I was invited to take part in another romantic blog tour by St. Martin’s Press. I was offered a free ARC in exchange for an honest review, so that’s what you’ll find here! Need You Now is the first part in Emma Douglas‘ new book series Cloud Bay. The stories take place on a small island called Cloud Bay which houses a small community of people, including the families of a very famous former rock group. The main character of this first book, Faith, is actually the oldest daughter of the (now-deceased) former lead singer. Faith is a typical rock star’s daughter when in public, and she is also the face of her father’s company organising Cloud Bay’s yearly music festival Cloudfest. She involves her siblings in the major decisions, but she’s the one spearheading it all.
The book is actually set in the period right before and during Cloudfest. Faith is busy finishing up the final details of the festival when she meets Caleb White, the world number 1 tennis player. Caleb has just announced that he’s retiring from the sport as he is struggling physically with injuries that have healed but won’t allow him to reach his former level. He’s drifting at the moment, not knowing what he wants to do with his life, so he decides to come to the somewhat private island to hide from the press and take the time to figure the rest of his life out. So Faith and Caleb meet at a time that’s not convenient for either of them. Caleb needs to sort out his life and Faith is right in the middle of planning the festival. But that’s not all: Faith also has major commitment issues thanks to her philandering father’s rockstar lifestyle. She’s scared of committing and getting her heart broken. She isn’t even sure she knows what a normal relationship looks like.
I won’t say any more because I don’t want to ruin the story for you. I will say that I loved this book. I’m a fan of small-town romances and I love the music festival setting. Caleb falls for Faith quickly and quite hard but he takes his time. He’s still figuring out his own life and he knows he can scare Faith away if he goes too fast too soon. They decide on a relationship without strings when it’s clear they can’t stay away from each other and it all evolves quite realistically from there. I like that we discover more and more about the characters along the way, and I love the rockband-storyline. After one book, I felt like I understood most about their entire family and most of the island. I can’t wait for the other books in the series to revisit Cloud Bay again!
And bonus: the book is also really well-written. I love that the author doesn’t shy away from strong language because it really fit the story and the whole rockstar-environment perfectly. Let this excerpt testify to that and entice you into the story!
The car now opposite her—a screaming red Porsche—blasted its horn, snapping her attention back to the traffic. The driver accelerated, and she shook her head at his impatience. Lansing Island was only a couple of miles long. Nowhere took very long to get to, so a few seconds of waiting for a pedestrian to cross his path was hardly going to ruin his day.
She was tempted to give his taillights the finger, but that wasn’t going to magically transform him into a non-moron. Life was too short and she had too many things to do to worry about jerks whose actions weren’t affecting any of those things. She started to turn her head back toward the ferry and as she did, she caught the gaze of the passenger in the black SUV behind the idiot’s Porsche. He was apparently the exception to the rule of not winding your window down.
Blue. That was all she could think for a moment. His eyes were stupidly blue.
Her heart gave a little bump at the sensation that he was looking right at her despite the sunglasses and the fact that she was half in shadow under an awning and there were people walking between them.
She blinked, feeling an involuntary smile spring into life.
He started to smile, which made her realize that the rest of the face was pretty good too. He had a cap on, which meant she couldn’t tell what color his hair was—the stubbled beard outlining his square jaw was lightish brown—but his skin was tanned and the teeth flashing in that smile were very white. An odd sense of déjà vu tugged at her, like she’d seen him somewhere before, but then the car was moving on and she turned to watch it go.
Apparently Ivy had been right. There were cute tourists. Beyond cute. The Jeep had a CloudFest permit sticker on its back windshield, so presumably he was going to the festival.
She shook her head. He might be going to the festival, but she didn’t have time for cute or beyond cute, even if she’d felt inclined to break her keep-it-off-island rule.
“Faith? What are you doing here?” Lou’s voice came from behind her and Faith whirled around to hug her mom, forgetting all about blue eyes and hot smiles. For now.
* * *
In retrospect, a small island crowded with thousands of people for a music festival probably wasn’t the best place to hide out.
Caleb White tugged his baseball cap further down his head as he looked at the throngs of people already crowding the streets. Cloud Bay was apparently the island’s only proper town or village or whatever the term was for somewhere where the population was only a few thousand people for most of the year, but right now it looked more like downtown San Francisco or Los Angeles. Too many people.
