Lovely little novella! I had read some reviews where people thought the story was a little flat, or they didn't really feel the connection between Diana (23) and Aaron (27) and I disagree. I thought it was well-done and believable, and that Dare did a good job of adding little things that made the characters come alive and very three-dimensional, despite the limited space she had.
For example, that Diana has struggled with asthma so badly all her life has deprived her of being able to partake in a lot of things throughout life, and so I loved that now that she's better, she wants to "start living," as her sister terms it, and so applies that to her feelings for Aaron and actually doing something about it, instead of just longing from afar. Also, although yes they are very physically attracted to each other, it didn't feel only lust-based to me (and that's sometimes a difficult test for a romance book to pass for me, just FYI—particularly romance novellas).
I did find that last little twist to be kind of silly, especially if she's lived there for two years and they supposedly all know each other so well.
I adored how the book starts off LOLOLOL! Aaron is a blacksmith and we start off her with her at the blacksmith—yet again ... we also see from the beginning what sizzling chemistry we're going to have throughout:
[ "Still don't know how you managed to smash it like that," he said.
By slamming it in a drawer. And finishing the deed with a rock.
"I don't know, either," she prevaricated. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest.
"I could almost believe someone did it on purpose. I know accidents happen. But they don't usually happen the same way twice."
As he fastened the necklace, his fingertips brushed her neck.
Diana sucked in her breath. She wanted to pretend the touch was an accident. As he'd said, accidents happen.
But they didn't happen the same way twice.
He caressed her neck a second time, his roughened thumb sliding down the soft skin at her nape.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
She couldn't answer. She couldn't move, couldn't think.
"I wonder about it. Why you come so often. Why every metal latch and clasp and rivet you possess seems to need mending of late." His voice grew deeper, almost dreamy. "I've told myself you're just bored with this village. With this weather, there's little else to do."
He circled her, running his finger beneath that chain. Branding her with a necklace of his touch.
"Other times"—she caught a wry note in his voice—"I decide you've been sent by the devil to torment me for my sins."
He came to stand before her, holding that vial that dangled from her necklace. He pulled gently, and she swayed toward him. Just an inch.
"And then sometimes I think maybe ... just maybe ... you're hoping for something to happen. Something like this." ]