From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new, sexy standalone novel.
Growing up, the three of us were friends.
He was the nerd.
I was the playboy.
She was the beauty.
Deep down, I only ever wanted her. I kept it inside because Rory and I made a pact that our friend, Amber, was off-limits.
I went off to college, and he got the girl.
Amber never knew how I felt.
They were together for years-before he broke her heart.
Through it all and across the miles, she and I casually stayed in touch.
When my job sent me to Boston for a three-month contract position, Amber let me stay in her spare room.
Still reeling from her breakup, she’d sworn off men.
One night, I opened her computer to find the shock of my life. She’d hesitantly contacted a male escort company. Afraid to date and get her heart broken again, she was looking for sex with no strings.
Every emotion imaginable ran through me: protectiveness, jealousy-curiosity.
Amber had chosen Gentleman Number Nine and sent him a message.
She opened up to him, confessing, among other things, her physical attraction to her friend- me. But she considered me off-limits-and she thought I was a manwhore. (Ironic, considering the circumstances.)
Eventually, she set up a date to meet Gentleman Nine at a hotel.
When she showed up several nights later to meet him, she got the surprise of her life to see me standing there-with an offer I hoped she wouldn’t refuse.
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Penelope Ward definitely knows her way around unique story lines, which is why romance readers adore her books, characters, and plots. And, even though I’m not a fan of love triangles, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for an ARC of Gentleman Nine because Ward never follows the stereotypical path of any romance trope; she drives up the angst and takes her characters on an uphill journey – one that doesn’t usually resolve itself until hearts have been broken, difficult choices have been made, and loss seems to be one of the only feelings left between the characters.
Amber Walton and Channing Lord may be long-time friends, but they lost touch over the past several years, partly because Channing distanced himself from Amber when she became Rory’s girlfriend and partly because Channing’s feelings for Amber made it extremely difficult to stay close with the new couple. But now that Amber and Channing have reconnected and things have been set in motion that, in some respects, both of them has always wanted, readers have to trudge through Amber and Channing’s indecision, confusion, and jealousy, which definitely hinders either of them from going all in with their head, heart, and soul because it remains largely unclear if either of them will truly be free of their past relationships, especially when they keep popping up in their lives.
I do have to admit that I had a few issues with Amber and Channing’s story. Everything seemed to move at warp speed without any real explanation for the characters’ choices. It was difficult to truly understand why Rory made the choice that he did, and even when he explains his reasoning, in his own voice, it just seemed rather contrived for a man who has been in love/in a relationship with the same woman for nine years. While it’s clear that there’s a mutual attraction between Amber and Channing, I guess I just needed more insight into why Channing’s always had feelings for Amber and what Amber saw/sees in Channing now that she actually has the opportunity to explore the spark between them.
Overall, I did enjoy the uniqueness of how Penelope Ward brought Amber and Channing’s feelings out into the open, and the steps Channing was willing to take in order to prove to Amber just how much he has always wanted her. Some of the supporting characters and the hero and heroine’s interaction with them definitely shed light on how caring and supportive both Amber and Channing are when it comes to helping other people. I just found it difficult to connect to Amber and Channing as a couple because there was so much outside interference not really dealt with or approached in the best possible way, leaving me questioning just how much love is between them and why they made the choices that they did.
3.5/4 Poison Apples
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She’s a seventeen-time New York Times bestseller. Her novels are published in over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world. Having grown up in Boston with five older brothers, she spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family-friendly career. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 13-year-old girl with autism and a 12-year-old boy. Penelope and her family reside in Rhode Island.
Connect with Penelope Ward
Other Standalones from Penelope Ward
Stuck-Up Suit: (co-written with Vi Keeland)