Dear Ms. Spencer:
Haven is your debut work and I have been excited to read it since I first heard of it back when we ran our first ebook contest. I didn’t know what to expect and did not read the excerpts purposely. I like to be surprised when I read a book. While I thought that parts of the book lagged (which I think is a common debut author issue), overall Haven is a cozy romance that harkens back to a time when romance writers wrote romances, not paranormals, suspense, erotica.
Hildy McAllister has just blown up her career by accusing the department chair of sexual harassment and plagarism. She seeks refuge in a cabin which was bequeathed to her and her sister by their deceased father. When she arrives at the cabin, she wants nothing more than to go inside and sleep for days. Instead she finds a nearly naked man in there.
Jim Curry is a local schoolteacher whose mother’s cabin is a short distance away. He’s fallen for the area and is hoping to convince Hildy to sell it to him. Disrupting her refuge isn’t the best way to get on her good side, but he seems to accept without much protest that she is not going to be selling. what is recognizable is an instant attraction between Hildy and Jim.
Jim would like to have an affair with Hildy. He’s not so sure that he wants anything more than that and is very up front about it. Hildy isn’t sure about anything at this point. She’s at a loss at what to do with her career. She fears that her ex boyfriend, harasser, will do something malicious. Her sister, Irene shows up with her own issues.
The main problem I had with this book was that it was full of too many other people with problems other than the main protagonists. These people were not involved in some secondary romance thread and their issues seemed to have nothing to do with the advancement of the romance. Jim’s sister, Deb, was somewhat of an agoraphobic but she was very good friends with Jim’s ex. Hildy’s father abandoned his family but Jim’s family thought the world of him. Irene had marital problems. All of these elements pressed in on the developing relationship between Jim and Hildy but none seemed to contribute to conflicts between Jim and Hildy. I didn’t find them to be interesting external conflicts either. Instead, those elements distracted me and made me wonder why they were included.
The good thing is that this book reminded me of what I have missed in romance and that is a traditional character driven story featuring two people who are a) human and b) not a member of some enforcement division, finding each other and growing to love each other. Frankly, it was a welcome respite after a spate of erotic romances. I liked the understated characters who thought about the repercussions of their actions and I liked the laidback, sort of relaxed voice that permeated the story. B-.