Title: Between the Lines (New Milton #2)
Author: Sally Malcolm
Publisher: Carina Press / Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
Release Date: December 10, 2018
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 73,000 words
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Theo Wishart has given up on finding love.
Luca Moretti doesn’t want to find it.
A handful of summer days may change their lives forever—if they’re brave enough to look between the lines.
Eyes might be windows to the soul, but for Theo Wishart they’re all shuttered. His dyspraxia makes it hard to read people. He doesn’t do relationships and he certainly doesn’t do the great outdoors. Two weeks spent “embracing beach life” while he tries to close the deal on a once great, now fading seaside hotel is a special kind of hell.
Until Luca. Gorgeous, unreachable Luca.
Luca Moretti travels light, avoiding all romantic entanglements. Estranged from his parents, he vows this will be his last trip home to New Milton. His family’s hotel is on the verge of ruin and there’s nothing Luca can do to save it. He’s given up on the Majestic, he’s given up on his family and he’s given up on his future.
Until Theo. Prickly, captivating Theo.
No mushy feelings, no expectations, and no drama—that’s the deal. A simple summer fling. And it suits them both just fine. But as the summer wanes and their feelings deepen, it’s clear to everyone around them that Theo and Luca are falling in love. What will it take for them to admit it to themselves—and to each other?
Theo is sent by his father to purchase the Majestic Hotel in New Milton, which will be torn down to make way for a sleek modern hotel / resort / golf course. Although owner Jude and her husband desperately need to sell, they hope that Theo will get a sense of why the Majestic is so special and invite him to stay there while negotiating the sale.
Jude’s son Luca (who we met very briefly in “A Perfect Day”) is at the Majestic this one last summer as a lifeguard and teaching surfing and boarding. Luca has no permanent home, other than a converted van, and spends his winters working at ski resorts.
Theo has dyspraxia which includes poor balance and muscular coordination and issues with judgement, processing and other cognitive skills.
People were difficult, that was the problem. They were confusing and he didn’t have the knack for connecting with them. He couldn’t make himself understood and he couldn’t understand them in return. Sometimes he imagined a glass wall stood between himself and other people – he could see them well enough, he just couldn’t break through.
Or as Theo later tells Luca: “You ever hear the expression ‘the eyes are the window to the soul?’ Well, to me, all the blinds are down. I can’t read people. It’s a dyspraxic thing.” The two men eventually decide to indulge their sexual attraction with a short summer fling, and Luca agrees to always tell Theo the truth, but Feelings change everything. Malcolm does a wonderful job of showing us that growing love combined with the realization they will each go their separate ways soon, and yet each man wonders if this could become something more. I like the pace of this story, as the romance grows and develops and we learn more about Theo and Luca, and the Majestic hotel works its magic and makes Theo think that perhaps one day it could play an important role in their future.
My only niggle with “Between the Lines” is Luca’s massive angst-filled miscommunication with Theo and basically becoming an asshat in the later part of the book until he comes to his senses. It feels out of character and just too much given their gentle dynamic. Also Luca’s stepfather has made some homophobic comments in the past and while it’s hard to imagine Luca’s mother in effect choosing him over her son, I like how Malcolm offers the start of an unthawing and understanding between Luca and his stepfather. It’s not perfect, but it’s a work in progress.
It took me a while to really get into this story (unlike “A Perfect Day” which captured my heart right away), but as we get to know Theo’s beautiful spirit and his hope and dreams for a loving relationship, family and home and how Luca finds himself on the cusp of getting something he never fully realized he wanted, I was completed hooked. AND the ending and epilogue a year later is absolutely perfect! Bonus: we also get a loving update on Finn and Josh and their swoon worthy wedding. 4.5 stars for “Between the Lines.”