Every now and then I start a book and for whatever reason I quit and put it back on the shelf and move on. Sometimes it doesn’t grab my attention or one of the characters puts me off or I realize I’m just not in the mood for that particular genre or troupe. I started The Reluctant Nude and after a few chapters I realized I was not in a good frame of mind for this book. I picked up on the heroines discomfort with her situation and it sent me skittering away quickly. So I put it on the shelf with plans to pick it up again later. I admit that sometimes books I plan to try again sometimes get forgotten or passed over for newer releases. But something about The Reluctant Nude and the way I connected with the heroine called to me and so I tried again a few weeks later. I am really glad I went back for a second try as this was such a lovely, honest to goodness romance and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it.
Fallon Frost is an environmentalist who is determined to save the home of her late foster-mother who made a huge impact on her life. Developer Donald Forrester plans to tear the home down and build a strip mall. Forrester is interested in more than just the land though. He has an interest in Fallon and cuts a deal with her. If she will pose for a nude sculpture created by the famous artist M.L.(Max) Emery, he will preserve the home and the land. So Fallon agrees and puts her life and career on hold to fulfill her part of the bargain.
The Reluctant Nude at its core is such a wonderfully layered, sensual romance. Two people who meet under unusual circumstances, slowly get to know each other and over time are literally and figuratively stripped bare before one another. The time they spend together, day-to-day, learning each other and becoming friends and eventually lovers is so intimate. Meg Maguire creates a quite space for the reader within Max’s art studio to simply relax and observe as Max and Fallon chip away at each others insecurities and boundaries and fall in love.
Fallon is somewhat sexually repressed and closed off. Not so much that she comes off shrill or over prickly, but she is definitely very uncomfortable with her agreement to pose nude for the sculpture. I really felt the level of her discomfort and I loved that she experienced a slow thaw rather than a sudden epiphany in coming to terms with her emotional insecurities and sexuality. I admit though that I found the circumstances surrounding the commission of the sculpture a little odd and kept waiting for a bit of surprise information that would make it all make sense. Forrester is paying Max a huge sum of money for the sculpture. The only thing he would get out of it was the sculpture since his forcing Fallon to pose would only serve to make her hate him more. I assumed there was more than just Fallon’s desire to save her foster mother’s home motivating her to put her career and life on hold and give into the whim of a man she detests.
Max really pushed my buttons with his bluntness and straight forward way. Since I connected so strongly with Fallon’s discomfort I found Max’s openness surprising and uncomfortable at first. He came off as overly self-assured but as his character developed his vulnerabilities softened him a great deal and I came to love how open he was with his feelings and the things he needed and wanted from Fallon. His honesty and passion was nearly heartbreaking at times and I fell hard for him eventually.
I’m a big fan of the epilogue and I have to say The Reluctant Nude has one of the most satisfying epilogues I’ve read in a long time. I adored this love story and the epilogue put such a nice finishing touch on this romantic, sensual love story. While The Reluctant Nude offers a very nice happily ever after the epilogue gathers up the bits and pieces, places them nicely in a decorative box and sends the reader off with a warm smile. Well done!
True, Max would feel the wine when he stood next, but he craved the intoxication. He needed that with Fallon. She’d made her boundaries crystal clear, and he needed at least another glass before he could disregard them.