Dear Ms. Tenorio:
This book features the eldest Jackman sibling, Locke. He’s held his family together after the death of his parents and raised five brothers and one sister. In the past year, all of them have moved and now Locke is alone. Many of the townspeople believe that Locke will do a runner but in reality, he is lonely. His big house is empty. His dinner time has no companions. The house is too quiet.
What Locke would really like is to bring Susie Packard home with him. He’s been watching her since she showed up in town two years ago but Susie has been resistant. While Susie has feelings for Locke, she’s also a victim of past abuse. Her conflicted emotions are wearing her down physically and the situation is not alleviated when her past starts catching up with her.
Locke is an adorable hero, all gruff and protective. He wants Susie and is willing to fight both her fears and her past to make sure they can be together. Susie has a lot of baggage and to some degree that past baggage limited the way in which she appeared in the story. In the previous book, Susie is a sassy, fearless, seemingly sexually confident woman. In this story she takes on the more traditional mien of the wounded heroine which may be expected given the circumstances but was a tiny bit disappointing. She still gets off a few priceless lines.
The story delivers a strong, caretaker alpha who wants nothing more than to marry the woman he loves and make her happy. Every action in this book by Locke is to further that end. In order to provide momentum and conflict in the story, then, Susie has to be the one to put up barriers and to fear the commitment. It’s hard to deliver on that for the reader even when we are given the details of Susie’s past. All we see is Locke being gentle, understanding, kind, and fiercely in love with Susie. And that’s a really great part of the story.
For a time there, it is hard to understand what exactly is providing the conflict in the story. Susie’s just as hot for Locke as he is for her and there are many scenes in which we get to see the physical manifestation of their mutual want. While those scenes were very sexy, I spent some time wondering where I was going emotionally in the story. Susie and Locke’s emotional issues seemed a bit too manufactured. Intellectually I understood. Locke was afraid Susie would leave him and that made him want to hold her even tighter. But given that he knew or feared that holder her tighter would cause her to flee sooner, he tried to keep his possessiveness on the down low, hoping that Susie wouldn’t awaken to the fact that he’d kept her with him until they were twenty years into their relationship.
Intellectually I understood that Susie’s past would make her wary of a man as big as Locke and as dominating as Locke but even she consistently acknowledges that Locke would never hurt her; that he’s different from every man she’s encountered in the past; that every thing about him screams steady, kind, generous. At times, I had to tell myself that there was tension even if I didn’t feel it on the page. Even the issue of Susie’s pregnancy doesn’t provide any kind of sense of uncertainty because it’s a romance book so despite her past problematic pregnancies, we all know this one will turn out just right because Locke’s sperm is magical romance hero sperm. It’s possible that danger from Susie’s past is inserted late to create suspense and danger in the place of the lack of internal emotional tension.
If you like the caretaker alpha hero and can get past the manufactured tension, this is a sweet and sexy read. In other words, read it for Locke. C+