Book of the Week: Love at First by Kate Clayborn


Kate Clayborn is a highly skilled writer of contemporary romance. The authorial voice and writing style of the Chance of a Lifetime series are very different from the deeply introspective Love Lettering (review here) and are different once again for the angst and humor of Love at First. Clayborn has the remarkable ability to adapt her writing to fit the story, rather than requiring the story to work around her craft. 

Nora DeAngelo Clarke is a freelance web designer, who loves her work. She grew up spending her summers with her Nonna (grandmother) in her small apartment building, and all the neighbors became her extended family. When her Nonna dies, Nora inherits the apartment and moves in and makes it her own. Her attachment to her Nonna transfers over to her attachment to the building and a desire to keep things exactly as they are in perpetuity.

Clayborn has paid a lot of attention to fully developing Nora’s “found family” of other apartment owners. They are quirky and sweet and crochety, each with their own motivations and insecurities, but all are united in their affection for Nora. They are always in Nora’s corner. And she cares of their wellbeing just as much as her Nonna did. 

Will Sterling is an extremely busy emergency room doctor who has inherited his estranged (and reviled) uncle’s apartment. He can’t wait to unload the unit for its associations and also for its ugly interior, but there is a stipulation that he has to own it for one whole year. So he is working with an agent to renovate it and have it rented out.

And that is where he runs up against the building association president, Nora. She is adamant in her refusal to allow short-term renters because it will spoil the current ambience of long-term ownership and emotional investment on her part and the others living in the building. He will destroy the character of their sanctuary forever by having strangers trooping in and out at all hours of the day and night.

Will remembers Nora from sixteen years ago when he had visited his uncle with his mother and had been enchanted by a young girl’s voice and laugh. To find out that it is Nora with whom he is now at loggerheads is disappointing, though the fascination remains. They are fated to be together.

Both have lingering unresolved issues from their childhood. Will cannot get over how lonely he was as a child and the way his late parents neglected him when he was a child. He works long hours to forget. Nora is struggling with grief over the people in her life who let her down, and the building becomes her raison d’être for stability.

Nora’s decision to attempt to foil Will’s rental efforts with a little sabotage turns into a bit of a disaster for Nora and humorous for the reader. I enjoyed Will and Nora’s contentious relationship as well as how they resolve their differences and childhood traumas. Clayborn’s nuanced writing does justice to Will and Nora’s emotional landscape. 

Clayborn remains one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to see what she will write next.

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