I received this book via Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Decisions We Make After Midnight by Rachel Higginson
Series: Decisions in Durham #1
Published by Reckless Siren Publishing on 2021-09-28
Length: 339 pages
Reviewing eARC from Author
Reading Challenges: 2021 New Release Challenge, COYER 2021
Lola Ellis has a picture-perfect life. Until she doesn’t.
Successful, engaged to the man of her dreams, and focused. Until suddenly she’s questioning her position in the family company, her fiancé’s fidelity, and everything she thought she knew about life.
On her way to Florida to open a new branch of the family business and meet her fiancé Owen, she unexpectedly detours to visit her best friend in Durham, North Carolina. What was meant to be a week of rest and relaxation as she gets her mind right stretches into a permanent TBD. She can’t face the future waiting for her in Destin, Florida. And the longer she stays in Durham, the less she wants to.
Will English is an uptight, arrogant bartender who keeps scaring away waitresses. Too busy micromanaging his co-owning siblings, his patience is thin when it comes to the rest of the business. When Lola takes a job at his bar to fill her time while she decides what to do about the mess her life has suddenly become, he decides not to engage with the clearly underqualified new waitress. She’s clumsy, clueless, and costing him too much money every time she gives away another round of drinks because she’s messed up again. And yet… there’s something about her that keeps him from dismissing her.
Together, after the bar closes every night, they forge a friendship that doesn’t fit into either of their lives. Lola’s stay in Durham is only temporary. And Will’s roots in the city are deeply established. A relationship doesn’t make sense. But sometime after midnight one night… they decide they don’t care.
What a rollercoaster! Decisions We Make After Midnight by Rachel Higginson is the first in her spinoff series Decisions in Durham that introduces us to Lola Ellis and Will English. This is the first contemporary book I’ve read of this author, and I adored it. Full of heartfelt, soul deep, complicated emotions and real-life problems to hurdle, this romance will break your heart, put it back together and leave you all the better for it.
The story opens on a heartbroken Lola. She’s in hiding at her best friend’s home in Durham, North Carolina after discovering her fiance’s hidden life. The once confidant, independent business woman is suddenly unsure of her well-planned life, her goals and her own decisions. I can’t fault her for that. Her life just crashed and burned. It’s okay for her to take a minute to be a hot mess and figure out what she wants to do next, which is exactly what she is doing in Durham. Not wanting to be a complete freeloader and unsure how long she’ll remain in town, Lola finds a job at a local bar. Having never held a job outside her family’s company, you can expect some mishaps with often hilarious results.
Enter Will English. Will and his siblings are the owners of the bar Lola finds herself working in. He’s indifferent, hard to please, and more than a little arrogant putting him at odds with the new girl. He’s also curious and that curiosity leads him to pursue Lola. He wants to know why she’s in his bar and how long she plans to stay. In the process, the two discover a kindred spirit and friendship blossoms.
There are so many hurdles for these two to overcome. Lola is only in Durham temporarily. She has a company she’s responsible for and must return to at some point. Will has a bar to run, and people counting on him. Plus his heart is guarded better than a castle with a moat around it. I personally loved how Higginson allowed these two to have a mutual friendship first before leading them into anything romantic. Lola came to Durham with her life in shambles, and she isn’t looking for love or even a rebound. The friendship the blooms between Will and Lola feels natural and not forced. Despite these two being completely fictional, I found myself falling for them and cheering them on almost immediately.
Overall, I really enjoyed Decisions We Make After Midnight, finishing it in one sitting. It’s a beautiful story filled with real life complications, friendship and romance. I highly recommend it!
But he wasn’t listening to me. “Besides, when it comes to girls, I’m used to coming in last when Charlie’s around.” Will looked down at the lined-up glasses, a self-deprecating twist to his lips. “Charlie has always been the ladies’ man. He’s got all that charisma. And girls dig his . . . flightiness. I’m more of the broody brother in the background.”
“I don’t believe you,” I whispered quickly, brazenly. “I mean, Charlie’s nice, for sure. But you have more substance. And girls like that. Substance, I mean. At least they should.”
What was I saying? Why were these words coming out of my mouth?
He looked at me from beneath his eyelashes, and the swarming butterflies nearly tackled me to the ground with the sheer force of their frantic flapping. “You think?”
“I mean, I think if you could ever stop snarling and growling for a few minutes at a time, girls might notice you first. Charlie might have that whole charming aloofness thing going on, but you have—” Where was I going with this? HOW COULD I TURN OFF MY MOUTH? Had Will added truth serum to my drink? Did hard alcohol turn on some strange internal honesty faucet? If so, how did I shut it off? I hadn’t felt this nervous and excited and sweaty all at once since college. Since I first met Owen.
So rather than finish my thought, I jumped overboard. “I have a fiancé,” I blurted in the most obtuse way possible.
He jerked back, straightening, and shifted awkwardly, clearly not knowing what to do with his hands as I punched him in the face with information he didn’t ask for. Finally, after the awkwardness had gotten so heavy it felt like a wet pillow over my face, he said, “Cool.”
He didn’t want to. I could see it in his strained expression. But his gaze dipped to my naked ring finger anyway. Instinctively, I pulled both my hands back and tucked them under my butt. “It’s just things are, um, complicated right now. And . . . I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this. I just thought—” Now I was scrambling for something super intelligent to say because a dark cloud had descended on his face, and his eyes flashed with lightning. “I thought . . . you might want to know more about who you hired.”
He looked genuinely startled. Like I’d shocked him so far beyond possible, he might actually go catatonic.
So I did what any insane person would do. I continued to throw random, stupid information at him like I was answering the twenty questions he never asked. “My parents have been married for twenty-five years. And my grandparents are about to celebrate their fifty-second wedding anniversary. Isn’t that crazy? I have a twin brother too. Edison. He’s in Florida right now helping my dad with our business. I’m supposed to be there too, but I stopped in Durham to visit my best friend.” Oh, my God, why couldn’t I make it stop? But the words kept coming and coming and coming. And I couldn’t find the off switch. “Her name is Reese. She’s a lawyer. A really good one. I’m legit jealous of how badass she is.”
After my loyal best friend decree, Will blinked at me three times. And then he asked, “What’s his name?” He cleared his throat. “The fiancé?”
I cleared my throat too. “Owen.”
“Owen,” Will repeated slowly as if measuring the worth of the man by just his name.