Desert Isle Keeper
Blended families are tough, especially in romance. When the kids are perfect, the books are too sweet. When they are impossible, you wonder why the two primaries are bothering anyway. But what if they are adults? Is the family still blended if the “kids” being spoken of are all grown up?
In the case of Hal Legend and Gwen Wells the answer is most emphatically yes. Hal meets Gwen at a social function and is drawn as much to her practicality as to her beauty. The two go through a whirlwind courtship and begin to plan for a family wedding. Those plans quickly get derailed as Hal’s grown children find themselves unable to work around soccer schedules, gymnastics meets, and the general hustle bustle of their lives. The two families decide it is best if Hal and Gwen get married and everyone meet at the Legend families Minnesota lake cabin and spend a month bonding in the summer sun.
When the newly formed family meets, the drama that has been brewing throughout the start of the story slowly makes its way up to the surface. Phoebe, Hal’s eldest daughter, is still deeply grieving for her mother. Will she be able to handle having someone new in her place? Holly, Gwen’s daughter, is a high powered New York attorney who wonders whether she will be able to handle a month under primitive conditions. Amy, Hal’s youngest, is an Olympic gold medal skater currently working hard in Colorado on her professional career. A sweet girl, she has always been the outsider in her family of intellectuals. Can she stand an extended period of time with the family that has always treated her as an afterthought? And Jack, Gwen’s ever-active son, can he withstand a month of near inactivity and incessant temptation? For the minute he sees Amy he knows what he wants but he is equally certain he shouldn’t have it.
This family drama with its double romance is easily one of my favorite romances of all time. Seidel is unequalled in her ability to create compelling, understandable, likable characters in just a few strokes of her pen. She does that here with consummate skill, painting a picture of each character that stays with you long after you put the book down. Amy and Jack are especially well done. I would not have thought that skating legend Amy would be an easy character to relate to, but she is. We get to know Amy from the inside out, and that makes her more than just her unique job; it turns her into a sister and daughter with whom most of us can empathize. She is also a strong, determined career woman, and seeing her balance that with her role as family member and potential lover to Jack is wonderful.
At their first meeting Amy describes Jack wonderfully. He is the kind of man who gets things done, who is easy going and a pleasure to be around, but almost impossible to know because he hides behind all that activity. With Amy, Jack slowly begins to open up. Both have known what it is like to disappoint a parent, both are people who are more likely to “do” than simply “say.” Both are very close to their families but also travel for their jobs, which places them a bit outside of the standard dynamic. As the two bond, we get to see their hearts mesh and a real, deep down connection form.
Jack is a near perfect hero for me. He balances being a man’s man, with all his tools, know how, and masculinity with being both a gentleman and kind soul. He is very aware of how a relationship with Amy can affect the new family his mom is forming and is conscientious about that at every turn. If he had been many romance heroes, with their raging lusts, he would have destroyed this tender love story – and he most assuredly wouldn’t have fit with classy Amy. But being who he is, he made this story that much more endearing and made himslef a hero that much more worth cheering.
I really liked the older romance too. Gwen and Hal have a good, solid relationship because they are good, solid people. The story of their courtship is beautiful and insightful, just a really nice enjoyable tale to read.
Seidel is a master at having people fall in love while having full lives. Such is the case here. Jack and Amy are not loners. They have strong family ties, friends, and careers. The dance they do to work out their lives, to balance it with everything else they have going, really highlihts their strengths as a couple and reinforces the certainty of their HEA. It’s not that they will soar into the future with no problems; it’s that they are very adept at handling trouble and making it work for them. It is clear Amy’s career will have to be primary for awhile. In many romances this wouldn’t work, but it really, really does here because of how strong both characters are.
This is one of the few romances I could write a ten page paper on, telling anyone who would listen just how great it is. It transcends trends and standard operating procedures to bring you a wonderful tale of family and love. Its only flaw is that it is so rich, Amy and Jack are perhaps a tad less highlighted than in many romances. It works because the author is so skilled at her craft she tells a compelling love story even in the moments they are apart. This is a perfect summer read, capturing that amazing feeling that only time off in the sun can bring. I heartily recommend this to all fans of tender love stories.