I’ve long enjoyed romantic suspense, and I have to say that Finding Jordie is one of the more unusual books that I’ve read lately. The execution gets a little rough in places and there’s a pretty severe case of Kitchen Sink Syndrome kicking in by the end, but the worldbuilding captured my imagination and I found myself getting sucked in nevertheless.
Jordie got married soon after high school, had a baby, and then lost her husband to the war in the Middle East. Recognizing the need to provide for herself and her daughter, Jordie returned home to New York City where she opened a bar. Her child is now 9 years old, and Jordie’s bar is popular enough to provide her a secure living, albeit one that requires long hours. While outside smoking one night, Jordie meets Nathan. His flirting catches her attention, but she doesn’t think anything of it at first. After all, hundreds of people pass in and out of the bar. However, she and Nathan cross paths again and even though their first meetings are fraught with awkwardness, a relationship begins to develop between the two.
At first, Jordie fears that her being a mother – and several years older – will cause problems, but Nathan seems more than happy to meet these challenges head on. Soon after they begin getting serious, though, it becomes obvious that Nathan has been keeping a huge secret from Jordie. Without spoiling the surprise, I’ll just say it’s something big and that when it comes out, it will end up changing how Jordie and her daughter Emma live their lives. The scenes where Nathan’s secret gets out were some of the high points of the book, as we see the couple forced to confront not only the facts but also the issue of Nathan keeping these things from Jordie. However, they move through this conflict like mature adults and work out a way to stay together even as circumstances require them to spend a whole lot more time and energy focusing on their safety as well as possible threats to Jordie’s daughter.
As the secrets come out and the plot switches into a more high action mode, the readers gets lulled into thinking that the relationship building that follows will cover the rest of the novel. However, there are some more suspenseful surprises to follow, including revelations from Jordie’s past. And in a way that is something of a shame. Some of the plot twists later in the book are creative and make things interesting, but as weird event piles on top of weird event, I have to say that the last several chapters of the book felt like kitchen sink plotting at its worst. The story developed quite nicely up until that point and the extra twists really weren’t needed.
On the more positive side, Jordie, Nathan and their world are all pretty entertaining. Jordie and her best friend repeat their inside jokes and stupid slang expressions so often that it gets really old (really, really old), but otherwise Jordie seems believable as an intelligent, blue-collar business owner. I also liked the little touches that showed her to be a loving mother. Thankfully we don’t get lots of speeches about motherly love in this book, but we see Jordie being cautious at first about exposing her daughter to her romantic relationships, making sure her daughter has arrangements in place that make her feel as safe and “normal” as possible, and so on.
While he starts to seem a little too perfect in the second half of the book, Nathan is also quite likable. His reasons for keeping his secrets at first seem believable, and he just comes off as a considerate and decent guy. He’s definitely not what I would call an alpha hero, but he’s not riddled with insecurity either. He’s one of the few heroes I’ve encountered who can be confident without coming off like he has to rule the world. His backstory is certainly not the most normal, so I found it refreshing that he came off like a somewhat everyday person in spite of that.
With some of the annoying dialogue quirks and ridiculous kitchen sink plotting in the second half of the book, Finding Jordie is far from perfect. However, it’s very different from most of the romantic suspense I read and I did enjoy this book just enough to give it a conditional recommendation. Stylistically, it could use a little more polishing, but it’s certainly not a bad or forgettable debut.