The One That Got Away
I’ve seen numerous raves online for the Mills & Boon Modern Heat/Riva line, and when I heard about KISS at RWA last summer, I got excited because I thought this line might be something similar. If Kelly Hunter’s The One that Got Away is anything to go by, this line might be the perfect fix for readers who want their contemporaries to seem, well, contemporary. No 2010s heroines with 80s hairstyles or descriptions of heroines wearing lots of “slacks” or pantyhose here – I felt like I was actually in 2013 reading this deliciously hot reunion romance.
I know some folks skip prologues, but don’t skip this one because it’s just right for this story. We see a young couple in the midst of an intensely passionate interlude. It’s the perfect example of understatement as the author describes very little and yet there’s something incredibly hot about it.
From there, we go on to meet Evie. She’s an engineer, and partner in a building firm. Though the conversation between Evie and her business partner feels entirely natural, we learn a few critical facts in the early pages of the book. Evie and her architect partner are on the verge of something big for their business. On the romantic side of things, Evie doesn’t date too seriously; there is apparently a mysterious man in her past that no other guy she’s spent time with can quite measure up to. Not surprisingly, mystery man soon comes onto the scene.
He turns out to be Logan Black, a successful businessman and the half-brother of Evie’s business partner. Given that things were obviously going so right between Evie and Logan in the prologue, one has to wonder what changed that. It takes a bit of dancing around the subject, but we eventually get there and while I won’t spoil the story by spilling the source of the conflict, I’ll just say it’s pretty dark stuff. Yet even with the darkness of their past between them, the chemistry between Logan and Evie is intense. One get the distinct feeling of unfinished business between these two from the moment Logan appears.
At first Logan wants nothing to do with Evie because his memories of what happened between them stir up all kinds of old issues of shame for him. However, the old attraction is patently there, and with it is Evie’s realization that Logan is not as horrible as he thinks he is – and her knowledge that she is a stronger person than she was all those years ago with him. With that strength comes an understanding of her own boundaries, and Evie tells Logan she wants a week with him. Who knows where it might go from there?
In this case, the book’s cover couldn’t be more misleading. The picture on the front of The One That Got Away makes it looks like an innocuous, light romantic comedy, and while there are some bits of humor here and there, nothing could be further from the truth. This story is in fact a rather complex, subtly written tale of a deeply tortured man learning to forgive himself and more importantly, how to give and accept love. There’s a dark, angsty quality to it that made reading irresistible. Also irresistible was the fact that the adult characters in this book act like adults. The main characters have to make both business and personal decisions, and like most mature people, they take these seriously. And then there’s the serious business of character growth. Logan especially has to grow and change over the course of the story for any kind of romance to work, and it’s a well-written character arc for the most part.
While much of the relationship development between Evie and Logan worked quite well, I did have a few quibbles. Given the intensely sexual nature of what happened between these two in the past, this is one of the few stories where I find myself saying that the author needed to let the reader come a little further into the bedroom. We’re told numerous times throughout the text that Evie and Logan have had some intense and hot adventures together over the course of the story, but in many cases, we’re told rather than shown. There are certainly sex scenes in this book, but at times during Evie and Logan’s week together, we just hear about “a blur of easy smiles and sweat-soaked nights,” and find ourselves left to wonder what has started to develop emotionally between these two. Reading glossed-over bits like this makes a reader feel as if she is seeing only part of the bond that developed between the leads because there are some things that readers are asked to accept from the telling rather than having them shown.
Even so, Kelly Hunter delivers an intense and riveting story to kick off the new KISS line. Hunter has written other strong books, but this one goes somewhere dark and deep in its exploration of character. Logan and Evie both make sense as people, and the emotional journey to HEA for these two makes marvelous reading. If you like your romance dark and passionate, look past the sunshine and balloons on the cover, and just dive into this book.