Despite the crowd, he had to fight to resist the urge to lean out the window to try and catch a better glimpse of the girl in the battered straw cowboy hat.
The one whose smile had just sucker-punched him.
Damn. She gave good mouth. Her eyes had been hidden behind huge mirrored sunglasses, and the hat pulled low on her head made it hard to see much of her face through the crowd. But that mouth had been killer. Full lips curving into a delighted smile that was somehow sexy as hell. He’d thought she’d been looking at him but it was hard to tell with the glasses.
No way of knowing now that they were slowly making their way down the street, leaving her behind. Beside him, Liam was focused on the road ahead, his fingers drumming the steering wheel as he paused every so often to let a pedestrian cut across their path. Feeling vaguely disappointed, Caleb leaned back in his seat and hit the button to roll up the window. The tinted glass was a barrier between him and the rest of the world that he was happy to exploit for now.
He was under no illusions that he could make it through the whole festival incognito, but surely he could just hole up and relax at the place Liam had borrowed until CloudFest actually started.
Normally Caleb was fine with the fact that people knew who he was and having to deal with fans but apparently announcing your retirement from tennis just after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon created a media shitstorm. And he didn’t feel like dealing with paparazzi or well-meaning members of the public trying to convince him he was still at the top of his game.
He wasn’t. He had the scars from last year’s shoulder surgery and the opinions of his world-class doctor to prove it.
He’d still fought back to the number-two ranking after his surgery but it had been freaking hard work, and lately he could feel the downhill slide starting. Didn’t matter how hard he worked, his shoulder was never going to be as good as new. Worse, he could feel it starting to go again. It had been agony after his last few matches. And screw being the guy desperately trying to hold onto former glory.
He’d seen too many guys do that in his time on the tour. It never worked.
So he’d decided to bow out.
Liam rolled his eyes. “Well, at least we can bring you up to date on music this weekend.”
Caleb nodded, hoping his sudden lack of enthusiasm for the idea of being surrounded by so many people didn’t show. “Looking forward to a couple of quiet nights before then. Not sure I’ve caught up on what time zone I’m in since I got back from London.” Jet lag was a reasonable explanation for the fact he hadn’t been sleeping well. It just wasn’t the actual explanation.
“Don’t tell me you’re getting boring in your old age.”
“Boring is better than eventful right now.”
“You can’t hide forever. Besides, between that cap, your sunglasses, and that lame beard, no one’s going to easily recognize you.”
“My beard is not lame.” He’d been growing the beard for only two weeks—since his announcement in fact. Part of his fool-the-press attempts. So far it hadn’t actually fooled anyone. It just looked scruffy. And it itched. He was nearly ready to give up and shave.
Liam rolled his eyes. “Hipster is not your look. Stick to all-American.”
“You’re more hipster than me.” Liam had grown his dark hair out to nearly shoulder length. That had to be annoying as hell to deal with all day but apparently it worked for Liam. He never lacked female company. Girls apparently liked long hair. Of course, Liam was a pretty son of a bitch, so that helped.
“Maybe, but on me it looks good. Ginger whiskers aren’t cool.”
“My beard isn’t ginger.”
“It’s ginger in bits.” Liam rubbed a hand over his own smooth chin. “Gingers don’t get the girls.”
“Your beard isn’t.”
“I’m also not here to get the girls.” He thought again about the girl near the ferry and that smile. Well, maybe if she crossed his path again he might be interested. Perhaps an island fling would be just what the doctor ordered to distract him from life without tennis.
“Why the hell not? You’re retired. Time to live a little. Don’t tell me you’re getting cold feet. You can’t be missing getting up at dawn to train and eating rabbit food.”
“No.” He definitely didn’t want to go back to his old life. Though he still kept waking up before six a.m. Apparently the habits of a lifetime were hard to break.
“Good. So it’s time to get with the program. And the program while we’re here is good music, good booze, and pretty girls. You can figure out the meaning of life and Caleb 2.0 later.”
Liam had a point. And, more important, Caleb didn’t have a better plan right now. So maybe it was just time to let the fuck go and see what the hell happened.