Desert Isle Keeper
Flashed is a delicious, slow-burning wish fulfillment slice of romance of the highest order. Beauty and the Beast with a skosh of Cinderella, it’s comfortable yet spicy, heartbreaking yet gladdening. It will be a delicious bit of catnip for anyone who’s willing to be enchanted by its embrace.
Former soccer player, book cover model, stripper (there’s an employment history you don’t read about every day) and actor Patrick – Pat – Halloran is an action star mainly known for his physical beauty and wild party boy antics. But drunk and running from a fistfight with his brother after his birthday party, he’s involved in a three car pile-up, that partially paralyzes his brother and leaves Pat heavily scarred. Pat’s anxiety, self-loathing and PTSD have left him a shell of his former, outgoing self, trapped alone in the bedroom of his family’s Montana house and only coming face to face with his close friends and assistants.
College student and art major Magdalena – Lena – Martel is a perky nerd who talks to the Porg stuffy she has dangling from the rear-view mirror of her junker (It’s called Leia Porgana just to brace you for the awesome levels of “the grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one” we’re about to get here). Forced into poverty thanks to her stepmother’s shopaholic ways, Lena is desperate. Answering a Craigslist ad for maid service, she arrives at Patrick’s house and is informed by his best friend Scarlett that her duties will include cleaning the rapidly dilapidating place and cooking for Patrick to his exacting taste. Lena needs the money for tuition, to pay the debts racked up by her stepmother and to support her teenage half-sister, so she agrees to the terms, but cannot resist trying to communicate with gruff Pat through the closed door of his room.
Just like Belle and the Beast, they get off on the wrong foot. When Pat sees Lena, he’s struck by her beauty but is determined to close himself off from her; he belittles her but doesn’t mean to be cruel. Lena stands up for herself, pushing back and shoving him out of his comfort zone, forcing him to confront what he doesn’t like. She charms him with her perfect cooking; he seduces her over the phone (and vice versa). She comes to realize how deep his grief is, and how hard it is for him to integrate himself back into society. Through the sheer force of her personality, she starts luring him back out into the light. But when she learns the truth about the accident and Pat is asked to trust Lena, will they stay together?
Flashed is one of those books that manages to combine sexy barn-burner moments of high emotion with humor and sensitivity and family drama. It’s damn good at what it does, and it’s easy to become absorbed in its storytelling.
Lena starts out as a shade mousy, but she soon finds her footing. The book is a long process of watching her get gumption and courage and learn how to stand up for herself against the people who victimize her. She grows up and the book does a pretty good job of making her maturation into an adult realistic. Flashed is also good at embroidering her memories of her mother and childhood into the book. She’s half Latine, and the author weaves small, beautiful details about her background into the prose (Adobo!).
Patrick comes off like an alpha type, but as stormy and angry as he is, he’s filled with sadness and remorse and has a sometimes goofy sense of humor. The book’s exploration of PTSD is very good and beautifully understated, and the fact that he needs therapy and that his friends are as important to him as Lena was a wonderful twist.
Pat and Lena’s romance is hot and angsty but also laced wonderfully with humor – Pat mistaking an IUD for a WMD made me cackle; also big ups to this novel for having the hero and heroine discuss birth control on page. This is an age gap romance – she’s about ten years younger than he is, but Lena is no shrinking violet. Even better, she’s no pre-orgasmic virgin, hallelujah! Though I must add that there’s nothing sexy about the hero thinking to himself that the heroine looks innocent while sitting there covered in his ‘fluids’.
Minor character-wise, I loved Patrick’s friend Scarlett who’s done with his crap in general, and his doctor Kayli. Lena’s half-sister, Ari, feels appropriately teenager-ish, and I liked the gumption shown by Lena’s best friend Mari. And yes, all of Pat’s friends (and the heroes of the previous books) do appear as he struggles to make amends with them and reach out to apologize for his reckless ways.
The only part of Flashed I didn’t enjoy (aside from the whole ‘you’re so sexy covered in my fluids’ line) was the somewhat clichéd evil stepmom Lena has to deal with. The book doesn’t give her any depth at all, and she’s very much a cardboard villain. Sometimes relatives can just be like that, but she felt like every other wicked stepmother I’d ever read about.
Overall, Flashed weaves a lovely tale that gives you pulse-pounding love story and weaves an enchanting romantic landscape. It’s an excellent romance with spice and a ton of emotional layers, and gets a solid recommendation.
Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo
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