Always and Forever is the story of Phylicia and Jamal who are first introduced in A Forever Kind of Love as the best friends of the protagonists (you won’t be lost if you haven’t read the first book). The story is set in Gauthier, Louisiana, the cutest little town this side of Stars Hollow: It looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with its brightly colored storefronts sporting striped awnings and hand-painted We’re Open signs hanging in the windows. Jamal hadn’t known towns like this still existed, especially with predominantly black populations.
Basically, I want to go to there.
Jamal is converting a Victorian home into a green B&B and needs Phil’s assistance as she is “one of the most sought after restoration specialists in the entire region”. Problem is that Phil wants nothing to do with Jamal. See, even though they both felt an immediate attraction and completely bonded at their best friends’ wedding, the next day Phil was like: “And you are?” Ouch. The reason why is completely believable and understandable, but I still felt for Jamal who is, by the way, THE BEST. He’s such a wonderful character. Sweet, sincere, sexy. And so sensitive!
“Good morning,” Jamal said.
“Good morning,” she answered and moved right past him.
Jamal closed his eyes and let his chin fall to his chest. So much for that.
He just drops nuggets like this one, making me swoooon:
“…I dread even going to the house in the morning, because it’s so damn hard to work near you and not touch you. To have you ignore me. Do you know how much that kills me?”
He also…plays the saxophone. I think I’ve watched The Lost Boys one too many times to find that romantic. All I can come up with is cornball. Other things that I quirked my eyebrow at: there’s a bit where “the thought of being mistaken for Phylicia’s husband didn’t scare him as much as he thought it would.” He and Phil are in ARIZONA to go to his sister’s wedding, two seconds after they started dating. So um, you’re in it to win it Jamal. Relax. If anyone should be scared it’s Phil. And Jamal’s actions were a bit too much to swallow at the end. Not that I didn’t get how he could be angry, but the level of anger raised these old eyebrows a bit. No worries though, I welcomed him back with loving arms.
Phil is just as swoon-worthy. She’s hard-working and strong and passionate. It was wonderful watching her finally let her guard down with Jamal. I loved that he didn’t try to solve all of her problems for her and that the obvious “easy fix” was never an option for either of them. Also? Her relationship with her mother brought tears to my eyes.
Love this book. So, so satisfying.
ALL THE STARS!!!!