Reviewed by May
After being in the wrong place at the wrong time, world traveler Julia Devaux witnessed a murder and is now going into witness protection in a tiny town in Idaho as a second grade teacher named Sally Andersen. The man who is now going to trial for murder has a five million dollar offer out for someone to bring him Julia’s head (literally) and she needs to go where nobody would think to look for her.
What she can’t expect is that the big stranger that she just brained with a pumpkin is no bad guy – in fact he’s the town’s favorite guy, former SEAL, and owner of a local horse breeding facility Sam Cooper. The pair has instant chemistry and with the funny circumstances they meet under I couldn’t wait to see what would happen with this one.
Looking back, while I was absolutely loving the first 30% of this book I should have seen the warning signs.
• Sam Cooper is obsessed with Julia/Sally’s hair color and keeps thinking she should be a redhead not a brunette. (She is, it is just died)
• Sam Cooper pretty much stalks Julia/Sally and then thrusts himself into her life and path.
• Julia/Sally keeps going “Huh? Who?” when people call her by her new name.
• She is set against this new life, yet when we check in she’s doing her job as a teacher flawlessly.
• Julia/Sally doesn’t seem to get that it might be a while so she should just settle in and lay low.
• She is a world traveler… who is scared to drive on the country roads.
• Somehow nobody has cell phones, nor can they text.
Those are just a few of the things that pop into my mind as I look back at one of the strangest books I’ve read in a long time. The weirdest part is that I almost felt like I was being punked. Like this was a real book that someone had gone in and edited in a way to make it hit every one of my personal pet peeves and that the real book would have been one I enjoyed.
Let’s start with the biggest problem: Sam Cooper. Not only does he pull out some too stupid to believe moves at the end, but he was the most selfish, controlling, most unlikeable ‘nice guy’ hero I’ve read in a very long time. He excuses everything he does and completely runs roughshod over Julia/Sally. He has a magical peen that can go, and go, and go not needing a break between sex sessions – and he does love to uh, fill up his girlfriend all night and leave her in the wee hours of the morning. He’d be a better lover but he can’t help himself. He would take her out and woo her, but he’s busy. He has to just shove it in and luckily she happens to magically orgasm from that. Let me give you some direct quotes so you can see for yourself:
All of a sudden he could see that the old saying – a woman’s breast should fit into a champagne glass – was absolutely true.
Seriously, what does that mean and who said that? Oh but wait, that’s just the start. He seems to wish he was a horse, or at least he thinks an awful lot about horse breeding when he’s thinking about his own sexy times.
A woman’s sex was like a horse’s mouth.
He felt exactly like Grayhawk must have felt, with the smell of Leyla in his nostrils and his every instinct screaming to get at her quickly and having a wooden wall in the way.
Both her nipples tasted like cherries.
Does she dip them in sauce? Use lotion? I don’t understand this. While I do not have experience in tasting assorted nipples, I don’t think they actually taste like fruit.
She was like a filly prancing with unease while the stallion approached. Fillies knew that the mating would be wild, furious, brutal.
Fillies are immature/baby female horses; you breed mares. This is why I avoid books written with subjects I know a good deal about – because inaccuracies like this make me nuts. Oh wait, but he doesn’t just think like a stallion, he acts like one.
“Fuck,” he gritted, gripping her hips hard, “You’re not ready.” He was sweating. A drop of perspiration fell on her cheekbone. “Can’t stop. Can’t. Sorry.” His deep voice was strained. “Sorry.”
“It’s ok,” she whispered.
A man not being able to stop, who can’t help himself is NOT sexy. Oh and yeah, the sex is really bad. In fact – it might be the worst, most un-sexy sex I’ve ever read! He mounts up missionary, bangs away, and she tolerates it. I was seeing red when he first has sex with her and this is her thought:
She’d wanted this, had asked for it. If it was too much for her, it was her own damned fault.
Seriously woman? Oh heck no. It isn’t enough that absolutely everything is on his terms, now you’re also just so desperate to have company that you’re putting up with really bad sex? While I’m all for a first time that is less than perfect together, this was borderline not even consensual sex. She asked for it?
To her amazement, she missed the sex…
Not even good sex, really. Cooper wasn’t much of foreplay, preferring instead to get straight down to business. No matter. Her body didn’t care at all.
GAH! It never got better. He comes over, repeatedly dumps his load, goes back to his own life. Wow, that’s romance huh? But it isn’t like his leading lady is such a gem. While she was pretty tolerable during the middle of the book all of the sudden when there’s danger and I mean DANGER she says this:
“It’s just that I can’t help myself. I can’t live like you want me to. I’d have to be dead and dumb and… not care about anyone, I guess.”
So we are back to the drama queen with no common sense or desire to preserve her own life, I see. This Sally/Julia character almost had split personalities. The one is a food loving, world traveling bold woman. The other is meek and whiney and lets herself be a total doormat. She’s smart and capable then she’s idiotic and can’t think straight. The pieces did not fit, and this character in no way worked for me. What really kills me is that there was a lot of potential in this story. Their first meeting is cute, I’m all for a worldly woman falling for a simple life with a good man.
What did work? The town and supporting characters including the assassin were all really interesting and well done. We get to see how the struggling small town is working together to make itself better, and Julia/Sally character was at the heart of that. If only the woman that we saw with the townspeople was the one we saw in the romantic relationship. I was surprised to find out who the assassin was that had been tracking her and I absolutely loved those scenes from ‘the professional’s’ perspective. They were cold and calculated and I looked forward to seeing how he/she would track Julia down. Without the main characters and their weirdness there was some potential for a really good book here.
So, how to grade this book? If I remove all reference to the romance plot and Sam Cooper it’d be somewhere in the B+ range. If I grade based solely on the main romance I’d be in the F zone. So I guess I’ll average it out and call it a C-/D+ with the warning that unless you like jerk heroes who do as they please and doormat women who pull stupid stunts when in danger – avoid this one.