Into the Storm
After having a chance to speak with several Harlequin Heartwarming authors at RWA last year, I’ve been curious to try some of the books in this line. There have been discussions in Rom-land, both online and off, about the market for non-inspy books with a lower sensuality rating. There’s definitely room in the market for books of all sensuality levels, and I’ll be curious to try more from Heartwarming. However, Into the Storm just didn’t work when it came to capturing my interest.
The book opens as Colorado widower Jake Cameron is watching his grown sons compete on the bull-riding circuit. I had high hopes for the story as the brief opening chapter provided a window into Jake’s pride in his sons, his worry for his family, and also the loneliness of life without his wife. Things pick up as Jake finds himself injured when his truck runs off the road in the snow. Luckily, traveling horse trainer Shelby Doucette, en route to a job, comes across him and is able to help. Since her own car is now broken down, Shelby accepts Jake’s offer of a ride once his truck is back on the road.
That ride soon turns into something more. When Shelby ends up having to leave her training job following sexual advances from the ranch owner’s son, Jake steps in to rescue her, providing work and a place to live in an isolated cabin on his property. It’s obvious to pretty much everyone in the book that Shelby is running from something, but it’s equally obvious that it will take a lot of time before she would ever trust anyone with her secrets. Likewise, Jake misses his wife desperately and struggles with keeping the family going alone, but he also can’t deny feeling very attracted to Shelby.
Into the Storm could have been a very poignant story. However, the emotional potential of the storyline never feels fully realized and what we do get ends up being somewhat marred by unnecessary melodrama at the end. The writing often felt choppy and ameteurish, with lots of telling and not enough showing. In addition, the dialogue is sometimes so simplistic that I sometimes felt a little patronized. Maybe people in rural Colorado really do talk this way, but I’ve never heard a character say “Girl” to a female character so many times in my life.
On the positive side, the bull riding portions of the story provide interesting background. I know next to nothing about that world, and so I found the scenes where Shelby and Jake attend competitions kind of fascinating. Also, even though Shelby and especially Jake often feel flat as characters, Jake’s sons seemed a bit more interesting. If they get their own books, I might have to try one.
Into the Storm isn’t a terrible read, but with clunky writing and characters who aren’t the strongest, I did find it slow going. As a reading experience, Shelby and Jake’s story ends up being just a little bit too ordinary. The lack of explicit sex scenes didn’t hurt the novel at all, but the sensuality level didn’t do much to help it either. I can’t recommend this particular book, but I’ll definitely try more from the Heartwarming line.