Short Stories 366:80 — “Lead Counsel,” by Aurora Rey

coverI listened to this audio novella over the course of two days of walking the doggo in the midst of winter, and the setting of a heat-soaked New Orleans was like a balm of relief, frankly. Once again, Lori Prince performs wonderfully, and her voice acting for the various characters left me never in doubt over who was speaking, as well as shifting in tone with the emotionality of the moment in a realistic, immersive way.

Narratively, Lead Counsel is a second-chance romance, a boss romance, and a dash of antagonism-to-lovers (not quite enemies) all rolled up into a novella-length piece that flowed wonderfully. Elisa had an almost-fling with Parker when they were in law school, where Parker was a year ahead of her, but the morning after their make-out session, Parker was suddenly aloof and Elisa was left shut out and burned. Fast-forward to Elisa’s firm bringing in a heavy-hitter to lead on a new case, and in walks Parker—who specifically requested Elisa for the team.

When it comes to novella-length romance, I love low-angst so very much. Rey is a master of putting just enough between the romantic leads to make them not have a clear path without even a hint of contrivance. Elisa isn’t furious with Parker, she’s a grown woman and it’s been years and she hasn’t pined away or anything. And Parker doesn’t remember things quite the same way. Professionalism and gun-shyness from a previous encounter are more than enough, and make the eventual arrival at a happy ending feel like a genuine payoff.

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