I have nothing against the small town stories that are dominating the contemporary romance market. At one point, I actually lived in a town that would make most of those places seem like a metropolis, so I do understand something of the appeal of these locales. My experience with them has also made me a tough critic, however. I had several problems with Toni Blake’s Destiny simply because I know how hard life can be in these places.
Amy Bright is a kind, giving person. Owner of a small book store, she also has an unofficial side job as town matchmaker. She can spot the perfect man for any gal – except herself. She’s feeling more than a little of the always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride-blues as she helps her friends Tessa and Rachel prepare for their coming nuptials. But her blues are nothing compared to those of her best friend Logan’s.
Logan loves being a fire fighter right up until the afternoon that he fails to save a couple from a burning home. Since this is a small town, Logan personally knew the people who were lost to the flames. He sinks into a deep depression. He finds himself without the energy to take a shower, much less feed his dog. Enter bestest pal Amy who takes care of everything for him, using tough love to snap him out of his funk. But when he silences her mid-speech with a sizzling kiss, they both get more than they bargain for.
Amy had never thought of Logan “that way,” but after the kiss it is the only thing she thinks about. Both she and Logan try to brush it off and resume their friendship, but Amy finds herself mentally revisiting the moment again and again. Amy, who has never been lucky in love, doesn’t know how to make Logan realize that the last thing she thinks their kiss was is a mistake. She wants more. She wants Logan. But how can she go about getting him?
Too shy to take a more direct approach, Amy begins to leave sizzling love notes on his car. But a sexy newcomer to town threatens to blow all her plans out of the water. Anna is everything Amy wishes she could be – beautiful, confident, flirtatious. As Logan begins to pay more and more attention to the new girl, Amy wonders if there is any way she can get him to take a second look at an old friend.
I ran into my first problem with Amy’s job. I find it hard to believe that a small town book store is surviving in this economy. Even bookstores in mid-sized towns are struggling to make ends meet. I also struggled with the saccharine sweet nature of the town of Destiny, where everybody knows your name. It is all so loving and supportive and homey – I was afraid I’d have diabetes before the whole thing was over. And take it from someone who has lived in a small town – it is not at all like this in real life.
My second problem was with the leads. Logan spends much of the book being clueless – he doesn’t know what he wants to do for a job, who he wants to date, or where he wants to be when he looks into the future. Amy, whom we are told repeatedly is as sweet as can be, was a bit of a nag and shrew. She won’t leave Logan alone to decide what kind of future he wants; she knows what’s best for him and she is determined he will hear it from her whether he wants to or not. I felt that she really took this too far – we have all had friends who needed our advice, and we know the best we can do is offer it. Nagging inevitably leads to advice untaken and a broken friendship. Amy, who always seems to feel she knows what’s best for everyone, has no understanding of those boundaries. She brings the subject up almost every time she sees Logan.
One final problem I had was with the notes. In this era of stalkers this whole subject made me feel twitchy. I think if the notes had had a comedic twist to them I might have felt differently, but instead they were a bit sexy and obsessive. Not good connotations in this century.
What I found did work was the author’s ability to create very real people. Amy and Logan had the kind of relationship I have seen people have, complete with believable problems and conflicts that people you know have probably experienced. The fact that they struggled to move from best friends to lovers made perfect sense given that their relationship hadn’t had that sort of intimacy. Amy also had never worked at being attractive to the other sex; neat and cute sure, but she had never worked at anything even remotely hinting at sexy. Unintentionally, she had been sending “not available” signals for years. So I bought that they had never really seen each other as anything but pals before. The authors ability to make everything feel very natural and everyday yet interesting and romantic helped the book transcend much of what is available in the contemporary market.
I haven’t read the other books in the Destiny series but I didn’t feel that that impeded my experience of this particular novel at all. The author did a very good job of seamlessly including all the information I needed to know from previous stories into this tale. Information given about some of the other characters made me think that I would be interested in reading their romances. As for this novel, I give it a tentative recommendation. The writing is strong enough, the story sweet enough, that those who love small town tales might very well find themselves loving this one.