Review’s first appearance was on Goodreads.
Really… 3.5 stars.
*Full Disclosure: While this is an honest review, I am friends with the author.*
The premise: Julian Fursey, writer with a day job, is coming back from a writer’s convention when she rescues 2 guys from a car wreck: Drake Salvatore, a Marine, and Amerigo, his little brother. She thinks that’s it–good Samaritan deed done–but the Salvatore family has other plans. Especially Drake, who can’t stop thinking about or checking up on her. So when a stalker starts harassing Julian, Drake feels it’s his duty to protect her. But will he be able to keep her from falling into the stalker’s trap?
The story: What I love about this novel is the story. This dual POV romance is a page turner that I devoured mostly in one day, and when I got near the end, I kept bookmarking because I wanted to savor the ending. The characters feel very real, even if the circumstances may be a little surrealistic (TV drama) at times. I love Hannah’s excitement and advice as Julian’s BFF! I can almost hear my BFF’s voice through Hannah’s words. Ward doesn’t bog us down with the insecurities of Drake and Julian when she could have–and like other authors do in this genre–and that’s a delight. Julian is a curvy girl who likes to eat, and is unapologetic about it. And while she’s unsure if Drake is seeing her out of duty or because he has feelings for her, Julian doesn’t seem hung up on WHY he would stick around. (There’s no annoying questions like: will my curves turn him off? what will he think of my body? does he think I’m pretty?) She does have moments, but they don’t go on annoyingly for several paragraphs.
Genre: This is a sweet romance, which means no gratuitous sex scenes. And there are religious (we assume Protestant Christianity) references from characters that make you think that’s the reason. However, these people have been around–both Julian and Drake are divorcees–and there is making out. I wanted to be annoyed with the tameness (I like my romances a little hotter), but I can’t be. For one thing, I love that Drake is not a reformed man-whore. So many romances, no matter the heat level, write the woman as virginal and pining and the man as a man-whore and settling. Not here. Drake is a guy who’s had his heart broken, been around the block, and maybe in a dry spell sexually. Julian is abstaining from sex because that’s what she wants to do at this point in her life. It’s a spiritual decision, not a sexual one. She has hormones like everyone else. I love that about this couple. And though I’m not the biggest fan of a sweet-level romance, this is a great example of how one should be done IMO.
Sweet but not so sweet? One thing I noticed that’s different in other novels of this subgenre is the level of violence. The scenes involving the stalker, particularly toward the end, seem more violent for something labeled “sweet” romance. In the grand scheme of everything, it’s probably 10:00 PM-cop drama-level violence, so the violence itself is not really an issue. It’s just that this is not as tame as you may think.
Writing: So why not 4 or 5 stars? Well, there are some detail mistakes and some writing errors. As a writer, I’m probably more sensitive to some of the writing errors than the average reader. A few of the detail issues may stick out to anyone. Drake calls Julia a nickname a couple of times early in the story, but near the end when Drake uses the name fondly, Julian says that was the first time he’d ever called her that nickname. When Julian and Drake first go out on a real date, and he describes how she looks, he lists the clothes she has on. Most guys would talk about how good she looks in the clothes. They wouldn’t be “she wore a pencil skirt”–most straight guys wouldn’t know what that is. There’s some weird confusion when they plan a date near p. 90 (Saturday v. Friday). Something doesn’t read right there.
And in general, the book is very plot-heavy, and sometimes you actually miss description: scene setting details, sounds, tastes, smells. Julian loves food and coffee, but we don’t get to enjoy that vicariously through her because there are no descriptions of the smells of her favorite coffee shop or the tastes of her favorite meal. I think with some more description/showing in places, this would elevate the plot and engage the reader even further.
Overall: This is an entertaining romance, with humor and a touch of mystery. Its subtitle is “A Biggest Small Town Ever novel”, so I am looking forward to the next in what I assume is a series of these books.