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Helen Brenna

REVIEW:  Along Came a Husband by Helen Brenna

REVIEW: Along Came a Husband by Helen Brenna

Along Came a HusbandDear Ms. Brenna:

Sometimes the hardest reviews to write are the ones about books that are totally competent yet somehow failed to reach me as a reader and this is one of those reviews. The writing was competent.   There was a sense of urgency that kept the story moving.   The core of the book centered around reunited lovers with a dash of marriage in trouble – both tropes that I dearly love.   The characters had reasonable justifications for their actions but I guess, in the end, I found them fairly emotionally immature and not ready for a life together.

Missy Charms runs a gift shop on Mirabelle Island.   One stormy night she opens her door to find a man with a gunshot wound.   He turns out to be her supposedly dead husband, Jonas Abel.   Jonas and Missy met and married quickly and then repented nearly every day thereafter. Jonas, an FBI agent, spent most of his waking time working and spent very little time with Missy.   Missy felt abandoned and sought to fill the gap by working outside the home. Jonas had a deep seeded insecurity about providing for Missy and her job hunting fed that insecurity. At a very low point in her life, Missy needed Jonas and he was working and so she decided to leave him.

Jonas took the rejection hard and agreed to go deep undercover for the FBI, faking his death and disappearing for four years only to show up wounded at Missy’s home in Mirabelle. Together again, Jonas and Missy begin to question their separation and the fact that in the four year absence neither has found another to love.

The characters are thoughtfully developed. Their actions in keeping with the identities created for them, yet, the images that they both projected were those who were very childish. Jonas is surprised that Missy mourned him.   I found this rather incredible because even if you divorce it doesn’t mean you don’t care for that person anymore.   Jonas acted quite precipitously in faking his own death and completely removing himself from Missy’s life.

Unfortunately, his cover is blown and his life is in danger and he’s not sure who to trust. His superiors at the FBI might be dirty and Jonas flees to one place where he thinks no one can find him.

Part of Jonas’ insecurity was based on the fact that Missy lied to him when they met and kept a fairly significant fact of her past from him until only shortly before their marriage. There were real and serious issues that separated Jonas and Missy and I thought you did a great job of conveying those. I was less convinced that either Jonas or Missy had learned or grown from their mistakes. There really wasn’t any internal recognition of what went wrong in their marriage. Rather than being insightful, Missy and Jonas both had to be told by someone else what was wrong with their marriage. It seemed like a deux ex machina, in fact. I would have liked to see Missy or Jonas recognize in their time apart what had gone wrong with their marriage and how to fix it.

I guess in the end, I found Jonas and Missy quite juveline in their actions at the end of the book marked the beginning of their maturation rather than the end of it.   Jonas just started to awaken that perhaps it was his own self esteem issues and neanderthal mindset that contributed to Missy’s unhappiness. Missy began to realize that her selfishness had inflicted quite a bit of hurt on those around her. Yet even when faced with a few home truths, neither Jonas nor Missy really did anything with that knowledge. And by that I mean, that I didn’t feel like either of them learned anything until the end, nothing in the four tyears that separated them and I didn’t have confidence that this was a couple that would be able to hold it together during a crisis.

The ending wraps everything up neatly with all the previous issues swept aside as if both Jonas and Missy had suddenly become adults yet I never saw the process only the end result. I felt like you did a great job showing the flaws in the characters but I didn’t feel like they learned or grew. C+

Best regards,

Jane

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Dear Author

REVIEW: Next Comes Love by Helen Brenna

Dear Ms. Brenna:

1009-9780373715947-bigwI will confess that I don’t often venture into the Harlequin Superromance line. The covers are littered with babies and well, those tiny faces frighten me. This book, thankfully, was baby less although a child did play a fairly important role in the story. I think what surprised me most was that this was a very nice, short romantic suspense.

Erica Corelli is a chef in a Chicago restaurant who receives a disturbing message from her sister to take Jason, her sister’s six year old boy to some place safe. Erica drops everything and heads north to Mirabelle Island. Mirabelle is the site of the best three days of Erica’s childhood and she thinks that this will be a safe place to hide out with her nephew. Erica and Jason pretend to be mother and son until Erica can find out what is going. She suspects that her brother-in-law, Billy Samson, is abusing his family and this is the reason for her sister’s frantic voice mail message.

Erica recognizes she’ll likely lose her job, leaving without notice, and she’s used up about the last of her personal resources in getting to Mirabelle Island without leaving a trace behind. She manages to obtain a job as a waitress at a Mirabelle restauarant/bar as well as quarters for her and Jason above the bar. She’s hopeful that this move is only temporary and that in a week she’ll be back in the southside of Chicago where she belongs.

Garrett Taylor is the new Mirabelle Chief of Police. He left Chicago after an incident which took him over the line of legal. He suspects that his past experience as an abused child and his easy morality when it comes to executing his official duties would make him a bad husband and even worse father. He has come to Mirabelle with the idea that here in this tiny hamlet, one that is physically untethered to the rest of the country, he can redefine himself. Garrett is troubled by his attraction to Erica, clearly a bad girl who has more secrets than is good. As Erica perceptively points out “You think if you stay here long enough," she whispered, "this place, these people will clean you off. Don’t you? All I do is remind you that it’s not going to be that easy.”

The story is propelled by both the suspense plot as Jason’s disappearance starts to hit the airwaves and more people become aware that Erica and Jason aren’t who they present themselves to be and the romance plot as Garrett struggles with acceptance of his brutal past and Erica learns to trust someone other than herself.

The town of Mirabelle plays an important role in this story because they enfold Erica and Jason in their embrace as the days become weeks and they await word from Jason’s mother. But word never comes. Instead, the specter of Billy finding them grows stronger. While they wait, though, Erica helps redo the bar menu and update the look of the bar to make it more appealing to tourists. It’s kind of heartbreaking to read about Erica making out recipe cards for her new dishes so she doesn’t leave Lynn, the restaurant owner, in a spot. Erica never once thinks about staying while everyone around her is making plans to have her be a permanent part of Mirabelle.

I was surprised at the sensitivity of these characters and the well done suspense. B

Best regards,

Jane

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