I had a very, very hard time deciding on a grade for this book, the second in Carly Phillips’ Serendipity series. The difference between a B- and a C+ seems huge, and while there were a lot of things I liked in the book, there were also a lot that bothered me. In the end, I just don’t think I can give it a recommendation, despite the parts I enjoyed.
Nash Barron and Kelly Moss have a mutual half-sister, though they are not themselves siblings. Tess is fourteen, and while Kelly tried to raise her, she knew she wasn’t the best guardian for her sister after their mother abandoned them. So Tess is now being raised in Serendipity, a small town in upstate New York, by Nash’s older brother and his new wife. Nash and Kelly both recognize their attraction to each other, but are hesitant to act on it for fear of disrupting Tess’s very fragile stability.
Eventually, though, the lust wins out, and Nash and Kelly attempt a relationship. However, Kelly has secrets, and Nash is notoriously rigid when it comes to honesty. So when everything Nash has believed since he was a teen turns out to be false and Kelly’s past comes back to haunt her, things get tense.
I have reviewed Carly Phillips before, several years ago, and when I went back to look at that review upon finishing Destiny, I found that my main problem with her writing back then is the same as it is now. She lacks any subtlety as a writer; everything is told explicitly and in poorly constructed sentences. I don’t read to be dazzled by lyrical sentences and brilliant diction, but I also don’t want to cringe when I read a particularly mangled or overly expositive sentence.
For the most part, though, I enjoyed the story. Nash and Kelly were both realistic characters, flaws and all, and they had good chemistry together. The side characters (and side romance, between Nash’s ex-wife and a local bartender) were all strong without overpowering the protagonists. Nash’s brothers and Tess were compelling and interesting (though I do pity Tess for having to explain to people that her brother and sister were dating each other. Regardless of the total lack of incest, I thought she should have been more grossed out by it all than she was). Both Nash and Kelly had enough stubbornness mixed with self-awareness that made their stupidity easily believable (and easily fixable). There is one exception, though, and that is Nash’s overreaction at the end when he finally learns Kelly’s secret. It was so typical of romance novels; I think the exact dialogue could be found in any one of a dozen books.
My primary problem with the book lies with the quality of the writing, and as someone who takes some pride in her ability to form a decent sentence, I just couldn’t bring myself to give this book a B grade. If you don’t care about that, you’ll probably find a lot more to enjoy in this book.