Dear Ms. Higgins:
Ok, I admit it, any book that begins with a strong heroine almost getting to use her Taser automatically has an edge with me. Add in the fact that the female protagonist is in law enforcement, is a firm believer in the use and abuse of common sense, and loves dogs? I’m hooked. I’m right there with you. It’s all the best parts of contemporary romance wrapped up in a neat little package.
Emmaline Neal is a small town girl living and working as a deputy in the tiny New York hamlet where she spent her high school – and happiest years. Jack Holland is a multi-generational vintner and has always been the town’s golden boy, but that reputation skyrockets when he saves some of the town’s teen boys from drowning in a freezing lake on a cold winter’s night. For years, they’ve orbited each other, moving in the same social circle, but never moving together. Well, until Em gets the invitation for her former fiance’s wedding.
Em needs a date – fast. And Jack wants out of the limelight – and away from the ex-wife from hell. It’s a match made in heaven – right?
With wit and some surprising passion, you managed to make me fall in love with both characters. Not only did I want to BE Em, I wanted to hug her. I wanted to beat her ex about the head and shoulders with his own stupidity (though, to say that he got what was coming to him is putting it SO mildly. I somehow got the sneaking suspicion that you’re not a Jillian Michaels fan). I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that you let us into Em’s head and let us feel right along with both her and Jack as they took their literal and metaphorical journeys.
And that brings me to the part of the book that absolutely blew me away and made me fall in love with your writing all over again. When you took me deep into Jack’s psyche and introduced me to the ghosts that haunted this gorgeous, intelligent, amazing man – I broke, just a little. You handled his psychological journey with compassion and an amazing amount of wisdom. The fact that Jack was able to save all but one of the boys (though that one was still alive, just in a coma) made what he did seem more realistic. Anyone in the first responder field – from law enforcement to EMS to firefighters – has learned the hardest lesson of all: Not everyone will come out of a traumatic event and make a quick recovery. And the second hardest lesson is that every time a first responder works a traumatic call, they leave a little piece of themselves behind. I’ve found that some romance authors have a difficult time with balancing an accurate portrayal of human response to crisis situations with the romantic storyline. You handled this with such poise and dignity, I wanted to grab a hundred copies of the book and hand them out to everyone I know, yelling “THIS! Someone did it right!”
Now, lest you think everything is 100% positive… I have to take just a couple points off for The Bitter Betrayed Book Club and Em’s wishy-washiness. While I love the idea of the Bitter Betrayeds, the ladies came across as a little too stereotypical, a little too bitter and just a touch too…much overall. And Em, while generally strong, really seemed to struggle a little too much over her fiance’s defection. Of course, the way he did it, I’m not surprised she had issues. But she just seemed too waffle-ish for me, especially about her appearance. Some might say she had good reason, but on the other hand, at some point, a woman just has to suck it up and love herself for who she is.
Overall? I loved the book. The wedding from hell was…wow. I’ve heard of destination and theme weddings before, but forcing guests to stay at an all-vegan, all-healthy, super-high-energy-workout resort? Well, let’s just say that Dante called. He’s adding another circle just for the resorts where Snickers bars make the staff go into Richard Simmons’ paroxysms of panic. A-
Still Shuddering over the Brown Rice Cake with Prunes,