JUST KISS ME - Rachel Gibson
Charleston, South Carolina - Present Day
Vivien Leigh Rochet grew up in the carriage house of the Whitley-Shuler estate, cleaning their house with her momma, and dreaming of one day turning the tables. Thanks to a starring role in a film trilogy, Vivien is now a world-famous actress, and she was able to give her momma her dream house in Charleston two years ago. But when she learns that her momma passed away suddenly, Vivien's world is rocked to the core. With next to no family left, Vivien returns to Charleston to learn that her momma never really moved into the dream house that Vivien bought her and instead was still living in the carriage house. While trying to figure out what was going on in her momma's life as well as plan her funeral, Vivien receives help from the last two people she ever expected it from: Nonnie Whitley-Shuler, the blue-blooded matriarch of the Whitley-Shulers, who never had a kind word for Vivien growing up; and Henry Whitley-Shuler, the eldest son, whom a teenage Vivien nicknamed Scary Henry (or Butt-Head Henry, depending on her mood).
Henry Whitley-Shuler followed his mother's wishes into a career on Wall Street until a heart attack caused him to slow down. He's now living back in Charleston, building furniture and working with rare woods. Of course he'd known that the bratty teenager who used to snoop in his room has grown into a beautiful and successful actress, but Henry hadn't ever imagined that he'd find himself attracted to Vivien. As he helps her through the funeral, Henry realizes that he actually enjoys talking with Vivien, and likes her more than he'd thought possible. Though a relationship seems inevitable, there are two obstacles to it becoming anything more than casual: they live on opposite coasts, and Henry's keeping a secret that could once again turn Vivien's world on its ear.
JUST KISS ME brings together two people with a shared history that who don't know each other as well as they'd thought. Raised by a single mother with bipolar disorder, Vivien was always a bit on the outside of life in the affluent area she was raised in. Her mother dreamed of travel, and Vivien dreamed of being somebody. Her momma's death changes things for Vivien, opening her eyes to the fact that her mother hid things from her, and that the Whitley-Shuler family may not have been as bad as they seemed. Henry and his brother, Spence, went to boarding school and spent much of their summers with their grandfather, so Vivien's knowledge of them came from snooping in their rooms and their rare visits home. Henry and Spence were well aware of Vivien's snooping (and would occasionally play pranks on her) so their opinion of her wasn't all that favorable either. Meeting again as adults, especially under such tragic circumstances, allows both Vivien and Henry to see the real person underneath all of their childhood assumptions, and both of them are wildly attracted to the other.
Occasional glimpses into Vivien's teenage diary provide readers with ideas of what her life was like as a teenager, the relationships she had with not just her mother, but Nonnie, Henry, and Spence, and illustrate the differences between then and now. With the perfect blend of humor and emotion that Rachel Gibson is known for, JUST KISS ME is a charming, fun story.