3.5 Star review of The Beauty of Grace by Nicole Richard!!

Title: The Beauty of Grace
Series: She's Beautiful Series #1
Author: Nicole Richard
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Released: November 5, 2015
At age eighteen, Grace Bowman's life crumbled right in front of her. The man who held her heart—her forever—was gone, and her family ties were in tatters. As a result, she forged a steel wall round her heart and vowed never to let anyone get close again. 
Now, six years later, she has been given a chance to start fresh in Savannah, Georgia. A chance to leave the struggle of day-to-day life behind, find a career, and give Drew, her five year old son, a shot at normal.
A balloon and a flat tire had her crossing paths with AJ Watson, and she realized normal probably wasn’t in her cards. 
AJ was handsome, thoughtful, and fiercely loyal to his family. Yet, behind his baby-blue eyes and Southern boy charm, he was just as broken as she was. She told herself to stay away from him, and she tried, but the lines between friendship and lover are blurred. 
When Grace realizes history may be repeating itself, will she be able to let go of the past, or will she walk away from her future?

“I thought you and Drew were watching television?” I asked, looking up over my shoulder.

“Yeah, but the little guy fell asleep, so I put him in his bed.” That was when we looked at each other, and I saw a flash of panic in his eyes. “I hope that was okay?”

Swallowing the imaginary lump in my throat, I wasn’t sure what to say to that. Are friends usually this nice and helpful? “Thank you. That was kind of you.” I went back to washing the remaining dishes.

“That was really kind of you teaching Drew how to be a gentleman, too,” I mentioned as I scrubbed the rim from Drew’s favorite cup. Again looking up, I felt the weight of my next words. “Drew’s never had a male figure present in his life before.”

“What about his daddy?” He questioned, carefully tangling the dishtowel in his hands.

Not ready to hash old wounds just yet, I shrugged, trying to play it off.

Not being able to look at him again, I dropped the dish into the soapy water in front of me. A frantic feeling set in, looking the other way in search of a towel to dry my hands with, a lone tear rolled down the side of my face. I rubbed my cheek against my shoulder, and AJ softly grabbed the top of my arm turning me toward him.

I kept my face down, and he wrapped me up in his arms, kissing the top of my head before resting his chin there, and whispering, “I’m sorry, Grace.”

As he held me, I enjoyed the comfort his arms offered and pressed my cheek to his warm muscular chest.

“Hey.” He touched my arm. “I’m here for you, anything you need. We’re friends, Grace, that’s what friends do.” He offered gently. Laying both my palms flat on his chest, I pushed back a little so I could look into his eyes and gulped.

“Friends, right.” I turned away intending to finish the job I had set out to do. Maybe busy hands would help lessen the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why AJ’s words made me feel that way, but they did.

The tension in the air sparked, I didn’t know what to say in fear I’d say something I shouldn’t, or worse, would regret. Instead, I grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge and raised it up in silent offering. His lips pursed into a straight line and his eyes narrowed for a second, before he shook his head declining.

AJ stepped closer to me, closing in the distance and my heart rate sped up. My eyes locked on his mouth as his tongue darted out wetting his lips. A twinkle flashed in his eyes. He held my chin between his thumb and index finger, bringing it up just a bit before he dipped his head and kissed my lips. AJ’s soft tongue licked my bottom lip, but surprisingly he didn’t take it any further. Taking a step back, he slid his hands into his front pockets and his shoulders slightly hunched over.

“Well . . . thank you for dinner, but it’s getting late. I should head out.”

Stunned, I glanced up at him. “Okay, let me walk you out.” I knew I said the words, but the only thing I could focus on was the ghost of heat he left on my lips.
Nicole was born and raised in Hawaii, where she currently resides with her husband and teenage daughter and son.
At an adolescent age, she took a strong liking to reading and even had a pipe dream of writing her own book. Life and growing up had put reading on the far end back burner and recently came alive again.
A hopeless romantic, she has a love for romance novels, which she credits her late mother passing on to her and now an even stronger love to write her own stories.
When Nicole, isn’t working, writing or reading, she enjoys her chocolate frozen yogurt with mini Reese’s pieces addiction, Starbucks in moderation and a once-a-year (if she’s lucky) trip to visit her best friend in Vegas.

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My Review:

3.5 Stars! 
Beauty from grace, while I had my moments of "this is a really sweet story!", for the most part, left me wanting just a little something different. Starting off, I had a hard time getting into it, it felt like the writing was strained and the character development was forced. As you go along, there are lots of moments where I really loved what was going on and it felt like the author had really gotten her groove of what she wanted to do with the story and it flowed. Then, there would be a random left turn. And I don't mean the good kind, either. 
AJ is a construction worker who has no desire or pull to stop his play-boy ways. What he wants and looks for is physical and never more-- having been burnt before by a woman and betrayed in the worst way possible he has no conviction or desire to ever be in that position again. The last thing he expected was for his whole world to be turned upside-down by a little man, asking for a balloon. 
Grace was raised well-off but when she got pregnant young and was told to choose between her unborn child, that was fathered by a middle class man and her family she chose the baby. Never having the courage to tell the father that she was pregnant, Andrew died, never knowing his son was born that very day. Being a single mother and doing everything on her own, Grace never got the chance to live her life and actually experience being an adult, until she moved in with her Aunt Jackie and got the help she needed to truly get her feet on the ground. She never meant to fall for the first man that she allowed herself to have a friendship with after the passing of her son's father. 
There were lots of things that I absolutely loved about this book-- the fact that she was a single mother, and she continued to put her son first, no matter what. I loved that AJ took into consideration what was going on for her son, and that the character was just as in love with him, and valued that relationship as with the heroine. 
"How could you not love this kid?"
I loved the dynamic that they eventually got into, where they could be best friends even while trying to figure out what they wanted from each other, and that Grace's son was such the little man, respectful in every instance and wanting that family without making his mom feel worse than she already did. The supporting characters in this book were seamless and Nicole really left it open to many many opportunities to have a very good series on her hands. 
There were also A LOT of things that I wish had been different--- for example, it seemed like the book had too much going on. There were scenes of extra information, just because, that may have made the reading more seamless had they been edited out. I understand the need for character development, but its a fine line and random moments with the new friends that Grace was making, that didn't necessarily pertain to the plot of the book comes off superfluous. Also, there was a pretty solid plot going, with the main characters fighting to find what their relationship REALLY was, friends, or lovers, or what have you--- I felt that the book would have been just fine ending when they found themselves loving and wanting each other. However, what happens is another random point of contention happens, with a threat to their relationship from an unknown source, and rather than having that play out in a dramatic way, the characters randomly have an epiphany and forgive each other and then still have the dramatic scene with the culprit later on.  That whole area confused me to no end. It conflicts with the way that the character was written, standing to her guns and what she believed in to just flip so easily. All in all, I think that with some really good editing, this book would be top notch! As it is, I can't in good conscience rate it any higher. :-/

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