In Your Dreams
I am really a big fan of Kristan Higgins. I believe that I have read every book she has written and therefore I was really looking forward to her latest in the Blue Heron series set in Manningsport wine country. As per usual, her descriptions are wonderful, the dialogue is witty, but it was the story that just fell a little flat for me.
Emmaline Neal needs a date. Her ex-fiance is getting married to a drill sergeant type fitness guru and she feels pressured to attend the wedding. She doesn’t want to show up and have people pity her for losing her boyfriend since the eighth grade to a woman with a sculpted body but a heart as hard as marble. Enter Jack Holland, all-around good guy and the man most likely to accompany desperate women to events ranging from the prom to high school and college reunions. When his sister Faith asks him to be Emmaline’s date, Jack immediately agrees to go.
Jack Holland needs a distraction. Several weeks ago he became the town hero when he rescued four teenagers who plunged into the icy waters after speeding along a windy road. Three of those teenagers escaped with no injuries. But because of hypothermia threatening to set in, Jack was unable to get to the fourth teenager ensuing in the teen’s brain damage. His distraught parents blame Jack for not getting to him sooner and Jack blames himself. Ever since his mother died in a car wreck when he was a child, he has been practicing to become a hero. He went into the Navy SEALS and learned underwater rescue. He is certified in CPR. He has played over and over in his mind different scenarios of life threatening situations so that he will be ready when the time comes and when it does come; he does what he has trained to do. Unfortunately, it is not enough. He is experiencing symptoms of PTSD and he cannot go anywhere in their small town without someone reminding him of his daring rescue. On top of that, his ex-wife Hadley is back in town and wanting a reconciliation. The chance to get away with policewoman and “fellow” hockey player Emmaline Neal is just what he needs.
The book actually starts out very well and with a pretty big bang. The story was going along and retaining my interest until Higgins starts in on the ex-fiancé and ex-wife. Emmaline Neal was a stutterer as a child growing up in Malibu, the city of perfect people. She bonded with Kevin Bates, the new kid on the block in the eighth grade through their respective flaws – her speech impediment and his weight problem. Several months before they were to be married, Kevin starts a diet and exercise program to lose that weight and falls in love with his fitness coach. Emmaline is devastated and moves to her grandmother’s house in Manningsport. We do not just get the abridged version of Emmaline and Kevin’s relationship – we get the expanded version complete with footnotes. While the wedding was supposed to be the time that Emmaline and Jack bond for the first time (and they do), more time was spent on Kevin and Emmaline’s failed engagement than on her burgeoning relationship with Jack.
Then we get to Jack’s story of his relationship with southern belle Hadley Boudreaux. Again, we get the unabridged edition of this relationship and what a relationship it is! Not everyone will react to this portion of the story as I did, but as a southern woman I cringed through most of the stereotypical descriptions of Hadley, the southern belle. I am not sure a single southern cliché was left out of her characterization. I felt like the reader was being beaten over the head with the fact that she was southern and despite a couple of sentences to ameliorate it, her “southerness” was definitely presented as a negative characteristic. I could not help but be slightly offended. Hadley was a spoiled brat because she was a spoiled brat, not because she was southern. And the “other woman” in Emmaline’s past is as much of a cliché as was Hadley. Over the top characters are fine in many instances, but in this book I think they were used to extremes.
But my main problem with the book is the lack of development between the hero and heroine. I really liked both characters, but their personalities were brought out in relation to other people instead of each other. There just was not enough screen time with them together to suit me. They were friends, friends with benefits and then BAM! – desperately in love. With a page count of nearly 500 pages, the ending was rushed. I just wish that Higgins had dumped the majority of the backstory with Hadley and Kevin and focused more on the main characters.
If you don’t mind clichés and over the top characters overshadowing the main event, you might love this book. But I was just disappointed.