Desert Isle Keeper
Love on Her Terms
Do you avoid category romances, thinking they’re all about billionaires or sheiks? And if you learn the heroine of a category romance has a “big secret” do you roll your eyes, convinced it’s a secret baby? Then you haven’t read Jennifer Lohmann. Love on her Terms features a very real, complicated hero and heroine dealing with issues that have absolutely nothing to do with secret babies. I found myself surprised at many points, but mostly, I was completely captivated. When I finished I sighed, and then was sad; I want more of this couple, want to know what’s going to happen next in their lives. Please, Ms. Lohman, don’t let this be the last time I ever read about Levi and Mina!
I loved the opening sequence as Levi Pardo watches a new neighbor move in next door. We learn a lot about this unknown woman through Levi’s eyes. She looks ridiculously young to him, and despite her small stature, her energy almost overwhelms him. We also learn a lot about Levi as he continues to watch her out his window over the next few weeks. A widower, he continues to read both his and his wife’s horoscope. Levi is clearly irritated by his new neighbor, but can’t look away. And aside from work and some interactions with his sister and her family, he seems to be alone.
The first meeting between Mina Clements and Levi doesn’t go well. Mina likes to get to know people, and goes over to introduce herself to her next door neighbor. Levi is anything but welcoming – in fact, he barely says anything. Mina tells Levi she moved to Missoula to teach Russian, and adds that she also writes graphic novels. Levi thinks she’s excessively cheery and doesn’t want anything to do with her. He knows she felt foolish because he said almost nothing but he doesn’t care. Levi decides to look up her graphic novels online and is overwhelmed; rather than cheery and bright they’re dark and intriguing, and he wants to get to know more about her.
Almost in spite of himself, Levi begins to help Mina in little ways around her property. They’re intrigued by each other, but cautious. While Mina likes to make friends, she is careful to whom and when she reveals her biggest secret, which is that she has HIV. After she cooks dinner for Levi one night and he leans in to kiss her, she has to tell him the truth. Levi’s immediate reaction? He runs away.
Levi’s reasons for leaving Mina aren’t what we might expect. His wife suffered from depression, spent long periods of time in bed, and eventually committed suicide. He’s known as the kind of guy who sticks long past when he should, and he doesn’t know if he can be with someone again who is slowly dying (his words).
Nothing is simple or clichéd about this book. It’s a lot about the little minefields Levi and Mina encounter as they decide to pursue a relationship, try to make it work, try to make it last. They want to be together but are afraid of getting hurt. Reflecting her fears, Mina at one point thinks that hope is painful, having a way of clenching your heart and holding it hostage.
On the surface, Levi and Mina are an unlikely pairing; they’re completely different. Mina’s a talker and is often bubbly, whereas Levi’s rarely talks. Mina has a PhD and teaches at the University while Levi is a former miner turned construction worker. But through their complex, full development, Ms. Lohmann makes their pairing completely believable. I had numerous OMG moments in the early stages, as more is revealed about their backgrounds.
When I finished I immediately got online to see if I could figure out what Ms. Lohmann is writing next. Will it be set in Missoula, so that we might see Levi and Mina again? Because this is really a couple I’d like to see more of. I absolutely loved this romance, know I will read it again (okay, confession, I’ve already read it twice), and can’t wait for Ms. Lohmann’s next book.