It's a bit of a bummer to kick off this month with a book that I did not particularly enjoy, but what can you do? I chose this because I was craving contemporary romance with a small town setting, and that's precisely what this is.
The book opens with our super broody hero, Gabe, who's pretty sure he wants to kill himself. Naturally, though, he's stopped in the nick of time by a dog, who subsequently gets caught in a bear trap, which prompts Gabe to take him to a vet. Enter Nic, our heroine for this book. She heals the dog and, you know, Gabe's wounded soul.
Let me open up with the things that this book has going for it. The town, Eternity Springs, is predictably quite charming. It's residents are sweet, quirky people with interesting pasts--exactly the kind of thing to build a series on.
I actually liked Gabe at first. I like damaged heroes. He even has a good reason for being damaged. His wife and son died in a car accident, and he can't get past the grief. And also, he used to be a spy and a prisoner of war or something. Yeah, the spy thing is a little odd. Nonetheless, I was very much in his corner at the start of the story and well into it.
So, this is the point where, in order to talk about the things in this book that I did not like, I have to get spoilery. Very spoilery. So stop right here, future readers of this book.
The real problems in this book start when, on Christmas eve, Nic and Gabe have awkward sad people sex. Awkward, sad sex that ends with too many tears and not enough orgasms. But okay, you know what, awkward sex happens sometimes. That's an acceptable conflict to introduce. Just...oh God, please don't make it a pregnancy plot. Please.
So, Gabe flees town for awhile to do spy things with his buddy Jack. (Or something. Seriously, not sure what's up with all of that.) When he comes back, it's to a distraught Nic who has taken five pregnancy tests that came up very positive. Now, I usually mildly dislike pregnancy as a plot point--it's just not my favorite trope. But it doesn't necessarily kill the book for me, so I grudgingly pressed on.
Gabe's initial reaction to the pregnancy is panic, and it's understandable--he did bury a son. But then he proposes. Yeah. He asks Nic to enter into a marriage with him for the sake of their child--like it's 1956 instead of 2011. She agrees, sort of thinking to herself that he might come around and love her in time, and that it really would be the best thing for her baby. Later she overhears a conversation in which he says, and I paraphrase here--"No, of course I don't love her, of course I don't want to get married, I'm doing it because I have to."
And she still goes through with it.
At this point in the story I had a small but dramatic breakdown where I shook my book and I yelled a bit. My cat fled in terror. I guess I don't like marriages of convenience in my contemporary romance. I learned that from this book.
And then it got worse.
Gabe turns out to be an Ass-hat, capital A, serious douchebag, 100% bag of dicks. I know I said I like damaged heroes, but this guy is in another league, fucking up dramatically and being generally unlikeable. Nic doesn't help the situation, since she's a doormat and depressed and all caught up in her pregnancy. She does eventually leave him, but it seemed like too little too late for me. As did the grovel that ultimately lead to the make-up and happy ending. His apology consists mainly of, "I'm not afraid to love our children anymore, and isn't it cool that we're going to be parents?" Again, this entire relationship is held together entirely by the pregnancy, and I have little faith in it. A hollow happy ending.
Oddly, though, I'm not totally soured on the series. I like the authors voice, and I actually think she writes decent character. I won't know for sure until I've tried more of her work. This book, though, I can't recommend. The good parts were fine, but the bad parts were beyond the tolerable level of frustration. 2.5 stars.