Third Time Lucky
Do you feel lucky when you get more than you expect? If so, I strongly recommend this book. It has everything: romance, humor, great characters, mystery, and family secrets. I rarely laugh out loud while reading, not when I’m supposed to anyway, but this gave my smile muscles a good workout while engaging my brain.
Phillipa Coxwell hasn’t seen Nick, her high school crush, since she was 17. She comes home one night to find him on her doorstep, and he’s in trouble. He discovered the body of his estranged grandmother, stabbed with the stiletto he gave her, and before you could say 911, he heard police sirens, panicked, and fled the scene. Phillipa doesn’t need this kind of trouble in her life, and her instincts tell her he will disappoint her again, but Nick is hot, and Phillipa is a softie.
Nick is persona non grata in town, for many reasons, but Phillipa has always stood by him. Back in the old days he saw her as a friend, but now he’s awakening to her many charms. Smitten as he is, though, he’s a commitmentphobe who doesn’t plan to stick around permanently, especially if he’s a wanted man.
Nick is the best hero I’ve encountered this year. He’s a beta with a spine, proof that sensitivity and strength are not mutually exclusive. Phillipa is a smart, compassionate heroine with a strong sense of self. There are many colorful supporting characters; my favorite is Elaine, Phillipa’s streetwise business partner.
Other things are going on, too. There’s the mysterious disappearance of the grandmother’s corpse, Nick’s conflict with his no-good brother Sean, and Phillipa’s relationship with her critical alcoholic mother, just to name a few. These all take a backseat to the love story, but nothing gets shortchanged. It all blends together wonderfully.
For all its charms, the book is not without its flaws. One is the abrupt monsoon of conflict resolution at the end that fixes everything within 10 pages, even things that have been festering for years. This is jarring after the otherwise excellent pacing up to this point. Another is Phillipa’s problem with food. She lost a lot of weight with hard work and discipline, and she gained an unhealthy and irrational attitude in the process. Lord knows, I tried to ignore it, but it is a huge part of the book. In a moment meant to be touching, Nick fixes her a cup of hot chocolate with skim milk and Equal. I’m sad to say this is a common attitude among women, but we don’t need to glorify it.
Quibbles aside, there is a lot of fun to be had here. The writing is snappy and refreshing and the story kept its charm without becoming corny. This was my first Claire Cross and I plan to pick her up again when I need a good laugh.