Three Rivers, by Chloe T. Barlow

Grade: A-

Doing it at: 15%

Catnip: Dead Husband’s Friend, Strong Female Lead, Sexual Healing, Light Bondage

Shame Scale:  No shame. This was a good read!

Fantasy Cast:  Issac Marion (he wrote Warm Bodies and I needed a cute author and he is adorable), Mila Kunis

Book Description:

How do you start over when you gave everything to one life, one plan, and lost it all?

Althea refuses to allow herself to love again. Imprisoned in grief at twenty-four after her husband’s sudden death, she’s convinced her heart died along with him. She spends her days honoring his memory by clinging to the legal career he helped her to build and to the remaining pieces linking them together.

Griffen’s been running from his past. Despite success as an author and investigative journalist, he’s been traveling through life on autopilot. For a decade, he’s chosen perilous adventures and meaningless sex over the danger of any attachments. When he finally returns home to Pittsburgh, he’s slammed by the awakened memories and regret he’s spent years trying to escape.

A chance encounter brings them together. Their instant desire for each other – and the bond they discover between them – shocks them both. Despite her best efforts, Althea can’t resist Griffen’s charm or his intriguing proposition – if she agrees to a no-strings affair with him for the two weeks he’s in town, he swears he’ll walk away when their time is up. Assured she can test the waters of a new life while keeping her vow never to betray her husband’s memory by opening her heart to another, Althea throws herself into the escape Griffen provides her.

Their perfect plans go awry when the intensity of their connection overwhelms them. Will they risk it all on the chance of something great together…or will the power of their secrets and guilt tear them apart.

Right from the beginning, I had a feeling I’d like this book. It takes place in my hometown, and I was secretly overjoyed at every mention of a Pittsburgh landmark. The book begins with Althea (Tea) and her son Johnny. We learn that Tea is a widow and that her husband Jack passed away in a car accident right before she found out she was pregnant. She is fortunate and has an amazing support system of women, two best friends (Jenna and Aubrey), her mother-in-law and mother, that help her cope with everything. Her friends, after 5 years, push her to go out and date. Maybe even consider a one-night stand. She’s had a few unmemorable dates since her husband’s death. But plain and simple, Tea needs to get laid. Her friends get her gussied up and take her out and insist that it’s time Stella Got Her Groove Back. With all the luck in the world and a few drinks helping to loosen her up a bit, she meets Griffen.

But not with Taye Diggs, sadly.

But not with Taye Diggs, sadly.

Griffen is a writer. His book has been made into a movie. He’s hometown famous! But, he has some severe writer’s block happening since the death of his friend Jack. That’s right. His BFF was Tea’s dead husband. And somehow these two had never met. I find this hard to believe, but it’s fiction. So they meet in a bar, exchange a lot of flirty back-and-forth, and Tea signals to her friends that she’s going for it. She feels a strong connection to Griffen, and understands that her vibrators just aren’t doing the job that a man can do. After a few drinks, they head back to Griffen’s hotel and get down to business. Let me tell you, the down and dirty in this one is HOT. Slow and deliberate. Griffen is obviously feeling a connection, one that he hasn’t felt in a while with a woman. The problem is, Althea is honestly looking for a one night stand to get her back in the saddle. And it works. She feels sexually liberated when she sneaks out the following morning. Griffen, however, makes it his mission to find her and spend time with her for his remaining two weeks in Pittsburgh.

The next morning, Griffen is asked by his mother to attend a birthday party being held for his dead friend’s son. And although he has already decided to find Althea, he puts his plans on hold to appease his mom and suppress a little of the guilt he feels for losing touch with Jack right before he died. The shock when he walks in the door and see Althea is fantastic, and very indicative of small town/ big city Pittsburgh. Everyone knows everyone. It’s probably one less degree of separation than Kevin Bacon. They both muddle through the party, managing to have most of the awkward conversation away from the overbearing ears of Carol, Jack’s mother, who still refers to Tea as “Jack’s wife.” She’s kinda nuts. But grieving, so it’s forgiven. Althea also manages to avoid David, Jack’s former coworker, who has, since Jack’s death. been possessive of Tea and her son. Griffen works hard to win over all the women, Tea most of all. He plays football with her son, helps with the food, and at the end of the day, offers up a suggestion she can’t refuse. Two weeks, no strings attached, dates, sex, whatever. Who could pass that up?!

Tea takes him up on the offer. It’s only two weeks. Almost no commitment, loads of steamy sex, and at the end of the time, Griffen disappears back to New York City. She feels like unattached sex is just what’s needed in order to bring her back into the dating scene. Her friends offer Griffen a ride back to his hotel after the party, and divulge tons of information about their friend. They want to insure that Tea has a perfect time over the next two weeks.

So Althea puts her trust in Griffen. And loves every minute of the time they spend together. They date. They spend real quality time together. They do it pretty much constantly. (This chick has some solid friends offering up babysitting for her. All the single moms I know never have this much down time. Ever.) Griffen play football with her son, Johnny. It’s picture perfect. Until Griffen visits his childhood home and opens a lock-box that used to belong to him and Jack as kids. It was something they would use to hide things from Griffen’s abusive father, a safe place to keep things like dirty magazines. But now there’s a flash drive that wasn’t there before. And it’s encrypted and secured. The investigative writer comes back into focus and starts unraveling the information that dead friend Jack left behind.

The remaining novel is a little mystery, a little action, and lot and lots of sex. Lots of really good sex. Honestly, I felt like cheering this woman on for finding this guy. These two have fantastic chemistry. And the backdrop of the story thrilled me, since it’s my city and all the landmarks I love as well. Yinz should read it!