On a Night Like This is the first in The Callaways series by Barbara Freethy about the extended American-Irish Callaway clan in San Francisco. Freethy is a new author for me, a best-selling American author of romantic drama. I would class this as a feel-good holiday romance, so not my usual choice. Freethy is an expert at writing series, which lock the reader into the characters.
The basis of the story is the relationship between Aiden Callaway, smokejumper, and Sara Davidson, lawyer, who grew up next to each other in San Francisco. Aiden is an alpha-male, adventurous, a risk-taker, who has never taken a woman with him to his secret camping ground in the wilds north of Napa Valley. Sara is a workaholic New York lawyer who rarely lets anyone get emotionally close. This is a story of opposites attract. At times I found their connection unconvincing, as it seemed to be purely chemical and physical. Sara had a teenage crush on Aiden which re-emerges when she revisits her widowed father in her childhood home next door to the Callaways. When a fire damages the house and her father is in hospital, Sara and Aiden are thrown together. This is a light romance mixed with a little mystery: three weeks before the two meet, Aiden is involved in a tragic fire where his best friend and fellow smokejumper Kyle died. Aiden’s colleagues blame him for Kyle’s death but Aiden cannot remember what happened and so refuses to defend himself. His loyalty to Kyle is admirable, but misguided. Sara, as the clear-thinking lawyer, encourages him to question the facts of what happened.
The setting and storyline reminded me of Anita Shreve, but without the depth of story or emotional heft, and with too many sculptured abs. The longing of Sara for Aiden became repetitive and needy, they seem such an unlikely pairing. The storyline of Sara’s rift with her father, however, was worth more page space. So, this is a pleasant light romantic read. I enjoyed the interaction of the feisty Callaway family and wanted more of them; particularly fire investigator Emma and the story of the disappearing nun and burnt-down primary school [sadly, this storyline was left unresolved]. Freethy is a hugely popular author but this book felt rather as if she was writing by numbers.
If you like this, try:-
‘Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power
‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
‘The Stars are Fire’ by Anita Shreve
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS by @BarbaraFreethy #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-35f via @SandraDanby