The Valentine’s Quest – Love at the Chocolate Shop Book 2 by Melissa McClone

The Valentine’s Quest
Love at the Chocolate Shop Book 2
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Melissa McClone

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Keep your competition close…and your heart even closer.

When Nevada Parker travels to Marietta, Montana, she anticipates enough peace and quiet to finish her PhD dissertation. Cupidville turns out to be anything but quiet. In fact, it looks like Valentine’s Day—her least favorite holiday—exploded all over the small town.

Among the sea of red hearts, “Be Mine” signs, and pink, pink, pink, Nevada spots a flyer for a multi-day race called The Valentine Quest. The grand prize—a luxury tropical vacation—would be the perfect welcome-home gift for her brother who’s leaving the military.

Dustin Decker sure could use a break from giving city slickers sleigh rides—and from the now ex-girlfriend who issued an ultimatum. Even with a bum knee from his bull riding days, the race’s grand prize is as good as his—until he realizes he needs a partner for some of the more complicated tasks.

He makes a strategic pact with the prim, bookish Nevada. But with a kiss, their unlikely alliance turns into something more…and soon racing isn’t the only thing on their minds. As the finish line nears, they must decide if the grand prize is worth more than what they’ve found together…or if one of them will walk away empty handed—and broken hearted.

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I purchased this as the Parker Family Trilogy and I’m reviewing them individually.

I realize these are holiday based but I was in the mood for sweet. In this one Nevada Parker has come to Marietta, Montana for the quiet of her sister Dakota’s home and town to finish her dissertation. She’s also teaching three days a week in Boseman. She’s bringing Dakota her boots, since the weather report was wrong again, when she manages to slip. A man helps her up but her glasses are smeared and she can’t see him. He hands her a handkerchief to dry them, tells her to keep it and leaves after ascertaining she’s okay.

You’ll recall Dakota works at Copper Mountain Chocolates and as Nevada drinks her hot chocolate, a man enters. Now he recognizes her, but she doesn’t him, because her glasses were so smeared. Dustin introduces himself and the conversation turns to the upcoming Valentine’s Quest. A surprise all inclusive vacation to Fiji is the new grand prize and the quest has been getting more interest.

Dustin is entering the Quest, he wants the vacation and is determined to win it. Nevada decides the vacation would be perfect for her brother York, as he leaves the Air Force and transitions to civilian life. What Dustin and Nevada don’t expect is that the other contestants are couples which puts them as individuals at a disadvantage. It’s then Dustin comes with the idea to partner up until the last challenge.

This is a favorite scene.

Dustin glanced around.

“Sizing up the competition?” she asked.

“Nice spot for doing that.” His gaze sharpened with what looked like respect. “But you already knew that.”

She shrugged, even though he was correct about why she’d picked this table. Although she preferred the term observing—a more pleasant word to her.

He scanned the crowd again. “These couples and pairs put individual competitors at a disadvantage.”

“Having a teammate isn’t against the rules.”

“No,” he said. “But we need to level the playing field.”

“How?”

“By helping each other out.”

It was her turn to stare at him. “I thought you had this won.”

“Yes, but it’s called hedging one’s bets.” The way his gaze hardened told her how serious he was. “We stand a better chance if we work together against the other pairs.”

She considered his words. “You mean form an alliance like they do on those reality TV shows?”

“You watch those?” He sounded surprised.

“I have. On occasion,” she clarified.

Shows like that were a guilty pleasure. One few knew about, not even Dakota or York.

“A strategic alliance is exactly what I’m talking about,” he said. “We bring different strengths to the quest.”

That was true. Physical versus cerebral. “There’s only one prize.”

“We work together until we near the finish line, and it’s down to you and me. Then we’re on our own.”

His plan had merit. She might do better with a partner. Especially one who was physically stronger than her.

The corners of his mouth curved upward in a charming—dare she say alluring?—grin.

Her heart thudded.

Not the reaction she expected, nor wanted, to have.

“What do you say?” he asked.

No! Her gut instinct wanted her to scream that. If for no other reason than the way his smile made her feel warm all over. Except…

For York. For York. For York.

Her original goal was to win for her brother. Competing on her own would be harder, and maybe, a little of Dustin’s confidence would rub off on her. She could use some.

Amusement filled his gaze. “You want to say yes.”

The man was so darn cocky, but a part of her did want to say that. Which made the other part of her want to say no.

Think.

She had to be logical about this, which was all Dustin was being, and not let emotion get the best of her.

One deep breath followed another. “Okay.”

His smile spread. “Great.”

She hoped she didn’t regret this.

Sage Carrigan O’Dell, the owner of the chocolate shop, and three men—Tim and two who were older—stood in the front of the standing-room only crowd. More people had arrived, and the shop was jam-packed. Still, Nevada had trouble concentrating on anyone except Dustin.

Forming an alliance meant they were using each other to win the quest.

Nothing more.

All she had to do was ignore the way her gaze kept being drawn to his face. How hard could that be?

The crowd quieted.

Nevada forced her attention on the four sponsors standing in front.

“Welcome to the Valentine Quest.” Sage had long, red hair and a welcoming smile. Dakota spoke highly of working for the lovely woman. “The race will begin after this kickoff meeting and continues through this Saturday and Sunday, and next Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The final event will be held in the afternoon on Valentine’s Day, so you’ll have plenty of time for romance afterward.”

Competitors laughed, but not Nevada. That Tuesday would be just another day.

“On each of the seven days, you’ll perform tasks that earn you points,” Sage continued. “Those points will be tallied on Valentine’s Day to determine who wins the grand prize—a luxury, all-inclusive vacation package to Fiji.”

The participants clapped and cheered.

Nevada sipped her hot cocoa. This wasn’t a summer camp activity. She wanted that vacation, but she also didn’t want to embarrass herself.

“Good move not to get caught up in the rah-rah atmosphere,” Dustin said in a quiet voice. “We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted.”

Then she’d better not stare into his blue eyes. Those distracted her, but he was correct.

Someone here—hopefully her, not him—would walk away with the prize. Everyone else would end up with nothing.

“The quest will be full of different kinds of challenges,” Sage said. “The most important thing is to have fun.”

“No,” Dustin whispered. “The most important thing is to win.”

Nevada found herself nodding. Teaming with him would be good for her.
McClone, Melissa. The Parker Family Trilogy : Love at the Chocolate Shop. Kindle Locations (3552-3592). Tule Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Now these two are very different and as partners that does work. Neither of them has any intention of falling in love. But you know how that goes.

Lots of fun, with laughter, tears, both happy and sad, plus the romance.

5 Contented Purrs for Melissa!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Melissa McClone

USA Today bestselling author, Melissa McClone has published over forty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group.

With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters.

Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities.

Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds, and cats who think they rule the house. They do!

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