When Claire Westbrook meets Max Benedict a.k.a. Max Conroy, she knows he is out of her league. He is unbelievably handsome and intelligent whereas she has always felt as though she didn't quite meet the standards others set out for her. After her marriage ended five years ago, Claire withdrew into a shell that no man could penetrate - until Max. Max knew the only way to draw Claire out was by first being her friend and not scaring her off by making any sexual advances. However, the more he gets to know Claire, the more he wants her and the harder it is to remain just friends. Claire has been alone for so long that she is desperate to give all the love she has inside her to someone. Max is the first man Claire has let close to her in years and he reaches all the way to her heart.
Just when Max succeeds in breaking down the wall Claire has erected around herself, his plan to take over the company she works for is put into motion and threatens to end their fragile relationship. From the beginning, Claire had a hard time believing that Max could be attracted to a woman like her and when she discovers he was behind the scheme to buy out her boss' company, she assumes that now that Max has gotten what he wanted, his interest in her will end. Claire has never been more wrong. Max doesn't know the concept of giving up and he's never wanted a woman more than Claire. However, he has hurt her badly and it will take a lot for him to gain back the trust he lost and for Claire to let her defenses down again. Max has been trained to ruthlessly gain control of large corporations but he is in for the fight of his life to win Claire back.
Claire is someone most women can relate to - she isn't overwhelmingly beautiful (she actually wears makeup!) or successful and she has insecurities just like the rest of us. Her insecurities did seem a bit extreme at times and almost caused her from finding happiness, but her overall characteristics were very realistic and sensible.
Linda Howard fans will remember Max from SARAH'S CHILD as the likable competition Rome faced for Sarah. Max is gorgeous and strong, but is also kind and protective. Even though I had a hard time believing he could be as na´ve as to think Claire would just forgive him for his deceit and continue their relationship as before, it was easy to overlook given the fact that he never had to fight for a woman - usually they all just threw themselves at Max's feet and were grateful for any attention he bestowed upon them.
Almost Forever differs from some of Linda Howard's more recent books from the aspect that the main focus of the book was devoted to the relationship between Max and Claire, without a lot of adventure and suspense thrown in. Depending on your preferences, this may or may not be a good thing. I, for one, found it delightful to see the content focused on Max and Claire's growing love; and evidence of it between the main characters develops without just an unconvincing declaration of such at the end. Another difference that set Almost Forever apart from Howard's later works is that the sex scenes, while hot, were a bit more toned down from what we have seen from her recently.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Almost Forever and read it in just one day, I found the plot to be nothing out of the ordinary. The storyline didn't have any major conflicts despite the obvious one regarding the corporate takeover; I never, at any time, doubted about the outcome. However, if you were looking for a light, quick read, I would recommend giving Almost Forever your time.