I couldn’t resist the premise of this book. The heroine is 33, back home in small town Texas for her cousin’s wedding, and stuffed into a bubblegum pink bridesmaid dress. The hero shows up as her date and “rescues her” from all the “Aren’t you married yet?” questions. Romance ensues. Some of it (the heroine) absolutely worked for me. Some of it (the hero) didn’t.
Sadie Hollowell left Lovett, Texas right after graduation and hasn’t bothered to come back much since. She was a “late in life” child whose mother died when Sadie was five and her dad has always been emotionally distant. Her dad owns a cattle ranch that has been in the family for generations, but Sadie has never seen ranching as her future. Instead, she bounced around from city to city, and currently sells real estate in Phoenix. When she comes home for her cousin’s wedding she knows everyone in town will a) ask why she isn’t married and b) talk about what an ungrateful daughter she is.
Sadie meets Vince Haven when his truck is stalled on the side of the road. She gives him a ride into town, and when he asks what he can do to return the favor, she asks him to come as her date to the wedding. Vince initially refuses, but ends up attending, rescuing Sadie, and giving her a hell of an orgasm in the bride’s room. Those who’ve read Gibson’s last book, Any Man of Mine, will know Vince already. He’s the brother of that story’s heroine and a retired navy SEAL. Since his retirement, he’s been buying businesses, fixing them up, and selling them. He doesn’t “do” relationships. He’s in town because his aunt Luraleen wants to sell him her Gas n’ Go.
Sadie intends to leave town right after the wedding, but her dad in injured in an accident and hospitalized. She knows she’ll be in Lovett for a couple of months at least – so it seems natural to hook up with Vince and explore their mutual attraction. Vince is up front about his inability/unwillingness to have an actual relationship, and initially that fits with Sadie’s plans too. Sexy friends with benefits…yay! They embark on a sex-only relationship, but both of them are dealing with rather serious matters in their private lives. Sadie has her father’s injury to contend with, as well as all her feelings about Lovett and small town life. Vince rather obviously suffers from PTSD, but won’t admit that he suffers from PTSD. He also has family issues to confront. His sister Autumn is getting married in a couple of months, to a guy Vince thinks is a jerk. Even though neither Vince nor Sadie intends for their relationship to get personal, it gets personal. They find out they like each other. Vince finds himself making time for Sadie and missing her when she’s not around. Can this commitment-phobic guy actually be ready to tie himself down?
Well, at the end of the book, he says he is. I wasn’t so sure about that, and therein lies my problem with the book. I couldn’t quite shake my feeling that Vince was just a self-absorbed asshole. Twenty-five year old guys who aren’t quite ready to settle down, I understand. Thirty-six year old men who don’t “do” relationships? Who’ve never progressed beyond a one-night stand? That just sounds selfish and immature to me. I struggled with my own feelings about this. Was I just being judgmental? Was I like the denizens of small town Lovett, wondering why everyone over the age of eighteen wasn’t eager to pair up, pop out a couple of kids, and start living the American Dream? After thinking about it, I feel most comfortable saying that in real life I don’t feel like everyone needs a relationship – or marriage, or children – to feel complete. But in a romance novel, it’s different. They’re about relationships, and I just don’t have patience for heroes who don’t “do” them.
That said, I truly liked everything else about the book. It’s funny. The dialogue sparkles. The sex scenes really sizzle.
I also enjoyed the way small town Lovett was portrayed. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of small towns or small town romance in general. Usually that’s because the plot revolves around a heroine who couldn’t wait to leave, makes a huge splash in New York, Chicago, San Francisco [insert other large city here], then goes home to marry the sheriff and find out that – shucks! – life in Deep Silver Gully Gulch Bramble Bush was just what she wanted all along. Gibson writes small towns better; she shows the ups and downs, and doesn’t make it sound like anyone who enjoys life in a metro-area is just plain crazy. There are quite a few “Bless your hearts” and other down-home phrases, but I found that kind of fun.
Vince aside, I also loved the characters – particularly Sadie. It’s easy to relate to her musings about life, marriage (or the lack thereof), sex, and relationships. Especially adept is the portrayal of Sadie’s rocky relationship with her ailing father. Her feelings about her father and her small town upbringing humanize her. It’s easy to understand, sympathize, and relate to her.
On balance, I’d marginally recommend this one. If the hero didn’t quite do it for me, well, at least everything else did.