Not Over Yet is the second story in Amber Belldene’s groundbreaking romance series Hot Under Her Collar, featuring female episcopal ministers and the complications of relationships (sexual and otherwise) while following God’s calling. They are not inspirational romances in the classical sense as they are sexy contemporary stories, but the heroines all have strong faith lives that guide their actions.
In Lily’s case, her prior position as a nanny to handsome and well off divorced businessman Eric resulted in a heated affair. He thought it would lead to marriage and a family for them and his two young girls, but Lily got cold feet. Or more accurately, she didn’t see how she would be able to balance seminary school and her career goal of priesthood, while having a husband and children. As such, she left Eric to pursue her career and though it hurt to do so, she believes she did the right thing for them all. Three years later, Lily is in a financial bind and comes to Eric for help, hoping that his offer when they parted to come to him if she ever needed anything still holds true. It does, because despite the grief Eric and his girls experienced when Lily left, he still loves her and is willing to help her out. Lily soon finds herself entangled in a complicated web – Eric’s ex-wife wants to use her against him; money has gone missing at her new parish post and she’s a suspect; and her feelings for Eric have never really gone away, just been buried. Can Lily find a way to balance her life as a parish priest with her love for Eric and give them all a happy ending?
Family dynamics and cultural expectations are at play in this story of forgiveness and love. Eric’s ex-wife Cynthia is a manipulative and strong willed woman who is determined to fight him for custody, using any means at her arsenal. The fact that he fell in love with the nanny, who happens to be Chinese just like their two adopted daughters is a windfall for her lawsuit against him and she uses it at every turn. When Lily left Eric she didn’t know the storm she left behind, and only now realizes how much her leaving cost him. Cynthia definitely comes across as an unwanted third wheel in this story, with her vindictiveness making it hard to feel any sympathy for her. This is especially the case when she turns out to be in charge of the audit of Lily’s church that turns up the missing funds, and makes no bones about the fact that she believes Lily is the guilty party. The relationship between the three of them is complex and fraught with tension, but to her credit Lily lives up to the expectations of her Christian character and works for a way to better the situation, though Cynthia certainly doesn’t make it easy.
As a woman of Chinese descent, Lily has her own challenges dealing with her new parish, and her mother. Her parents had high expectations that she would have a rewarding financial career and that definitely didn’t happen. As such, with the death of her father and medical bills for her mother, Lily is forced into the position of having to ask Eric for money to pay the bills (something that wouldn’t have happened if she had done what her parents wanted). On top of that, as a female pastor, and being Asian in an increasingly diversified church, the congregation she leads is struggling with their own racial issues. Lily wants to hire the best person for the new preschool, and it happens to be a gay Chinese man who is most qualified. This puts the elder, white population of the church on the defensive and Lily is putting out fires left and right. To then be accused of stealing from the church treasury definitely makes her question whether she’s following the right path for her life.
The story is told in alternating points of view so we get a lot of insight into Eric as well. He grew up in an emotionally starved home with parents that were cold, harsh, and kicked him out when he turned 18. As a result he has no relationship with them as adults. He’s got a quick temper and uses surfing as a way of relaxing when the stress gets too much. But he’s also a successful businessman, a loving father and a good friend to the few that have stuck around. His attraction to Lily was understandable given the circumstances – he was divorced, she was living in his home, and she took care of him as much as she did the girls. They shared a definite passion for each other, and when she comes back into his life, it’s not that hard for him to persuade her back into bed with him. They share some pretty steamy scenes even as Lily insists that it can’t mean anything. But pretty soon circumstances evolve that result in decisions that can’t be taken lightly, ones that could change their whole future for the better.
Overall, I found this to be an entertaining and interesting story. Cynthia’s role is (sadly) very reminiscent of some friends’ personal experiences with vindictive ex-spouses , so felt almost too real. This gave me a lot of empathy for Eric’s struggle to do the best for his girls while trying to keep his company going and have a relationship of his own. Lily’s own personal problems due to her race were carefully dealt with in an honest manner that I found again very true to life. Clearly the author has brought some of her own personal experiences as a minister to this series, and has also consulted others to make her story read as though it could be that of a neighbor or friend. I was very pleased with the way the story played out and the resulting happy ending for Lily and Eric and his two daughters.
Some people aren’t meant to have it all…
Three years ago, nanny Lily Yee enjoyed a passionate fling with her boss, the recently divorced and extremely eligible Eric Roche. Then the sexy surfer/CEO wanted more than she could give, and she fled to pursue her one true calling—the priesthood.
Eric learned how to love from Lily and wanted to build a happy family with her. But she walked away without explanation, leaving him angry, confused, and…fine, he’ll admit it, occasionally a little desperate for her.
When a crisis in her church leads Lily back into Eric’s arms, his heart calls to her as strongly as the priesthood. He’ll do anything to win her back, but she knows she’s not cut out to juggle a family and a career. She needs to let him go again soon, but she can’t deny they’re not over yet.