Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw—or rather, heard—the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar . . .
No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting—maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance.
Kate Clayborn’s Love at First is one of those books that you immediately feel has wrapped you up in a warm hug, and in which the characters and their story creep gradually and unobtrusively under your skin and wind around your heartstrings. Ms. Clayborn is one of my few go-to contemporary romance authors, and this book demonstrates yet again exactly why that is; this is a beautifully understated but gloriously romantic love story full of poignancy and tenderness featuring fully-rounded, supremely relatable characters with ordinary, everyday lives and ordinary, everyday problems.
We first meet Will Sterling when he’s around fifteen, and his mother has taken him to meet the uncle he never knew existed. He has no idea why they’re there, and while he’s waiting outside the apartment block for his mother, he hears a girl’s laughter coming from somewhere above him. He looks up to the balcony and even though he can’t see her clearly (he’s short sighted and needs glasses) Will is immediately captivated. Something about her – the swishing of her sleek ponytail, her animated gestures, the sound of her voice – calls to him and he stands watching while he can hear his mother and uncle arguing in the background.
Sixteen years later, Will is a dedicated and hard-working ER doctor when he discovers that his uncle Donny has died and left him his apartment. Will doesn’t want it – thinking about the things he’d learned that day so many years ago, or about his long-deceased parents stirs up too many painful, unresolved emotions – but under the terms of the bequest, he can’t sell the place for a year, so he decides instead to fit it out for short-term lets until he can legally dispose of it.
Unlike Will, Eleanora – Nora – Clarke has very fond memories of the apartment building where she spent so much of her childhood, and regards the other (mostly elderly) inhabitants as family. The only child of two archaeologists who spent most of their time away on one dig or another, Nora lived with her grandmother during the summers and has, following Nonna’s recent death, come back to Chicago to live. Moving from San Diego, adjusting to remote working and struggling to cope with grief over her Nonna’s death has led to bouts of interrupted sleep, and now, a few months later, the hour between four and five in the morning has become her ‘Golden Hour’, a time for coffee and quiet reflection before confronting the day. She knows the habits of her neighbours well, so when, on one particular morning, she wakes to hear someone else moving around on one of the balconies, she knows it must be someone new. She ventures outside, and looking down, sees a man standing quietly, his handsome face cast in light and shadow from the glow coming from inside… and feels suddenly that this is someone she should meet.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance