I admit it: I grew up in small town Indiana. And though I worried the author would take the cliched route and portray Sweetheart, Indiana as a peaceful, quaint heaven-on-earth, she surprised me. Simmons’ portrayal of this small town was quite realistic and well done. Unfortunately, however, there are other problems with the book that keep it from ultimately being much better than average.
Gillian Charles grew up with the best of everything – trips around the world, the most expensive clothing, and loving grandparents who gave her whatever she wanted. When her grandfather dies, Gillian believes she is totally alone in the world until she finds out that she has inherited a town. Big city woman that she is, Gillian has no desire to live in or own the small town of Sweetheart, Indiana. That, though, is just what she’ll have to do if she wants to obey her grandfather’s last wishes and inherit the place since he requested that she live in the town for six months. On the day she arrives she meets handsome Sam Law. Gillian has no desire to start a relationship – especially with a small-town man – but she cannot seem to stop her growing attraction for Sam.
Sam realized early on that the big city life was not for him. Shallow, rich women and an unwillingness to compromise made Sam hightail it back to Sweetheart, despite the promise of a successful career in New York. Sam now has his own law practice at home, but just when he thinks he has gotten away from it all, he ends up working for Gillian. She is just the kind of woman he never wanted to see again and he assumes the worst about her. Still, he cannot seem to stay away from Gillian and when someone starts leaving threatening messages on her doorstep, Sam is the only one who can protect her.
Sam doesn¹t want to like Gillian and Gillian doesn’t want to like Sweetheart. After all, when Gillian’s time is up, she will leave both Sam and Sweetheart behind. But soon enough the two find themselves questioning their preconceived notions and both are surprised by the depth of their attraction for each other. But even more surprising is the fact that someone in Sweetheart is out to get Gillian. She refuses to call the police, leaving only Sam to protect her. But can Sam protect Gillian, or will he be too late in the end?
As much as I liked Gillian as a character, I found it hard to believe that she would be so nice and down to earth. You can argue all you want, but someone who has that much money, who has had everything handed to her from the beginning, would never be so incredibly and amazingly sweet, naïve, and innocent. Sam, too, is a likable character, but he was nevertheless rather annoying in his persistent dislike of Gillian when she does nothing to deserve the opinion. I felt as if the author was trying too hard to place tension between the two characters. Additionally, there was no real, concrete reason for the villain to go after Gillian, causing the whole suspense factor to seem rather forced. Simmons could have easily written an amusing book about a rich girl fitting into a small town without adding the unnecessary suspense plotline.
By far the worst part of the book was the lackluster ending. Just when I sat up and took notice, the suspenseful plotline, well, ended. I was left thinking, “Is that it?” But not only was I disappointed in the quick ending, the unmasking of the villain had me laughing out loud – and it wasn’t supposed to be humorous. The villain is uncovered in a Scooby Doo moment, complete with the ripping off of a mask to find out Who The Villain Really Is. The only thing missing in this scene was the presence of Shaggy.
Even though the ending was rather pathetic, the characters are likable and the portrayal of the small town of Sweetheart is rather well done. The town isn’t written as a perfect haven, but as a rather true-to-life small town populated not by one dimensional do-gooders, but by people who are caring and people who aren’t. Ultimately, Sweetheart, Indiana is a book easy enough to read in order to pass the time, and that’s about the best that can be said for it.