BURSTING WITH LOVE is the eighth book of Melissa Foster's Love In Bloom series of contemporary romances and book five of The Bradens sub-series. It also provides a bit of a prequel for her new subseries, The Remingtons. Though, there's one more Braden book (HEARTS AT PLAY) before the torch officially passes to this new family of attractive-if-romantically-challenged individuals.
In this book, entertainment lawyer Savannah Braden, smarting from the disastrous end to a romance with one of her high-profile clients, seeks to gain a little distance from her harried New York City existence. She signs up for survivalist-type outdoor adventure in the mountains of Colorado. Jack Remington leads the jaunt. In the universe of romantic fiction, Jack's what I like to call a "wounded alpha." Assertive, brave, protective, but it's all wrapped up in a world of hurt left over from his wife's death, which he feels responsible for.
What I like about Foster's characters, especially in this book, is that it takes more than finding one's soul mate to fix all the breaks. Love may conquer all, but Happy Ever After takes a lot of ancillary work...including facing one's biggest fears and harshest critics. Foster makes Jack's back story throb with realism. His dead wife doesn't just cast a shadow; she's a true presence. This makes Jack's conflict genuine rather than a mere plot point.
Foster extends her clever use of realism to the setting. Her Colorado Rockies is picturesque, sure. It's also a scary, untamed landscape, which allows the characters to develop close personal relationships quickly but naturally. This holds not just for Savannah and Jack, but also for the other characters on the trip. Foster doesn't give us stock characters pulled dusty and wrinkled from her romance author's trunk. We're treated to quirky individuals, interesting in their own right.
If I have one quibble, it's with the erotic element of the novel. I'm used to the moderately graphic sex in Foster's books. It tends to be more than I prefer, but the other qualities of her work (characterization, tension, pacing) usually make it easy to read past this. BURSTING WITH LOVE gets a little raunchy. Early on, too. This is not quite the Savannah Braden I've come to know reading through the previous books. For me, it dulled a little of her shine. To be fair, Foster's book descriptions warn readers that the work contains sexual situations and is intended for mature audiences. In any case, I found the book entertaining and am eager to meet the rest of the Remingtons.