The Art of Running in Heels
Romance, hockey, and a long running, successful series of novels by the talented Rachel Gibson. It should be a magical trifecta of my most favorite things. But it isn’t. From its ridiculous set-up, to its slightly dull and predictable conclusion, The Art of Running in Heels is just ‘meh’. I wasn’t familiar with the Chinooks series before, and I won’t be backtracking to the beginning based on this novel. Le sigh. I wanted to like this so much more than I did.
The Art of Running in Heels opens in the bedroom of John and Georgeanne Kowalsky (featured in the very first Chinook book, Simply Irresistible). Get your mind out of the gutter – there’s no lovey dovey taking place. Instead, the couple are sort of watching Gettin’ Hitched (a Bachelor/Bachelorette-esque show), talking about their daughter and the success of her doggie couture business (yes, you read that right), and discussing the Seattle Chinooks newest acquisition. John hates the show, loves his daughter, and maybe hates his new player. He is making increasingly offensive comments about the women on the show when he spots a familiar face: their daughter Lexie.
Sean Knox is making a trip home to see his mom in Sandspit, Canada and isn’t really looking forward to it. Growing up as the only child of a hypochondriac was difficult and he tries to avoid visiting her whenever possible. But since his uncle died – the sole reason he had a moderately happy, though solitary, childhood – he’s the only person left to take care of her. He’s at the dock ready to board a chartered floatplane, but the pilot insists on waiting for a mysterious passenger who’s scheduled to arrive at any moment. When a car pulls up at the dock, Sean can’t believe his eyes when a beautiful woman wearing five-inch stilettos and a wedding dress exits and immediately starts running for the plane. But it’s an even bigger shock when he realizes who she is. It’s Lexie, daughter of his pain-in-the-butt coach John Kowalsky. It also quickly becomes obvious that though he recognizes her, she has no idea who he is and he’s in no hurry to tell her.
Lexie Kowalsky never planned on getting married in front of millions of people, but after winning Gettin’ Hitched…she didn’t see how she could get out of it. What started out as a lark – competing on the reality dating show to drum up publicity for Yum Yum’s Closet (OMG) her doggie couture business – quickly snowballed out of control. Hyper-competitive and caught in the excitement of the show, she barely had time to process the proposal or deal with her parents bewildered disappointment before she was forced to start planning the wedding. Panic, second thoughts, and an offer from her best friend to help her escape, led her to this moment aboard a chartered floatplane destined for Sandspit, Canada, with a big, handsome stranger who clearly thinks she’s insane.
I’m usually wary of including spoilers in my reviews, but by this point, it’s obvious Lexie and Sean are destined for each other and unfortunately, though Ms. Gibson tosses in a few more obstacles to their happily ever after, the novel unfolds rather predictably. I’ll simply tell you that Lexie’s time in Sandspit – much like seemingly every other thing in her life – is marked by yet another bad (and impulsive) decision. Insta-lust with Sean turns into a one night stand (nope, she still doesn’t know who he is), and unfortunately for Lexie, the tabloids get wind of it via an anonymous tip. When she returns to Seattle she’s faced with the fallout after ditching her groom at the altar – and then the repercussions of getting caught with another man during her escape. She also discovers just who her hot hook-up is – and as payback, forces him into a pretend relationship in front of the press to keep audience sentiment in her favor.
Let me get a few things out of the way: As I’ve said, I’m new to the Chinook series and unfamiliar with its history; I’M A HUGE HOCKEY FAN; I don’t love dogs in clothing or authors who try to convince readers their heroines are smart, mature and capable, when everything they do screams the opposite. But look, Lexie is a likeable character – she’s surrounded by a family that loves and cares for her (I particularly like the relationship between her and John), she’s single-handedly created a successful and lucrative business, and she grasped that appearing on a reality TV show could and would provide free publicity for that business. However, it’s a struggle to reconcile that version of Lexie with the one who ruthlessly culls the competition simply to gain more customers, then says ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal because she got caught up in the moment, and hooks up with a virtual stranger while on the run after ditching her groom at the altar. Or, that as the daughter of an NHL hockey coach – surrounded by hockey players her whole life – she fails to recognize Sean Lennox, even as she casually tells him who her father is and that he sort of hates his new star player. Um. Okay?
Sean is your stereotypical athlete/hero with a bit of a twist. He’s a good guy but his mother’s hypochondria has adversely affected his ability to form friendships and romantic relationships and he keeps his emotions tightly reined in. He’s learned to rely on very few people and it’s difficult for him to let anyone in or to share his mother’s dysfunction. When Lexie asks him to help her out of the mess she’s made of her life and business by pretending a past between them, he does it mostly because he’s hoping for a repeat of their night in Sandspit. But Sean quickly proves himself to be stand-up guy in public and private, all the while struggling to maintain some distance from his beautiful, crazy, and impulsive fake fiancée. He’s also trying to prove himself to his new coach and soon-to-be father-in-law (who doesn’t know the relationship isn’t real). I liked him more as the story progressed, but after getting to know him via his PoV and through Lexie’s eyes, I had a hard time believing this character was all aboard the Lexie-crazy-train. He’s calm, rational and not a fan of the paparazzi spotlight; she’s impulsive, hot-tempered and owns a doggie couture shop. I like the opposites attract trope, but I wasn’t feeling it with these two.
Maybe if I’d had a built-in reservoir of good feelings about this series, I might have been more forgiving of the flaws in this story. Ms. Gibson keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, but The Art of Running in Heels is simply average. Lexie and Sean get to know each other whilst pretending to be engaged, but Lexie never stops trying to ‘spin’ events, and Sean tries to keep a level head while fake-dating a reality star with whom he’s falling in love. Got it? Yeah, me neither. I wanted to like this story so much more than I did, but unfortunately, the seventh time isn’t a charm.