Kayla David is a high-flying journalist in New York City, spending all her time drinking martinis and writing about fashion trends. She is perfectly happy with her life, and she certainly has no time for falling in love.
That is, until, her boss decides to send her on a secret mission back to her hometown of Arkansas: she is tasked with exposing the truth about the fracking industry and to use her reputation as a lifestyle columnist as a disguise. She is horrified at the thought of returning to this boring country town, but up for the challenge.
Yet, she didn’t plan on having to deal with Grayson Moir, the sexy but aloof mayor of Heber Spring. As Kayla settles into life there she soon realises that it might be a bit more difficult than she thought to keep her real mission a secret. And what’s more, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep her heart under control too…
I realise that there’s something a little – or even a lot – ironic about managing to get yourself lost in the twenty-first century, but then I’m the type of woman whose bad karma is legendary. When it comes to unlikely or even downright impossible adventures, hey, I’m the queen.
I’m always the exception to the rule, the odd number that ruins a perfect statistical sequence. If I were an economist, I’m pretty sure that notorious black swan would choose my chimney to build its nest on. There aren’t many chimneys in New York, luckily, though I’m not sure about here in Arkansas…
After touching down in Little Rock, I’m now driving my rented economy car towards Heber Springs, and hoping and praying that I’m on highway number 65. Because there’s always the possibility that this is not, in fact, state highway 65, and in that very unfortunate case, I’m in serious trouble. Before some genius suggests it: yes, I did try and read the signs along the road. They didn’t help. In fact, I think they might have confused me even more.
Anyone else in my position would just turn their mobile on and use the navigator to work out where the hell they are, but I can’t, because the battery of my mobile phone is flat at the moment. The damn thing turned itself off as soon as I left state highway 40, near Conway, to take the 65.
I really don’t know why people think mobile phones are such a useful bit of tech if the batteries don’t last even half a day. As my mother would put it: this kind of thing just didn’t use to happen ten years ago. And for once I’d say that she’s absolutely right.
My sense of direction is appalling, so although I’m fairly certain that I’m on the correct road, I wouldn’t bet my new bag on me being right. I wouldn’t even bet an old bag, to be honest. I have a special relationship with my bags. Together with my shoes, they represent one of the truest loves of my life. But if I was a bit closer to my family and if I’d come to visit my late grandmother’s sister, Aunt Jill a bit more often in the past, I would be able to work out where exactly the hell I am right now.
But the fact is that I’m allergic to human relationships, whether in the context of romance or family. My mother and I are both proud that we have a relatively balanced rapport: there are no unresolved problems or traumas between us, we both simply live our own lives. We don’t call each other very often, which might sound strange to some people, but we are just too busy, and I certainly don’t have time to tell her every single thing that happens during my day. She, on the other hand, not only does she not find my behaviour offensive, she actively encourages me not to spend hours on the phone, as she has neither the time nor the desire, to listen to me talking for long.
Feeling pretty demoralised by my inability to work out where I’m going, I decide to stop somewhere along the road and see if there’s a map anywhere in the car. I’m just hoping that hire car companies still equip their cars with them.
If my newspaper paid a little more for assignments, I could have chosen a car with more accessories. I could have rented a car with a built-in navigator, for example, but instead, I had to choose the most basic model available. It’s no surprise that the monthly rent for this car is less than what a normal one would cost for a week.
I brake hard and turn off towards a stopping place, and a huge cloud of dust submerges the whole vehicle. “What the hell…” I shout in disbelief as I climb, coughing, out of the car. Aren’t pull-ins tarmacked in Arkansas? Evidently not.
I wait for the dust to clear a little so I can see the view and then I head towards the trunk. I open it and only barely manage to avoid bursting into tears of joy: it’s full of maps! I love people who ignore technology and stubbornly continue to use things like paper road maps.
I take out the one I need and start looking at it and turning it in every possible direction in the hope of finding my location. I peer around, but can’t see any landmarks anywhere… Of course, if the dust would stop obstructing my view for a moment I might have a better chance at finding one.
