Just One Kiss
Susan Mallery has been writing about the residents of Fool’s Gold for quite some time. While I have not read all of them, I have read quite a few and did enjoy them. This book is a decent read, but I think Ms. Mallery should take a break from this series and come back to it later. Her latest seemed a little forced to me and did not flow as well as some of the other books in the series.
Patience McGraw and Justice Garrett met when they were teenagers. They quickly became best friends and just as 14-year-old Patience has discovered her feelings have turned into something more, Justice disappears off the face of her world. Four years later, Patience finds herself pregnant and she gets married to the baby’s father because she is expecting a child. Needless to say, that does not work out and Patience becomes a single mother, just as her mother was a single mother to her. Her husband leaves and gives up any parental rights to their daughter Lillie. For fifteen years she has lived with her mother who has multiple sclerosis in a household that did not include any male influence. The issue of male abandonment is something that permeates the story.
Justice Garrett is a tormented man. Fifteen years ago he came to Fool’s Gold as part of the Witness Protection Program after he turned his abusive and criminal father in to the police. His father swore vengeance and in order to protect his life after he escapes from prison, the FBI placed Justice with an agent in Fool’s Gold. Justice developed feelings for Patience, but although she thought he was 16, he was actually four years older at the time, so he knew she was too young for him to pursue. When authorities spot Justice’s father near Fool’s Gold, Justice is quickly removed from his home in Fool’s Gold. A few years later, Justice’s father dies in a prison fire, but Justice can never quite shake the feeling his father is still out there lurking. He never forgot Patience McGraw and when a business opportunity in Fool’s Gold arises, he decides to reacquaint himself with his teenage love.
The backdrop of the reuniting of Patience and Justice is a financial legacy Patience receives from a great-aunt that will allow her to pursue her dream of opening a coffee shop. The first meeting between the two is amicable and they both discover the spark is still there after fifteen years. Justice wants to get involved, but he has convinced himself that his “blood is bad” and that he might be capable of hurting people like his father. Patience is equally reticent having lived through both the abandonment by her father and her husband. I think the risk she takes in opening a business is sort of an allegory for convincing her to take risks in her personal life as well.
There were a couple of problems with this book that took the grade down a few notches for me and both seem to be centered around trying too hard to make a point. Justice’s self-assertions that his blood is tainted are just over the top. We hear about it ad nauseum and coming from an intelligent and self-aware man, it also a bit unbelievable. The other irritating thing for me in the book was the constant characterization of Fool’s Gold as a sort of happiness Mecca. We are constantly reading about how wonderful everyone is in Fool’s Gold, and how neighbors always help neighbors, etc. It read more like a travel brochure for Utopia than the description of a real town.
While the forced issues do detract from the story, they do not ruin it. This book does stand alone and will not require reading other books in the series. Just One Kiss is a decent summer read and if you can overlook the parts that are just a little beyond belief, I think readers will enjoy the rest of the story.