Those readers who love romances with sweet, vulnerable heroines and sweet, handsome heroes will love Catherine Anderson’s latest novel. While the ending is a real page-turner, the first half of the book drags so much you might not even get there. But hang in, because it’s worth it.
Marilee Nelson loved Joe Lakota all her life. Joe loved Marilee all his life, but when she suddenly ended their engagement in college, he moved on, became a professional football player, and married another woman. Now that he’s divorced and his football career is over, he’s taking his son and moving home where the woman he never stopped loving still lives. Joe is determined to win her back, and Marilee’s determined to stay away from him. When Joe’s custody of his son is threatened, he needs a wife. Fast. And Marilee’s his logical candidate.
The first half of the book presents major problems. Joe claims to still love Marilee, but there’s not really any evidence of it. He keeps saying it and pursues it, but it’s all based on the past. The reader never sees why the relationship was so wonderful, much less evidence that these two are still in love with each other. I like the hero and heroine to have a prior relationship in shorter, series books because there’s little time to build it up. In a book of this length, though I hate this device, even a flashback or two would have been nice.
Marilee is one of those heroines who’s too sweet for words. She’s kind, gentle, religious, and good with children. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say, but it’s not terribly interesting. Marilee hides a terrible secret, one that she’s never told anyone else, and it is the root of some major issues for her. It has a major effect on why she stays away from Joe, who figures it out amazingly quickly and decides to try to help her.
Joe is also quite sweet and kind, but he can be very protective when he needs to be. He’s a wonderful father to Zachary, a little boy with some big problems. The boy’s treatment by his mother and stepfather was awful and will make readers cringe. Joe’s also a considerate but persistent suitor to Marilee, and his efforts to help her are loving.
Joe and Marilee have a sweet relationship, but there’s not much heat to it. There is a lot of caring and friendship as well as parenting, which is often the way things work in real life. Still, the chemistry necessary to make a romance zing was lacking. Even so, Joe is entirely heroic as he helps Marilee deal with her trauma.
While I found the first half of the book to be monotonous, the second half more than made up for it. Marilee’s secret was even more horrifying than I’d thought. Once she goes into therapy and the reader gets the details of her secret, it just gets worse, and her behavior makes more sense. Her secret also creates some suspense as some of the others involved in her past still live in nearby. A murder and false arrest send things into overdrive and make the end exciting.
While Marilee’s problems were dealt with too light a hand once she went into therapy, the author’s decision to do so was likely best. Unfortunately, as author Anderson tends to do, things are tied up a little too conveniently – remember Baby Love? Overall, though, this story will appeal to lovers of sweet romances and those who like to see the author deal with deeper issues.