Blind Date Bet
It’s been a while since I’ve read a romance based on a blind date so when I saw the synopsis for Nicole Flockton’s Blind Date Bet, the first story in her Man’s Best Friend series, I was intrigued. It’s about a widowed teacher whose dad sets her up on a blind date – and it’s a bust. And yet, there is enough curiosity there for the couple to try, and try again. How they overcome their issues and make their way to a real life happy ending is captured in a thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable romance that I’m happy to recommend to all of those who believe in second chances.
Isabella Knowles doesn’t think much of the clearly militarily enthused (and okay, very handsome) man shepherding mall patrons out after a bomb scare. So when she ends up with the same guy on a blind date arranged by her dad, she’s not impressed and upon learning that he’s active military, she calls it off before the coffee is even cold. Upon reflection, and a discussion with her best friend, not to mention the fact that this guy is really cute, she contacts him with an apology and an overture to give it another go.
Ethan Masters is intrigued by Isabella despite their rocky start. As a dedicated career military man, his job is everything, enough so that he’s put plans for a wife and kids on hold while moving up the ladder. He has a special attachment to his dog Sam who serves with him on his K9 unit, and he’s up for re-enlistment and a possible promotion. Clearly Isabella is interested in him, yet she has reservations and until he can figure out what those are, they are destined to keep their dating on a superficial level. As they get to know each other, they find that their attraction is leading them into something deeper. But can Isabella trust Ethan enough to let him into her heart?
The obstacles facing this couple are clear. Isabella’s experience with the military has not been good. Her father was a career officer and her mother left them when Isabella was a teenager. She relied on the kindness of military families to get her through while her dad was away on active duty, and eventually she married a soldier who died on a training exercise. She’s has a strained relationship with her father and is definitely not thrilled that he’s set her up on a date with the type of man she’s sworn not to get involved with again. She doesn’t tell Ethan all her concerns right away, thinking that it’s best if they just don’t see each other at all. But her best friend convinces her to give him a chance, and Isabella a chance to lay the past to rest. And she can’t deny that she’s attracted to Ethan as a person, career choices notwithstanding.
Ethan comes across as a patient and kind man, willing to give Isabella the space she needs to decide whether a second or third date are on the cards for them. When she finally shares her past experiences with him, it encourages him to really take things slow, especially in terms of sexual advances. Even when Isabella expresses a willingness to take the next step together, he’s determined that she be really sure. I really respect this attitude in a hero – consent is one thing, but understanding the emotional complexities that sex can involve for a heroine, especially one with Isabella’s past make the chances of their future success much higher. Plus, you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat their pets, in this case Ethan’s service dog Sam. He brings Sam with him to Isabella’s so she can meet him, and he’s as much a partner to Ethan as a person would be.
In developing feelings for Ethan, Isabella is also forced to acknowledge that she could do more to fix the relationship with her father, who has always wanted the best for her. It’s not surprising that she’s looked at her mother’s abandonment as being partly her father’s fault, when in truth her mother was never cut out for the role of military wife, or even motherhood. Their reconciliation is slow but meaningful and goes a long way towards enabling Isabella to let go of the past and think about a future with Ethan.
There’s a lot to enjoy about this slow-burn romance. The characters feel authentic and they have to own up to their choices, sometimes requiring apologies and forgiveness. The attraction between Ethan and Isabella leads to some sexy and emotional love scenes, and their happy ending comes with a few tears, some compromises, and the belief that their relationship will be a strong and satisfying one. I’m looking forward to continuing this series.