REVIEW: Can’t Stand the Heat? by Margaret Watson
Dear Ms. Watson,
Picking “Can’t Stand the Heat?” to try was sort of like a cold call for me. I had nothing to go on, I’d never tried any of your other books – though that will change now, and the blurb:
“Just the sight of Walker Barnes in her kitchen is enough to panic Jen Summers. Those feelings she once had that seemed like cold ashes for so many years are turning out to be hot, hot coals. Walker’s sudden appearance is fanning all sorts of flames. Her guilt, her shame, her deep regret for what she’d done to him.
But this isn’t the awkward geek she’d hurt back in high school. This is a brand-new Walker-‘hardened, wickedly successful, brilliant, confident…sexy. And he hasn’t forgotten how she used him. Or forgiven her. In fact, he seems bent on payback. Of all the times to fall for a guy… ”
made me think of heroines who love to wallow in (what often turns out to be needless) guilt. I’m not usually one for needless guilt but when it began to seem like Jen Summers truly did have some repenting to do and that Walker Barnes wasn’t stuck in some time warp that hadn’t allowed him to move on – hate it when that happens, too – I kept reading past my initial coolness towards the main characters.
Past mistakes really have come home to roost here and no one is escaping from them. Plus they had major consequences then – Tony lost his baseball scholarship went to the minors, hurt his arm and lost his chance at a pro-baseball career. Jen cheated on her steady boyfriend, felt she had also hurt Walker because he got kicked out of school and lost his scholarship, while she got pregnant and had to deal with early marriage and raising Nick without Tony there much of the time due to Tony’s road games. And now she finds out what Walker had to endure from his father and being forced to work on the fishing boat which he hated.
As I said, I started the book not really liking either main character and yet liking them at the same time which is a real testament to your writing and character inventing abilities. When reading sections from Jen’s POV, I agreed with Jen’s assessment of Walker as a bastard for forcing the paternity test and contriving ways to be around her and Nick. On the other hand, I love that Walker hates what he’s doing since his hand was sort of forced by Jen who couldn’t bear to face the guilt induced from what she’d done. Thank you so much for turning the standard romance “secret baby plot” around since Jen really has had no doubt about who Nick’s father is since her baby was born. There’s no guilty hiding of any paternity here – she has honestly thought him to be Tony’s son.
Jen is a good mother, used to her growing boys starting to not need her as much, ready to lay down the law, ready to back them up and try to keep them from harm or hurting. She’s also wise to most of the tricks and calls Walker on playing the power game he did when he tried to work with Nick to sort out Nick’s friends’ problems. And the instant connection between long lost relatives? Ha! Love that you turn this Romance fable on its head and how Walker feels initially lost in dealing with Nick even before any results from the paternity test. At same time, he’s still unsure of what to do with a son and then wonders if this is really what he wants/needs. Kudos that he sees Nick as a child and not a toy or commodity to use to get revenge on Jen.
Nick is such a teenager. His parents breathe and he’s embarrassed by them yet he can still show pride in his mother by praising her cooking to Walker at the wedding and later praising her for pursuing her restaurant dream. He also cares for his friends and tries to help Stevie out – though this bit of the plot sort of gets lost and fades out. Another fade out is Walker making the villain of his newest and anticipated computer game look like Jen – though it did lead to Jen’s public fessing up. It’s brilliant that Tony isn’t a complete jerk and does love his sons. Even if he doesn’t understand Nick and gaming, he does try.
Another thing I like is that neither Jen nor Walker are swept with lust at first sight of each other after all those years. In fact they can barely tolerate each other and if Walker hadn’t caught sight of Nick and wondered, he would have left town without trying for any revenge. And though both immediately knew each other and probably had thought of each other over the years, no one is still hung up on what happened and “had never forgotten it!”
What seals my good grade and makes this book a cut above is that everyone learns from their mistakes. Jen finally admits that she didn’t want anything to do with Walker because he reminds her of one of the worst times in her life – when she deliberately used him which lead to everything falling apart for all three of them. Jen and Tony finally talk and even though it’s too late for their marriage this is a nice change from the first husband being the ogre. And I’ve already mentioned how Walker isn’t stuck in the past. BTW, I love the name for his company – GeekBoy! The time that you build into the final resolution and care with which everyone deals with the results of the paternity test are the cherry on top. Thanks for a great read.