She's been secretly pining for 30y.o. coffee mogul Hero since they met and started working together 7 years ago.
He only sees her as his company's valuable confection creator
So she's settled for her daily platonic doses of him until the day his fiance jilts him at the altar. His immediate request that she take his ex-fiance's place on their honeymoon destination dashed her hopes.
And allowed her to agree to accompany him in Thailand as his pretend lover so he can acquire an important coffee-supply deal there.
She resolves to quit her job at his company & begin living life apart from him as soon as he seals the deal. Meanwhile, Hero is very disturbed at how conscious he is now of heroine's attractiveness
and his increasing lack of control with her. Their tension escalates until all they can do is agree to spend 1 night together.
Going back to their work-and-friendship-only relationship doesn't seem to work. Because they either avoid each other
or can't keep their hands off each other.
What makes it worse is there are times when she thinks he's falling for her too
but he snuffs it out by keeping to his rigid limits. When she's finally had it, she takes a stance.
What does she do? Will he fight to keep her?
I don't mind reading about doormat heroines as long as they make a good effort to change their ways. Grow a spine. This Yates book has one. I liked that it centered around heroine's attempts to push out of her passivity and codependency with Hero. There was an honesty about this book that I liked. Heroine acknowledged her passivity & doormatiness with Hero from the start of the book and tried to do something about it. She never does a complete 180 in the book & but does manage to take some big steps. Heroine never becomes a kick-butt kind of independent and assertive career woman who has no need for a man. But she was taking steps towards it. She knew she wanted Hero but saw the futility of it now. She aimed to live a more active life away from Hero. Her career wasn't something she ever obsessed about. Baking confections was something she enjoyed and was glad she could make money from and she resorted to when upset. Hero, on the other hand, was her secret obsession. She didn't want to cut him off her life completely since she valued his friendship and business savvy. She was basically gradually weaning herself from her unhealthy obsession with him. And that was good enough attempt at changing for me.
Heroine's POV(point of view) was actually quite funny and sometimes poignant. She knew that she was being pathetic for only settling for crumbs from Hero and she wanted to be different. In some way, her pining for Hero on the sidelines was a good excuse to not venture out in life outside of baking desserts. She was denigrated and discouraged by her mother since childhood for her being overweight and not having a go-getter attitude like her sister. She bought into it and sheltered herself from further hurt by merely fantasizing about Hero and experimenting with failures & success only in baking. She was also only 18 when she began working at Hero's company and set out on her own, after living with her parents. Her youth and inexperience in life gave her another reason to hide behind her fantasies of Hero and work. Heroine was like an emotional Sleeping Beauty, sleeping through life and being rudely awakened by Hero's kissoff. His callously treating her like an easy replacement for his jilting fiance for the sake of winning a business contract during what was supposed to be his honeymoon woke her up from her emotional stupor. She realized no longer wanted to merely be Hero's industrious sidekick, who was always at his beck and call and who quietly waited for him to notice her romantically. She no longer wanted to settle for his crumbs. In fact, being second wasn't even good enough. She wanted to be the first and only in his heart. She was willing to wait and work with him on it but only if he truly wanted to be with her. I liked how honest and even confrontational she got with him as the book progressed. It caused her to risk being rejected by Hero but she became brave enough to hold him accountable for how he was treating her. She also backed her words up with action and acted on her own limits.
------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------
Since Hero asked her to be his pretend lover in Thailand, heroine told him that she's quitting her job at his company to open her own bakery. Hero thought she was bluffing because she was mad at him at the moment. Every time she'd bring up her plans for her bakery and to leave his company it bothered him a lot. But he still arrogantly believed he could change her mind. When she finally had it with him after he treated her like a whore yet expected to still be friends, she quit.
Although heroine wavered quite a bit and gave Hero chance after chance, she did ultimately follow through with her limits with him. And it's what spurred him to realize what he'd done and how much she truly meant to him.
Heroine's change in assertiveness caused Hero to do some changing himself. I liked this because Hero had always taken the lead & heroine just followed. Her changing her part of their relationship made him stop and really look at her instead of merely taking her for granted like usual. Their relationship the last 7 years was all about Hero's desires and needs, which was primarily about increasing his success and wealth. She made It made it easy for Hero to be arrogant & self-centered in their relationship. She enabled him and he was clueless about her own desires and needs. She never asserted anything non-business or non-baking related with him before. She seemed fine to be the one always giving and relenting in their relationship. It wasn't so much because he was a selfish and cruel man but because he was emotionally numb.
-----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------------
Hero became a very focused and controlled person since age 16. He wasn't always so. In fact, he was a fun-loving, carefree, and careless teenager who was spoiled by his parents and others around him due to his high-school football prowess. But things dramatically changed after he got a girl pregnant and she had their baby son prematurely. His son lived for 2 days in the hospital, with Hero willing him to live. It didn't happen and his son died. Hero didn't really start caring for the baby until he was born. And then he loved him like he never felt before. Those 2 days when his son was alive changed him. And his death changed Hero even more. After his son died, Hero turned to alcohol and, when that no longer helped, he got a job at a coffee shop and the rest was history.
The pain caused by his son's death made him view love negatively. It was to be avoided at all cost. Although Hero became a responsible and successful man, it was at the cost of emotion. He determined to live a very controlled existence, void of the mess emotions bring. He controlled all aspects of his business, his dating life, and even friendship. He stuck people in categories and willed his relationships to stay where he placed them. Even his engagement to his ex-fiance was very deliberately thought out and had nothing to do with love. He wasn't even uncomfortable staying abstinent during his year-long relationship with his fiance because of her preference for it. He was more concerned about losing his coffee-supply deal than being jilted by his bride in front of hundreds of people.
He lived life that way and he preferred it. In his view, heroine was a friend who he joked and hung out with sometimes. He also encouraged and supported her baking talents financially and verbally. Since heroine seemed fine with their relationship the last 7 years, he had no cause to change anything. He was emotionally clueless and was often baffled by what heroine was emotionally affected with, including his making her wear his ex-fiance's ring after they became lovers. He had his life planned out very well, with his relationship categories and need to control all his relationships. It's worked out well so far until heroine changed things.
Heroine's character change shook him like nothing has in the past 14 years. Her limit-setting with him and confronting him about his feelings took away his precious control. It scared him to be so affected by her. So we see him scramble repeatedly after a highly-charged emotional moment with heroine to put her back in his friend and work categories and take back control. He was a jerk for stringing her along emotionally and then dropping her. But I understood why. He thought he could manipulate her to stay with him, no matter how badly he treated her. But realizing that heroine meant what she said about her limits with him made him realize how much he did want her in his life. He realized that he needed her and was always in danger of falling in love with her since meeting her 7 years ago. Thus, his efforts to make sure things were only platonic between them. Finally seeing her as a beautiful woman and realizing that the attraction was mutual quickly took away his control when it came to her. It was wonderful to see how much she affected him and how much he had to fight to not be overwhelmed by his feelings for her. When he finally made the choice to be with her fully, his emotional dam broke and it was neat to have him verbalize how he truly felt for her and how she affected him. I just wished heroine didn't stop his verbal adoration of her. I wanted to hear more. I also wished she didn't have to mention the part about not wanting to change anything that happened between them the last 7 years. That didn't ring true for me. She'd been pining for and obsessing about him all that time. I do agree that she likely wouldn't have been ready to tackle a heavy romance with Hero and his issues then. But she was now.
I highly recommend this book.