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If ever I’ve read a book and wanted to climb right in and hang with the characters, Christi Barth’s CRUSING TOWARD LOVE is it. These folks are just FUN! A lighthearted, often laugh-out-loud contemporary romance that just might earn you a reputation as a serial guffawer (not sure if that’s a word but us writers get to make stuff up, as long as we say it with authority), this book is a can’t-miss read for anyone wanting a bit of an escape from the ordinary. Both in setting and in style, CRUISING will totally float your boat! (Do I get bonus-geek points for throwing in a boat cliché already? No? Oh, well, carry on.)

The story opens in the rather hectic pre-wedding moments surrounding the nuptials of Zoe’s sister, Stella, who makes a convincing play for the Bridezilla title. After endless kowtowing to Stella’s whims, Zoe hangs on to that final straw until the bride bothers to mention the best man—and Zoe’s partner down the aisle—is Nate, the man who ten years ago left Zoe heartbroken without explanation. Sucking it up and putting on the perfect wedding face makes her squall inside, but it’s only one day, and with only a few hundred witnesses to her misery it can’t be so bad, can it?

Oh, it’s worse.

In the classic tone of careful-what-you-wish-for, Zoe’s prayers are answered when Nate delivers stunning news on the morning of the wedding. Now she won’t have to face him for the big day, but little does she know they’ll be forced to cozy up in the honeymoon suite. Of a cruise ship. Where there is absolutely no escape. (Insert evil cackle here).

By this point, there’s little hope of not being thoroughly sucked in by this story. The characters have spectacular voices and positively beam with personality. Nate’s leaving Zoe should put his chances of redemption in question, but you’ve just got to love him—and you do, long before you find out what the heck he was thinking. (Clearly Zoe is on the same page, as it’s all she can do not to throw herself in his arms.) With their well-fueled animosity—one of the only things upon which they seem to agree—it’s touch and go for a while there, each one likely entertaining thoughts of tossing the other overboard, but the sparks flying between these two characters quickly blaze into a of fire of titanic proportions.

Many (but not all, *nudge, nudge*) of the best CRUISING moments happen off the ship, when Zoe and Nate—who are stuck pretending to be honeymooners so they’re not ousted for impersonation—are paired with shipmates Callie and Reed for a multi-destination treasure hunt. The lighthearted plot thickens when Zoe becomes the target of a number of questionable “accidents,” these island excursions serving as much to develop relationships between characters as they do to add suspense. (Oh, and they’re funny. Epic-funny.)

The best part of this story—aside of the searing heat radiating from any immediate radius of Zoe and Nate—is the banter between characters. I found myself watching them like I would a tennis match, my head not quite literally swiveling from one to the other over the screen of my Kindle. Their unique voices shone with an outstanding level of character development I don’t often see—so much so that by the time I reached the last page I was a little sad to see them go.

But as to who went where, why, and with whom? You’ll have to hit the aquamarine waters of CRUISING TO LOVE to discover that one for yourself. And I can’t recommended highly enough that you do exactly that.

Buy Links: BOOKSTRAND | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

I received a complimentary review copy of CRUISING TOWARD LOVE from the author, who did not bribe me with free cruise tickets to elicit my adoration for this title. (Although I am still receptive to the idea.)