Riley Banks has been waiting for a break, a way to put her fashion design degree to use ever since school ended. But in an industry more about who you know than what you know, she was beginning to lose hope — Until Josh Braden, the crush from her teen years turned top designer, took notice of her designs. Only now that she has a chance at his design company, she needs to be noticed for what she can do, not who she can’t take her eyes off.
Josh Braden could get any woman in New York that he wants, but that’s the problem. He doesn’t want any of them. He wants the girl from back home, the one comfortable in jeans and boots, the one whose design portfolio blew him away. Hiring her is the best decision he’s made in a long time, and being her boss won’t stop him from pursuing something more with her. But in the cutthroat world of fashion design, her shot at a career could be ruined if everyone finds out she’s sleeping with the boss.
You know, I had my doubts that Josh could live up to the ultimate man’s man that Rex was in the last book, but I should have known better. Put him in an Armani suit, and he’s sex on legs, of course. And I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Friendship on Fire served up the jealous other woman bit without falling into a pit of cliches.
Riley isn’t what people might think of as a typical New Yorker, and she doesn’t fit the stereotype for being in the fashion industry. She’s certainly not a large girl, but she’s not stick-thin, either, and that makes her a bit self-conscious around edgier, cooler, thinner people. But she’s not about to change who she is, and while self-conscious, she doesn’t give into any shame, and that’s what makes her stand out to Josh.
The way he sees her is simply beautiful. She’s the girl he stared at from afar all through school, and he still sees her that way now. At the same time, he sees her as different from everyone he’s surrounded by in New York, and her giddy excitement over her new career in fashion coupled with her low-maintenance attitude makes it impossible for him to keep his feelings to himself.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the Claudia angle. She was the jealous ice queen who wanted Josh for herself, manipulative and condescending, and she didn’t hesitate to underhandedly try to ruin Riley. But with as much hell as she threw at them, Josh and Riley surprised me by taking a different path than I usually see in stories that include this little twist. Where most would have some blowout misunderstanding, complete with unbelievable miscommunication and utter failure to act like mature adults, there were no tantrums here. Sure, there were hurt feelings and a step back, but it was all written so perfectly that I couldn’t fault either of the characters for their actions.
There’s a way that Melissa Foster writes all these stories that make them all so different from each other, but at the same time, I can count on being surprised, meeting entirely different characters in different situations, and still loving them just as much. In Friendship on Fire, we see Riley and Josh’s flirtation in Destined for Love become a full-on romance. When I expected them to take it slow, they didn’t; when I expected them to rush headlong, they held back. And when I expected the jealousy and mistrust to rip them apart, they handled it not like most characters in romances, but more like all us non-fictional people would have. There was hurt, there was angst, and there was communication to set things right. And I think that’s what I love most about all these books. The entire Love in Bloom series takes everything I love about a good romance novel and serves it up the way few authors can.