Nick's Kind of Woman
I came across Margot Early’s name in an online recommendation of her book The Keeper, a very unique category romance dealing with mental illness. As soon as I had finished that one, I went hunting for its sequel, Nick’s Kind of Woman. I wasn’t expecting that much, since the plot seemed to be much more category-romance-ish: unrequited love, hurt-almost-to-the-point-of-utter-despair hero…. But to my great pleasure, I found that Early made a wonderfully satisfying read with these cliché ingredients.
Day Sutter is a woman in love with the impossible. She’s been Nick Colter’s in mind, body, and soul since she was in high school and he was a runaway foster kid living in caves by the river. Nick is now the co-owner of Rapid Riggers River and Jeep Expeditions, and Day sees him every day, but it is not enough. Day wants to see him every night and all the moments in between night and day and day and night.
But Nick will not commit to her. He loves her, always has – she knows this. But he’s still a wild thing, an unsettled man who pushes his body until he doesn’t have to think anymore, until he doesn’t have to remember the sister he had to leave behind and doesn’t have to remember what came before that. Nick also has a big secret, and he knows that if Day ever found out, she would lose all respect for him. And he doesn’t want to trap her into a permanent relationship with an unworthy man; himself. But their business partnership demands that they deal with each other, and so Day makes a resolution to become Nick’s kind of woman in six months or resign herself to a life without love and perhaps the loss of her business.
This story worked for me in a number of different ways. First of all, it’s a romance of opposites attracting. Day is a fairly girly heroine. She sews, she acts in community plays, she dresses immaculately with a great deal of attention to detail. Nick is the camp-overnight-in-a-gulch type, the “no mountain is too tall, no night is too cold, no exertion is too much” kind of guy. Day has to force herself to exercise in order to do the kinds of things he lives to do. She quits smoking. She starts riding her bike to work. She attempts various sporting activities. She forces herself to raft the river she’s been afraid of for a decade. And in doing so, she makes an admirable character arc. She discovers for herself what she is capable of and what she isn’t. And she learns to set boundaries on what she is willing to do for Nick.
Nick also makes some nice growth. When we were introduced to him in The Keeper he seemed a rather straightforward sort – hot, hunky, capable. But he’s got a lot of crevices in her personality, and some of them are pretty deep and dark. Early doesn’t tell everything about him right away, and learning about his past, and what he thinks about it and himself, made my throat ache progressively more. This guy is Tortured with a capital T. He could give Samuel Gerard from The Shadow and the Star a run for his money. There are plenty of tortured heroes in romance, but rarely have I seen an author convey the gut-wrenching self-loathing so convincingly as Early does here. Nick has a long way to go and some serious work to do to get beyond that.
Nick’s big secret isn’t a romance-novel-y Big Secret. It really is something the average person would try their darndest to hide. His concerns are not foolish, and his dilemma is both tangible and psychological. It was interesting to see how he tried to make things right again for his own sake and Day’s. The best thing about this book was how real the characters seem in their thoughts and in their feelings. Both Nick and Day had to maneuver around their perceptions of self and other, and they both had to determine if either of these were valid or achievable perceptions. Because of their long and volatile history, it isn’t surprising that learning how to live and love each other in a good way would be difficult; they’ve both been saving face for so long.
Nick’s Kind of Woman was a very memorable story, the kind I can see myself reading over and over again. One of the things that I love about romance is seeing characters redeemed and taken back into the fold by loving hands. There’s something so hopeful about that, and this book is full of that lovely virtue and its steadfast two companions – faith and love. I highly recommend it.