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BF552AC4-C1C9-4194-81EA-C19B67DA21FC.jpegMariana Zapata gets me every time with the slow burn romance. This one was a little different. It started with a bit of a red herring with a neighborhood fight outside of a child’s bedroom window. I had a hard time getting into it because of the unexpected violence and the unlikeable character who was involved. I thought at first that the male character who was being pulverized was the hero.  He was not. He was the hero’s brother. The brother is a monumental jerk. When we meet the hero, he is married. I had issues with that as well. He is separated, and he honorably does not let anything happen between himself and the heroine until he’s divorced. With Zapata’s typical slow burn, of course, that process took most of the book. I was thoroughly enchanted with the children in the book.  They were just that cute.

Diana Casillas is a single mother (yes, she’s Sal Casillas’s cousin – our heroine from Kulti). Diana is raising her two nephews, Josh and Louie, after their father’s death.  Louie’s mother is also deceased; Josh’s is not, but she’s not a suitable parent.  One thing I disliked about the book was how long it took to explain what had happened to Diana’s brother, Rodriguo and what happened to Louie’s mother, Mandy. Josh’s mother appears in the story fairly early on. Diana and her two boys have recently moved into the house across the street from the hero, Dallas and his brother, Jackson.  Jackson is the one who gets beat up at the beginning of the book. He is not a nice person.

Dallas is Josh’s baseball coach, and he is great with the kids. Most of the baseball players’ mothers have a crush on Dallas. He is leery of Diana at first, not wanting to get involved and not wanting to play favorites for fear of upsetting other parents. Of course, over time, he and Diana share many experiences, and they grow close. Diana, too, is hesitant to get involved with Dallas. She is constantly reminding herself that he’s married, but despite that, she does become attached.  Dallas is such a good man, and he is always there for her. He’s thoughtful, protective, kind and good to the kids.

Although this one took me a little time to get into the story, once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Dallas is a really good guy. He was definitely not a jerk, unlike Zapata’s previous heroes who had poor manners and poor social skills. Dallas is almost perfect except for the fact that he is married.

This story also had cameos with characters from past books. Sal and Kulti (from Kulti) come to Josh’s birthday party. Aiden and Vanessa (from the Wall of Winnipeg) are also featured. Vanessa is Diana’s best friend. It took me a bit to figure out who she was until they mentioned her husband being a famous football player, and then it dawned on me who the two of them were. It had been a while since I read the Wall of Winnipeg. I went back to that book and looked for Diana, and she was there. It’s fun that past characters are usually revisited in Zapata books. I’m hoping that Diana and Dallas pop up in a future Zapata story.

I highly recommend this one. Stick with it if you find it slow to start. It gets better. The character development is awesome.