Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen
Who said "you can't go home again"? In Veronica Davis's case, who'd want to--especially when you hail from Fossil, Washington? But now she's back among the good-ol'-boys who think she's fair game just because she's in a waitress uniform.
The truth is, Veronica's the boss--at least until she can sell the family saloon and skip town again as fast as her feet can carry her--and nobody knows that better than Cooper Blackstock. From behind the bar, the ex-Special Forces Marine sees all. And his undercover agenda has made the feisty boss-lady's troubles his own.
And her troubles are considerable, what with a family in turmoil, a pseudo-bartender with dangerous secrets, and death threats. Though the town surprisingly rallies in support, it's still a good thing that Cooper will be there to catch Veronica if she stumbles--if he doesn't start falling himself.
Veronica is back in Fossil, Washington to take guardianship of her niece after her sister's murder. Part of this includes selling the bar where she worked for a large part of her teenage years until she was able to escape without looking back. Veronica wants to get as much as possible out of the bar to set aside for her niece Lizzy's future. Unfortunately, while waiting for it to sell, she has to step back into the past as there is a waitress shortage and Veronica has to fill in.
Also working in the bar is Cooper Blackstock. He is the half-brother of the main suspect in Veronica's sister's murder and is determined to clear his half-brother's name. Eddie was the only bright light in Coop's life after his parents divorced and Coop will do anything to help him out, including going undercover in the bar owned by Eddie's ex-wife in order to try to uncover who really murdered her. When Veronica shows up, Coop has very low expectations as Crystal, the murder victim, was a manipulative schemer who used Eddie's daughter to continually extort more money out of Eddie. It is a pleasant surprise then when Coop realizes that Veronica is nothing like her sister. It is an unpleasant surprise to discover that he is developing feelings for her.
Veronica can't wait to get back to her life in Seattle but is determined to do what she must to make the transition as easy as possible for Lizzie; after all, this sweet six-year-old is dealing with her mother's murder and her father being the prime suspect. A twist of fate has Veronica and Lizzie sharing their house with Coop who is renting the attic rooms. This puts them in close contact and there are lots of sparks and witty banter between the two as they both allowing their pasts to impact their present. Veronica needs to know that Coop is more than a drifter (his cover for working in the bar) who is passing through life with no ambition. After all she watched her mother work herself to death while her father blissfully let her. Coop needs to know that Veronica will take him as is without trying to change his. Growing up his mother always made sure he knew he and his father weren't good enough and after the divorce she married up and only took Coop in when his father passed away.
As if this isn't enough, there is still the matter of protecting Lizzie, finding the real murderer and dealing with their growing attractions towards each other despite themselves. This story is populated with great characters; Veronica and Coop are both strong leads who know what they want and are determined to get it--and their interactions together are priceless. Lizzie is a complete sweetheart who would melt the heart of the coldest codger and she quickly wraps Coop around her little finger. Coop hasn't been a part of Lizzie's life since she was an infant and he quickly vows to change that as soon as he clears his brother's name. Add in a secondary romance involving Veronica's childhood best friend Marissa, Marissa's two incredibly precocious children, Eddie the missing father, and other colorful characters around Fossil and you have quite a fun story.
The romance in this one definitely overshadows the mystery surrounding Crystal's death. While plenty of time is spent on discussing it and on Coop trying to investigate, the actual perpetrator and reason behind the murder seemed weak to me. However, the romance between Coop and Veronica was so much fun that it completely made up for it in my opinion. But for those of you who need a strong suspense line, this one might not fit the bill. I would still encourage you to try it though because every other part of the story is outstanding.
Hard Core Reread
I purchased this book with my own funds.