Almost Perfect is a rather inappropriate title for this novel. Not only is it nowhere near perfection, it’s not even acceptable. It is, in fact, cliched, poorly plotted and peopled with uninteresting and unlikable characters, especially the heroine.
Carolyn Leary is a social psychologist who, after her husband’s death, found herself poor and near bankruptcy since her husband kept many financial secrets from her. Desperate, she takes her two children and moves to the ranch owned by her late husband, determined to make a go of things. Unfortunately, a pair of bad guys, the Wannamacher brothers, want her ranch and are resorting to nasty tricks to drive Carolyn and her children away. So, when her children disappear one day, Carolyn assumes the worst. She quickly finds her children, however, in the company of mysterious stranger Pete Jackson. Though afraid of Pete at first, Carolyn quickly warms to him when she notes how good he is with her daughters. When the kids want to hire Pete to protect them from the Wannamacher brothers, Carolyn at first says no, but after a threat from the bad guys, she turns to Pete. And this is where the problems begin.
Carolyn, who worked with convicts during her career, sees a tattoo on Pete that she recognizes as one worn by men who were serving time in prison for murder. Now most people (especially a woman alone with children) would’ve kicked Pete out (and called the police to protect her from the villians), but not Carolyn. Pete seems like a good guy and he’s great with her daughters. Besides, he’s soooo sexy. He can’t be a bad guy. Apparently, she’s forgotten that murderers can be charming, handsome and good with young people. Ted Bundy, anyone?
But, it gets worse. Pete, in an effort to get to know Carolyn better, searches her home. Ever heard of just talking to her? Carolyn knows he did it, but pretends it’s no big deal and says nothing about it. And that seems to be a pattern with her. She knows something is going on, she knows Pete is hiding something, but she pretends there’s nothing going on. Pete does try to tell her about his past, but Carolyn doesn’t want to hear it and tells Pete she doesn’t care about his past. When he tells her to call the FBI and run a check on him, she decides against it just to show how much she trusts him. I kept thinking she was too busy enjoying the hot sex she’s been missing since her husband’s death.
Ultimately, as the villians play dirty and decide that violence is the answer to their problems, Pete tells Carolyn about his dark history. Without revealing any secrets, let me say it seemed both ridiculous and implausible. Secondly, Carolyn’s reaction seemed equally as ridiculous and implausible. She felt betrayed because Pete let her believe something about himself instead of telling her the truth about his past. She completely forgot (and he didn’t remind her) that he tried time and again to tell her everything, but she didn’t want to hear it. Given that, just how did he betray her? This made Caroline weak and silly and Pete foolish for putting up with such nonsense. The writer clearly needed conflict, so she created it, whether it made sense or not.
Furthermore, Pete and Carolyn’s relationship is a prime problem in this novel. There love story was simply not compelling. They lacked chemistry and didn’t know each other well enough to fall in love, much less get married. Other problems include the plot, which was flimsy and could’ve been solved with one simple phone call to the police. The author’s explanation that the authorities were too far away rang false – don’t phones reach all over the world?
And I really took issue with the writer’s decision to turn Carolyn’s previous husband from a good, loving man to a weak, secretive jerk. Do romance authors always have to make every previous relationship in a heroine’s life a bad one? Don’t people with wonderful marriages lose a spouse, then fall in love with someone new without the previous relationship being portrayed as a bad one or not as good as the new one? This is a tendency in romances that I wish would be done away with. As for Pete, he was a nice guy and interesting enough. He certainly deserved better than Carolyn.
Poor characterization and weak plotting made Almost Perfect just about impossible to get through. I only kept reading it to see if it would ever turn itself around. But, it never did. This is the first in a series and judging by this work, I can’t imagine going back for more.