Desert Isle Keeper
The Broken One
Ruth Cardello impresses with the first story in her Corisi Billionaires series, The Broken One, in which a single mom meets a lonely widower dealing poorly with a very personal tragedy.
Cautious, organization-happy Heather Ellis is not having a great day. Her four year old adopted daughter Ava has lost her favorite stuffed animal during a car ride (okay, the wind ripped him out of her hands because “he wanted to hang his head out the window”, so close enough). Wolfie is so important to Ava that she’s completely inconsolable without him. Further efforts to replace him fail, which means a desperate Heather resorts to extreme measures to get him back, posting a hundred dollar reward online. The post goes viral, but no one seems to know where Wolfie is.
Fortunately for Ava and Heather, businessman Sebastian Romano happens to be in the right parking lot at the right time; he’s the one who ends up finding Wolfie. Unable to force himself to dispose of the stuffed animal due to negative memories and a compelling feeling that it belongs to someone, he holds on to Wolfie until his mother informs him of the viral post.
It’s attraction at first sight when Sebastian shows up at Heather’s door. But mutual kindness – a plate of messily-baked cookies, Sebastian helping Heather out when she catches Ava’s stomach flu – is what begins to bind them.
While Heather and Sebastian are intrigued by one another and both yearn for physical affection after years of celibacy, the past looms over their shoulders.
Sebastian’s been torturing himself for years over the death of his wife and unborn child in a car accident five years earlier. It’s closed him off emotionally and made him cold and ruthless; a corporate raider who doesn’t bother to memorize his employee’s names and hasn’t had a date or a social life in years. He’s also become a stone-cold drunk. But Heather can relate; she adopted Ava after her best friend died of an infection caught in the hospital after giving birth to her daughter.
Heather has to confront her rusty seduction skills, and has no problem telling Sebastian where to get off if he becomes overbearing in his attempt at ‘helping’ her parent Ava.
Can he possibly open himself up to trusting someone like Heather, and vice-versa? Can Sebastian learn to properly proportionalize his grief and move on with his life? And can Heather ever truly throw caution to the wind and let her hair down?
The Broken One is a surprise of a novel that gives us lovely, fully fleshed-out characters who manage to sneak up on the reader and steal their heart.
Heather is one of those single moms who works hard, tries hard – and now wants to play hard. She’s more than earned a little fun, and watching her try to understand the singles’ game after four years absence is fun.
Sebastian is one of those romance novel rarities – a husband legitimately mourning his dead wife; the kind of man who can’t stand to think of her death, but also can’t stop himself from mourning her life, and the life of their child. After hundreds of novels where previous wives and husbands have been villainized by poor plotting and instantly obliterated by the presence of the new hero or heroine, Sebastian was a breath of fresh air. There’s a graveside scene at the end of the book that’s genuinely touching.
Even with the heaviness of the plot, there’s a surprising amount of humor injected into the narrative. I liked, for instance, Heather’s saucy friend, Erica, and her dependable friend Teri, and Sebastian’s drunken conversation with Wolfie.
Sebastian and Heather have a fun, pleasing dynamic filled with erotic heat, but also filled with actual care for one another. Sebastian is so fearful of caring about another human being that he treats his employees like crap (something Heather doesn’t allow or stand for), while Heather has her own issues – abandoned by her mother and estranged from her father, she’s quick to cut others from her life. They have to work through these problems alone if they ever hope to share a life.
The book does have a few weak spots. As realistic as Heather and Sebastian’s union is, they do move from acquaintances to lovers without much of a stop to think, but many will find the breathlessness of the quick shift in their relationship exciting. Ava alternates between being a little too treacly and spot-on for a young child. And the Corisi family of the series title looms over the story but doesn’t yet touch the main character; they feature in a subplot that mainly centers on young Judy as she tries to reunite the Corisi side of the family with the Romano side. It works all right as an overarching hook for the series, but is somewhat less compelling than the rest of the story here.
But in the main, The Broken One is an excellent book about two people awkwardly stumbling their way into love and staying there. It’s worth more than a single glance – or a single read.