First review of the year! I started out so strong last year, and then petered out in February. (February is the longest month of the year, I swear.) So here’s hoping I can keep up this year!
Somehow I missed this stand alone Roberts, although I just looked it up and it only came out last summer, so I’m not sure how my library has literally 50 e-copies available. (And here’s where I can go down the rabbit hole of publishing and libraries and e-books and how Macmillan publishing is not allowing libraries to buy more than one e-copy of a new release until eight weeks after the release date, but I won’t. [I’ll just link it because I think it’s stupid and I love libraries and want to fight for them.])
Anyway. This is…not one of Nora’s finest. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the writing, and the story is relatively compelling, and interestingly, it starts out with the male love interest as a child, rather than the leading lady, which is unusual in the romance genre, although Nora does that occasionally. But it’s a bit like a Lifetime movie, by which I mean lots and lots of domestic violence.
The story begins with Zane, the leading man, as a teenager. Zane is the perfect student with a promising baseball career, living in the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood with a perfect sister and a perfect set of parents. Except all is not as it seems, and Zane’s dad is quick with the belt, or the fist, or the broken nose. Feeling trapped, Zane begins chronicling the abuse in notebooks he secrets away in his air vent. Through a series of events, Zane and his sister escape, his parents are jailed, and the two move in with his aunt, who lives across the lake.
Fast forward ten years, and Zane is a lawyer. He’s come back to their small town on the lake to hang out his shingle and spend some time with his sister and his aunt, who has married the detective who helped put Zane’s parents in jail. He meets Darby, a manic pixie dream girl in the form of a masterful, creative gardener, and the two eventually fall in love. But things aren’t exactly smooth: Zane’s father has been released from prison and he wants revenge, and it turns out Darby’s ex-husband is looking for her, too. Darby has a lot more in common with Zane than it appears.
Nora tends to write pretty strong female characters, and she doesn’t disappoint with this, except for Zane’s mom, who was horrid. But there was something about this book that just didn’t sit right with me. I’m not sure if it was Darby having unlimited funds (even I, with my eternally black thumbs, know how much the landscaping Darby was doing would cost), or the confluence of events that lead Zane’s father, Darby’s ex-husband, and a random town bad guy to all be together, or what it was, but I didn’t love it.
I did love the dog, though. Nora always knows to add a good, ugly dog who can help save the day.