed his hand closer, and his middle finger slid inside her. She shattered and pulsed around him, her hips writhing, her hands trying to pull him on top of her, but he was stronger, tangling his leg with hers. Their kiss was a frantic wild thing that unleashed everything he had spent years trying to tame…
…He held her thighs wide and pushed inside her. The feel, the sight, the sounds they made—her gasps and little throaty sounds of encouragement, his chest-deep groans—turned the moment primal. It had been a long time, but his body knew exactly what to do. Finally he was buried deep, his hips grinding. One long, slow stroke followed another. His gaze drifted from the hypnotizing sight of their joining up her body to lock on her eyes. They were open and wide and wanting. But what did she want? Something as simple as another orgasm or something more complicated? In that moment, he would have given her his soul.
I wouldn’t necessarily describe Light Up the Night as insta-love, but Thad and Sadie get together pretty quickly. Given the experiences that define these characters, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and bask in the romance. By the time we get to the epilogue, we feel very confident that Thad and Sadie have taken the time to deepen the emotional side of their relationship and can now enjoy their HEA. Plus, there’s an added bit of suspense with the person who keeps trying to break into Sadie’s house. This is resolved in a way I really don’t expect, but like all the more.
And truth be told, I’m looking forward to learning more about Clayton Preston and how he goes about rebuilding his life. In this novella, he’s described as a player, but I’d really like to see solid romance for Clayton, too.
Light Up the Night (and the whole Cottonbloom series) is perfect for folks who are looking for contemporary romance novels/novellas for their Summer TBR list. These stories are compelling, charming, and oh-so sexy. Whether you’re lounging at home or the beach, traveling, or doing a little staycation, let the Cottonbloom series keep you company!
Many thanks to the author for a review copy.