Always and Forever, by Farrah Rochon

>> Wednesday, March 05, 2014

TITLE: Always and Forever
AUTHOR: Farrah Rochon

PAGES: 224

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Category romance
SERIES: Follows A Forever Kind of Love.

After a run of lousy luck, Phylicia Philips is finally close to reclaiming her cherished girlhood home in Louisiana. But before she can buy it back, Jamal Johnson beats her to the punch. The renowned architect plans to completely renovate the old place – and he wants Phylicia to help him!

She doesn’t trust Jamal, but she’s helpless to fight the passion building between them. Hiring the home restoration specialist to help convert the stately Victorian into a B&B was a stroke of genius. Until Jamal finds out the house was in Phylicia’s family for generations.

Blindsided by his desire for this alluring beauty, Jamal vows to transform their working relationship into an intimate one. But will threatening troubles from the past keep them from building a blueprint for love?

Phylicia Philips is devastated when she hears architect Jamal Johson is the new owner of her childhood home. A few years back she'd trusted the wrong man, who wiped her out financially when he left. She had to choose between paying for the specialised care for her mother, who suffers from dementia, and paying the mortgage, so she chose to sell off the wonderful Victorian. She was getting close to being able to buy it back when Jamal swooped in. It only adds insult to injury that she's seen some of Jamal's work (he's very big on sustainable) and suspects he'll take the same radical approach to renovating the house.

And as if the situation needed to get any more tangled, Jamal and Phyl originally met at the wedding of mutual friends and really hit it off, until Phyl found out who he was and then began to ignore him completely.

As the book starts, Jamal approaches Phyl once again, only from a professional point of view. He's realised he's bit off a bit more than he could chew with the house, and that without professional help, he won't be able to get it ready in time (there's this festival thing it needs to be ready for). Phyl, a very well-regarded restoration specialist, is the perfect person to help. She initially rejects the offer out of hand, but then relents, and as the two spend some time together, Phyl begins to soften towards Jamal.

I appreciate that from this description it sounds like Phyl is unfairly blaming Jamal for something that isn't his fault. Don't worry, she's not that unreasonable and stupid (in fact, she's not unreasonable and stupid at all). Phyl realises Jamal didn't do anything wrong, it's just that it's painful for her to be reminded of what she sees as her failure to keep the house.

The romance develops in a way I enjoyed. There's a bit too much mental lusting at times (and I really hope that Jamal's thing about always “almost” grabbing Phyl’s arse, even when they’d just met, was an exaggeration and just a way of speaking). On the whole, though, they talk, they get to know each other, they realise they fit in well. It first seems that Phyl's trust issues might be what gets in the way of the HEA, but they work through that. And the stuff about sustainable architecture and renovation was fascinating, I loved seeing it.

In the end it's Jamal's family issues that take centre stage. His father, who's built a very successful business, has made it clear that he doesn't believe in Jamal and doesn't think he's got what it takes. At least, that's what Jamal gets from him. They have become estranged, and at the end of the book, there are some developments there. And that's where I thought the book fell down a little bit. The way the conflict then moved on to Jamal and Phyl felt a bit forced, like Rochon needed a conflict at that point of the book but with her characters as she’d previously developed them, it wasn’t quite believable that they would react in the way she needed them to. It felt like an overreaction. Their last fight didn’t seem quite as bad as Jamal was acting. And I was looking forward to seeing how the whole thing with his dad would be resolved (love some family angst!), but Rochon took that off-page, unfortunately.

A very pleasant way to spend a few hours.



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