Reviewed by Helyce
From Goodreads: What can a screwed-up womanizer offer to her? Everything.
Gabriel Antonov is a mechanic who can fix anything, even a woman’s hesitance. His talents have earned him the well-deserved reputation as a player, but when a routine one-night stand goes wrong, he’s haunted by what he’s done. Nothing can free him from those depraved memories, until he meets Leigh Nelson.
Leigh avoids strong, silent types like Gabe, who is stronger and quieter than most guys. The only man she’s focused on is her father, who is suffering from a devastating health crisis. She’ll do anything to help him, even at the cost of ignoring her own well-being, but the stress is getting to her. Gabe’s strength is tough to resist, and his silence might be hiding a crushing secret only she can understand.
He can’t outrun his gut-deep craving for her. Problem is, she’s running from him. When they’re marooned in his lakeside cabin, he might finally catch her…if he can admit why he’s falling apart without her.
I like to include the book blurb when I’m struggling to write a review. I like to see what drew me to the book, based on the blurb, and compare it to what the book was actually about. My thoughts on this book are all over the place, and by the time I got to the final page my immediate reaction was, “what a hot mess!” So, I decided to sleep on it and see if I could pinpoint why the blurb didn’t quite translate to the story I read.
Gabe and Leigh meet by chance when he comes upon Leigh stalled on the side of the road with a flat tire. Gabe helps her and Leigh is on her way. Later, through a mutual acquaintance named Darlene, Gabe meets Leigh again, but she doesn’t realize he is the same man who helped fix her flat. There are reasons for that, which are revealed at one point in the story. Gabe is definitely attracted to Leigh, and when she mentions that she runs every morning, Gabe begins meeting her and they become running partners. It’s clear to the reader that there is an attraction, but neither acts upon it. When Darlene casually mentions to Gabe that Leigh is looking for a first edition book, he claims to have it and asks Darlene to set up a meeting. Leigh goes to a restaurant, to meet the owner of the book and is surprised to find that it’s Gabe. His price for the book, is a dinner date which he hopes will turn into a weekend at his cabin on the lake.
At this point I became confused. Leigh and Gabe already know each other. They run each morning where you’d think they’d chat a bit and Leigh might casually mention that she is looking for this book. Why would Darlene need to act as the go between and why would Gabe request it be set up where he remains anonymous? Why not say, “Gabe has the book you’re looking for to complete your collection. Meet here at such and such time?” But no, Leigh arrives at the restaurant to find Gabe. Surprise! They eat, and go back to his lake house and one thing leads to another.
Two things are revealed over the sex filled weekend, a) these two have good chemistry, but b) they both have a sexual incident in their past that affects them so deeply that it keeps them from moving forward or being able to completely trust each other. After something happens and Gabe gets all broody and can’t quite explain himself, Leigh reveals to him her “secret” in an effort to help Gabe open up. He doesn’t. They part ways after the weekend and though Leigh tries to contact Gabe, he doesn’t answer and stops joining her for their morning runs. Darlene pops up again to share some interesting information which hurts Leigh so she blocks Gabe’s number and is unaware when he finally gets his shit together and attempts to contact her. Until he shows up at her work, to try to explain himself only to learn that Darlene has spilled the beans and he has so much more explaining to do.
There are other factors working in the background that keep Leigh occupied. Her father is ill and so she makes a job change and moves so she can be closer to him. Leigh herself also has a health scare that further adds to her struggles. Gabe has a strange relationship with his two brothers but because neither of them will really talk about it, Gabe assumes things that are untrue and this keeps them from reconciling.
For me, the ongoing theme of misinformation and lies and them having to explain themselves grew tiresome. Gabe has outright lied more than once and I never felt his explanations were good enough or clear enough to warrant such easy forgiveness. Darlene is a character that didn’t make any sense to me. Her existence in the story was to just cause trouble. There is a scene involving her near the end that for me was completely out of context and unnecessary to the story.
And what finally did me in was how these two so easily overcame their sexual issues as if they had just flicked a switch and all the psychological effects from their experiences became non-existent. It’s a miracle!
This story tried to do too much without enough explanation especially where Leigh and her dad’s health issues were concerned. I don’t think this author’s voice and writing style are for me.