*I was given a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. I was not paid by the publisher or the author for my review.*
Available: June 23, 2014
Up To Me – Christi Barth
This was another new read for me. Have I mentioned that I love discovering new authors? Well, I do.
Up To Me was a very cute read. It had all the things I look for in the romances that I read. I think part of the reason why I liked it so much is because I can connect to it on a personal level.
Ella Mayhew is the owner of a hotel in upstate New York called Mayhew Manor. Well. She’s the secret owner. The people in her town know that the Manor belongs to her, but none of the guests do. As far as they’re concerned, she’s just the masseuse. The Manor originally belonged to her parents, but when they died tragically a few years before Ella inherited it. Mr. and Mrs. Mayhew had always dreamed and hoped that Ella would take over running the Manor, and even sent her to college to major in hotel management. Ella had other plans, and became a masseuse instead much to her parents disapproval. After her parents death, she moves into the tower room at the Manor (like… a tower. An actual tower. Like on a castle…. complete with a hidden doorway to her tower room) and helps in the day to day running of the hotel… but from behind the scenes.
Ella has a manager that “runs” the place, but she’s always in the know of what is happening at the Manor. I work front desk at a little hotel here in Iowa… and have been in hospitality for almost four years. I can’t imagine ever owning a hotel… but I know how hard it is to work in one.
Enter Graydon Locke. He’s… as he likes to say… a “Corporate Realignment Specialist” for a huge company in New York. Basically if you get rid of the fancy title, he’s the guy that researches businesses and let’s his company know whether or not they should buy the company, break it up into pieces and sell off those pieces for a profit. Graydon (or Gray) is staying at the Manor to learn all about it so that he can tell his bosses if it would be a good idea to purchase it or not. This is something Gray’s done a million times, and he thinks this assignment will be just like the rest… until he meets Ella.
Ella sees Gray first and instantly falls a little bit into lust with him, and when Gray meets her, he gets the same reaction. Gray’s definitely attracted, but he’s also conflicted. He’s here to potentially destroy the Manor, not find himself in a romance. Things get worse for Gray later on after he finds out that the Manor belongs to Ella. She still has no idea who he is. For all she knows, he’s here on a two week vacation.
So what is he to do? They want each other badly, but how can Gray keep something like that from her and still be with her? He has a job to do, but he can’t deny himself the opportunity to get to know her better.
The town that the Manor resides in is a quirky little town. Everyone is in everyone’s business (like most small towns, I’d assume). The mayor runs a little coffee/sandwich shop/general store in town, so she hears and knows everything.
And then there’s the mailbox.
I know, it sounds weird, but bear with me. It gets a little weirder. Out on the edge of town there’s a lone mailbox next to a bench. It’s close enough to the nearby lake that if you wished, you could sit on the bench and watch the sunset (or sunrise, whatever) over the water. This particular mailbox doesn’t receive mail like the one at the end of your driveway. Here’s where it gets weird. The mailbox holds a journal that the whole town uses and writes in. Some people write asking for advice, some write just to vent. If you write something in the journal, you’ll most likely get feedback from other residents of the town in the journal. Think of it like a Dear Abby newspaper column but in journal form that an entire town has access to.
Ella takes Gray to the mailbox to explain it to him, and to explain that it’s important to her. He thinks the whole idea of it is beyond crazy, but humors her. When she writes in the journal asking the town if she should go out with Gray and let him take her to dinner, he’s a little annoyed when she discloses that they should have an answer to their question in a “day or two”… and that they can spend time together as long as it isn’t anything officially “date like”. Poor Gray.
Their romance is so sweet. It took some time for them to actually become a couple (with most of the towns approval). Ella spends a lot of the book unsure if she should take over running the Manor. For most of her life, if you asked her, she’d give you a big fat NO, because she had no desire for it. When she finally does decide that she wants to keep it and make it more profitable than it currently is, Gray is behind her every step of the way, giving her ideas on how to pull it off… which is the OPPOSITE of what he should be doing. I loved that he wanted what was best for her, and would fight for what she wanted.
When the truth of why Gray was in town finally comes to light, he owns it. He doesn’t try to make up excuses for himself, he tells the truth. Even though that truth gets him kicked out of Ella’s bed and as far as he can tell, her life. I loved that he battled with himself over is dilemma through the book, and that once he was caught he didn’t try to turn tail and run for the hills. He explained himself, told Ella he loved her, and left when she asked.
Even thought he was sure that she hated him, he stuck around in town long enough to call in a favor to make sure the Manor would have an opportunity to bring in more money… which was very sweet. He knew he’d messed up, and didn’t think he had a shot in hell with her anymore, but he knew how much she loved the Manor, and did what he could to help it.
One of Ella’s best friends convinces him to stay in town and fight for her, which I also thought was awesome. Ward (Ella’s bff) knew exactly what happened between Ella and Gray, but had been able to learn what a good guy beneath all of the sneaking around Gray really was… and believed that both of them (Ella and Gray) should be together.
Their reunion was so very sweet and I loved that she let him (sorta kinda) explain everything again… but at the same time didn’t instantly melt into a puddle of goo. She was a tough cookie who could stand up for herself, but once she realized that he’d done so much for her and for the Manor because she loved it, she couldn’t stay too mad.
I seriously enjoyed Ella and Gray’s story. Christi Barth delivers very strong, well developed characters that you can’t help but fall for. Up To Me is the first book in a new series and I can’t wait to see who’s story is next.
10/10 I’d recommend this.