I'm really starting to get annoyed with books that are marketed as one thing (i.e. light fluffy romance) and turn out to be something completely different (i.e. deep-seated trauma finally seeing the light of day.) This is the 3rd book within the last few months that Carina Press has mismarketed, in my opinion. I had just come off reading a very heavy book (not weight-wise, subject-wise) and needed something light and fun and thought this story would fit the bill. Even though I DID enjoy this story, it wasn't the fun, light contemporary romance I thought I was getting into.
Maddie Sawyer just received an invitation to her High School reunion and she wants to "show them" by showing up with a sexy bad boy just like she writes about in her racy romance novels. She finds the right hottie shooting pool in a biker bar: He's built, looks great in leather, has a tattoo and he has a counter offer to her hiring him as her arm candy. Scott Brady wants her to pose as his girlfriend for his family and friends first. After a few dates they realize they have something real here and date in earnest. Maddie takes Scott back to Indiana to her reunion where she meets up with her past in harsh way making it very apparent she has a LOT of skeletons in her closet she needs to deal with. Through all this, Scott is by her side. But Scott is keeping secrets of his own.
This book is a bit bipolar. It started off a bit raunchy has Maddie is trolling the bars looking for a biker to pick-up. Everything seems to be a bit glossed over and summarized. Suddenly, the pace slows a bit to watch Scott and Maddie interact. Then the story turns into trudging up Maddie's past--ALL of it.
First of all, I am never a fan of the "pretend lovers" plotline. I LOVED how the author dealt with this plotline: It was just a way the two meet. Scott figures out early on that he actually likes Maddie and changes the rules of the game. He's honest and blunt with what he wants. Things weren't dragged out like I usually hate.
I loved the development of Maddie and Scott's relationship. It was fun to watch them date and not just jump into bed with each other. They took their time to make sure of things before they crossed that hurdle. It was a bit maddening some of the things they kept from each other and to see how clueless Maddie was about the hints all around her about what Scott was "hiding."
The focus of the story really wasn't on the romance. The story was written in first person from Maddie's POV. Maddie suffered from two traumatic events in her youth, one of them being losing her beloved older brother to a drunk driver. She's never dealt with these things. She's buried her head and been in denial for over 22 years. This story was about Maddie FINALLY going through the 5 stages of grief.
I thought Maddie was just okay. She talked about how observant she was since she was a writer, yet she missed so many obvious things around her. She made a lot of assumptions about Scott and others. I did think she was strong, smart, and fun. I liked watching how Maddie and Scott interacted and were so comfortable with each other.
I normally try to avoid SPOILERS, but several things were included in the story that I wish I had been warned about. I only wish to warn others. Maddie was raped as a teen and goes to the reunion to confront her rapist and "show him." While "showing him" that he didn't win, the son she gave away upstages everyone. And then the story turns into Maddie learning to parent. I don't care to read about rape or rape victims. I know it happens, I know--really I do--but I just don't like reading about it. I will say that Ms. James did handle the subject matter very well and believably.
Even though I ended up enjoying the story, it was a bit heavier than I was wanting at the time. I know that isn't the author's fault, but I wish I had been warned about certain subject matter in the story. For that reason and the reason listed in the spoiler I can only rate this 3-1/2 stars.