The Return Of Luke McGuire

Grade : B+

The bad boy is a staple of the romance novel. We readers love a black leather clad, motorcycle riding, dangerous, handsome-as-sin, swaggering bad boy – especially when he is paired with a sweet, quiet, shy, good girl. Yes, we’ve met both these characters many times before, but in The Return of Luke McGuire, Justine Davis surrounds them with fantastic supporting characters and places them in a fast moving and touching story. The result is one of the best bad boy books I have ever read and another addition to Justine Davis’s list of wonderful series romances. 

Luke McGuire was the result of a one night stand his teenage mother, Jackie, had with a charming bad boy Irishman. Her mother forced Jackie to keep the baby as punishment for her sin. Jackie refused to even name the baby boy (the nurses had to do that) and treated him with indifference and emotional cruelty. She later married and had another son, but continued to treat abuse Luke.

Luke reacted by going wild, first in small ways, then with larger acts of rebellion. He did his best to live down to his reputation until he finally left town, and “good riddance” said his mother and the people of Santiago Beach. Now he’s back in town in response to some anguished letters from his half-brother David. David’s father has recently died, and Jackie is cold as ice – refusing to mourn and refusing to acknowledge David’s grief. The only adult who seems to be able to talk to David is Amelia Blair, the owner of a bookstore. Amelia does her best to reach out to David but he is fast falling under the influence of a local gang of punks.

I was very much drawn to Amelia. She is quiet and shy, bookish and reserved, but she has a hidden passionate streak that longs for adventure and excitement. Amelia came to live in Santiago Beach after Luke had left it, and where the townspeople see only a troublemaker, Amelia sees a man who is trying to help his troubled brother. So what if he has longish hair? So what if he drives a Harley? So what if he wears black leather? It is clear to Amelia that Luke’s Wild One outer shell hides a decent, caring man (and her passionate core is drawn to the wild and free man that Luke represents.)

Luke was a bad boy, and not a mischievous, cute Peck’s Bad Boy either, Luke was a genuine delinquent. He committed misdemeanors galore, plus a few felonies for which he has served time. I was so impressed by Luke’s maturity. Yes, his mother’s treatment of him was abominable. No, that does not excuse his actions. He was the one who chose to break the law and he is the one who has accepted the consequences. Through the influence of a caring policeman and a man who runs a river rafting business, Luke has found his niche in society. His wildness is tested against a river and not his fellow man. Luke has arrived at genuine self-knowledge.

Their mutual worry for David brings Luke and Amelia together at first, but an attraction between them soon develops. Justine Davis excels at showing how these two people who are seemingly polar opposites have more in common than is apparent. Luke is outwardly wild, but responsible at his core, while Amelia is outwardly respectable yet has a passionate center. They are so well suited for each other. As is the case with Davis’s books, the love scenes in this one are hot and tender and a logical outgrowth of the feelings Amelia and Luke have for each other.

I have to mention David. What a wonderful portrait of a troubled teenager! All his actions, reactions and thoughts rang true. I had such a vivid picture of him in my mind’s eye I could head his voice as I read the book. Jackie too, is a vivid and disturbing character. The one small fly in the ointment is how every character in the book with the exception of Amelia believed the worst about Luke. But given that Santiago Beach is a very small town – I could understand why they thought so.

No matter, I highly recommend this book. Justine Davis has become one of my favorite authors in the series field. I read The Return of Luke McGuire lost in the spell that only a few writers in the series field can cast. Justine Davis, you are a true magician!

Ellen Micheletti

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