Dear Ms. Gerard:
I skipped over this book initially because the cover was so different than previous Gerard stories except for the reprint of old category titles. Later I saw JenniferRNN mention on Twitter how angsty it was and I trotted over to check it out.
The premise of the story promises a heart wrenching tale. Jess Albert’s husband was killed in action four years ago. Tyler Brown, a former special-ops soldier, comes to her small northern Minnesota town chasing down a connection that Ty believed existed between he and Jess when they had met 18 months earlier.
Jess and Ty begin to fall in love when Jess is informed that her husband, J.R., is still alive. He’s been held in captivity for years and has no memories. When the news reaches Jess, her plans with Ty fall by the side. She now has a husband that doesn’t know her and a lover who is not her husband. The blurb kind of gives away the resolution to the story so I’m not spoiling anything if I say that there is a fourth woman, Rabia, who cared for J.R. during his captivity. A romance reader isn’t going to have to work hard to figure out how this all unwinds.
Ty has a reason that drives him back to Jess after 18 months of silence. The reason makes a lot of sense but what happened in those intervening 18 months bothered me like a grain of sand at the ball of my foot. It made Ty out to be a little flighty, his affections too easily set and then displaced. And the ease at which the two fall into bed and then into love together was almost too quick. A boat ride and then a dinner and that was about all it took.
As with all Gerard books there are plenty of little details that give authenticity to the story. Ty talks and acts like a military man with wartime experience and Jess is the widow who is ready to set aside her grief for a new love.
Despite the set up, the storytelling came off disjointed. Just when you were settling in to appreciate the emotional movement in the romance between Jess and Ty, you’d get jerked out to spend a few chapters on JR and Rabia. There were two stories being told at once and while they were tangentially related, they didn’t flow well with each other. And because the characters having these relationships are actually married to each other even if one believes the other is dead and the other cannot remember his married, there’s a certain awkwardness for me when I was reading.
Around the 200 page mark, however, the angst set in and so did the action and the book ended on a high note. Jess and JR weren’t a perfect couple before his death and the distance between them and his captivity had irrevocably changed both of them. It was an interesting meditation (and could have gone farther) on the changing foundations of love. In many ways it challenges the first and only soul mate concept that is so prevalent in the genre. I just wish we had taken a slightly shorter route getting there (which is, I acknowledge, in contradiction to how I was discomfited by how quickly Ty and Jess fell in love).
This is Gerard’s jump to hardcover. It’s easy for me to say I’d read this because I got a free copy. I’m a fan of the series and I’m not so sure I’d have made the jump to hardcover with her. The book delivers a solid romance with action and humor but every reader’s budget is tight these days. B-