While I’m trying to study the horizon, I hear someone braking very close to me. Startled, I turn to see a dark pickup truck pulling up behind my car. Before it appeared the dust had almost settled, but now the air’s full of it again, damn it!
“Oh, what the hell!” I can’t help shouting. And my next instinct is to go grab the pepper spray I keep in my bag: you never know how many psychopaths there are roaming the streets these days – especially the dustier ones. And on top of that, I’m a New Yorker, and we’re suspicious of everything. The world is full of serial killers, and given my luck, I might have bumped into one just as soon as I entered this state with its dusty pull-ins.
The door of the pickup opens and out climbs a guy dressed in clothes that have seen better days: his jeans look so old that the pair I’ve got at the back of the closet, and that I considered totally out of fashion, looks almost brand new in comparison. He’s also wearing a very dusty black t-shirt, worn boots, sunglasses, and has a cowboy hat on his head.
Is this guy actually wearing a cowboy hat in 2015? Someone should tell him this isn’t Texas. I wouldn’t wear one of those things if they put a gun to my head. My expression is half worried by the possibility that he might be dangerous and half amused at the sight of him – he’s a very different specimen from the city people I’m used to seeing. His tight t-shirt reveals very toned muscles, which makes me think that if he is a serial killer, at least he’s a buff one. Not that it makes the situation any better… Ok, I’ll admit it: it does make it a tiny bit better.
He notices my rigid posture and takes off his hat and glasses as though to reassure me. The sight of his face makes me at least relax my grip on my bag and its contents a little. Maybe I won’t need to use my pepper spray after all.
His dark blond hair is cut very well. It’s short and practical in a way that suits his face perfectly. But there is nothing at all practical about those eyes, though: they are light blue and somehow remind me of my friend Amalia’s. I’m guessing a man with eyes as beautiful as those can’t be a psychopath, right?
“Do you need help?” he asks. The man has a deep voice, and I can’t detect any accent. That is a very suspicious trait around these parts. I stand there perplexed for a moment. Should I ask for directions or shouldn’t I? I can’t decide.
He waits for me to say something, but after my prolonged silence adds, “I saw your car parked here and was wondering if you’re having some kind of trouble.” If possible, I’m even more suspicious after those words. I’m not used to strangers stopping on a road to ask me if I need help. That type of thing just doesn’t happen in my city.
“Are you a serial killer?” I ask him seriously.
Instead of taking offence or punching me in the face, he bursts out laughing, showing his perfectly straight teeth. “Do you really think that if I were a serial killer I’d come out and tell you I was?” he asks, visibly amused.
“The world is full of crazy people, and some of them like to terrorise their victims,” I reply.
He shakes his head incredulously. “Do you know what the real problem in this country is?” he says, taking a step towards me.
I instinctively step backwards. “Is it that China owns such a large share of our public debt?” I say, hazarding a guess. It happens to me all the time when I’m stressed: I come out with weird, but strangely intelligent, things. Luckily it doesn’t happen often… He looks at me surprise. Okay, it wasn’t exactly the kind the answer you were expecting to hear, I get that.
“You’re not from around here,” he says with conviction.
If you’re a fan of romantic comedy this story will appeal, the heroine is a lifestyle journalist, who is sent on an investigative journalist role back to her hometown. She faces exposure when she meets the mayor and there is an instant connection. She’s a commitment-phobe, he’s looking for happy ever after, leading to inevitable conflict, some humour and plenty of mixed messages.
If you’re looking for a lighthearted read, and are prepared to accept slightly stereotypical characters this is worth reading.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Anna was born in Croatia but moved to Milan as a young child and has lived there since. She has worked in the Asset Management industry for JPMorgan and is now employed in Private Banking for an Italian bank, where she manages HNW positions. She started writing romantic comedies to fight financial markets stress after the Lehman crack, when she was expecting her son, now six. The writing was supposed to be only a hobby, but her husband self-published her first novel as a birthday present four years ago, and it was a great success in Italy.