The White Star series promised twists and turns and red-hot romance, but for the most part it has failed to deliver. April’s Into Temptation by Jeanie London was the exception, a great read that raised my hopes that the series would start to pick up steam. Instead, Shannon Hollis’s Full Circle is a return to form. Only the beginning and end have much to do with the overall storyline. In between is a decent, if low-key, romance between a charming hero and an annoying heroine.
I admit the premise, along with a gripping opening scene, got my hopes up when I really should have known better. Archaeologist Daniel Burke is known as “the real Indiana Jones.” Sounds cool, right? With the release of his new book Lost Treasures of the World: Adventures in Archaeology, he has become a media sensation, earning some adoring fans along the way. One person who definitely isn’t a fan is Cate Wells, a professor at a New York university who met Daniel on a dig in Mexico when they were both college students. Back then, they were close, until her feelings for him became so overwhelming she left the dig to escape them. Now she thinks he’s nothing more than a glory hog and a poor scholar, even though she can’t stop thinking about what might have happened between them if she hadn’t chickened out.
Then she receives a visit from an antique dealer who recently found an unusual wooden box in a dresser she purchased for her shop. Cate immediately determines the box is over two thousand years old, but she knows something like this is in Daniel’s field of expertise, not her own. She flies to a conference in California where he’s speaking, not only to get his opinion on the box, but to scratch an itch she’s had for eight long years. Daniel hasn’t forgotten her either, and it isn’t long before they’re making up for lost time.
The weakest aspect of the story is Cate. She’s the too-typical uptight, wishy washy, sexually repressed heroine who’s scared of her own feelings. Her reaction to the backstory made little sense to me. When we meet her, she thinks about how Daniel never contacted her after Mexico and how she was “hurt when no call or letter had ever come.” But why on earth would she think he would call her? She’s the one who left the country to get away from him without a word of explanation, which seems like a clear signal she didn’t want anything to do with him. If Cate had been the least bit interested in talking to him, it seemed like she should have been the one to get the ball rolling long ago, especially since she’s the one who owes him an explanation. But then, the beginning finds Daniel ruefully thinking how “he’d chased her out of his life long ago.” All he did was share a few kisses with a woman who gave every appearance of sharing his feelings. How was that chasing her out of his life?
In any case, I didn’t understand why Cate seemed so bitter toward him, growing angry when she sees him giving a TV interview. She spends much of the first half of the book being rude to Daniel and jumping to wrongful conclusions about the kind of man he is. It’s especially annoying since he’s nothing but nice to her, which just made her seem incredibly petty. It felt like she was projecting her own inadequacies on him to make him the bad guy rather than confront her own failures. I liked the genuinely good Daniel a lot, so it was tiresome watching her being so rude and judgmental toward him.
It’s a shame, because the rest of the story isn’t bad. As with most of the books in this series, it’s not a particularly exciting read. It’s more of a quiet, character-driven piece. There’s not much external plot and not a lot happens for long stretches. It mainly focuses on Daniel and Cate spending time together and getting to know each other again. While somewhat slow at times, it mostly works because the author has a smooth, engaging storytelling style, Daniel is likable, and Cate eventually stops being so annoying. They generate some believable chemistry. A mild suspense element pops up in the final third, but even then, the story remains rooted in the characters. While not exactly a gripping read, it’s a nice, easy one. It builds to an especially good climax, with a strong ending. In the end I actually considered giving it a mild recommendation, and might have had I had more affection for the heroine.
For those following the series, this one doesn’t do much with the overarching plot. The mysterious box is used as a plot device to get the characters together again, then is largely forgotten until the end when Cate reports her findings to the woman who discovered it. The final chapter focuses entirely on this woman, setting up the next book, where she looks to be the heroine. I doubt anyone who skips this one will be missing much in the overall scheme of things. The series concludes next month with Destiny’s Hand by Lori Wilde. After wandering aimlessly for most of the previous five books, here’s hoping it at least wraps up with a strong finale.