Can’t Buy Me Love- Molly O’Keefe

Luc is an aging professional hockey player with a secret brain injury.  His career is everything to him, but then he finds out that his abusive father, Lyle Baker, is supposed to be marrying some gold-digging young woman named Tara Jean Sweet, who has also been running the Baker family business for the last few years.  Tara is a woman with a past she can’t quite forgive herself for and can’t soon forget.  She’s determined not to let anyone or anything get in the way of her second chance at life.  When it turns out the wedding between Tara and Lyle was just a ruse to get Lyle’s children home for his dying days, Tara and Luc are forced to reassess each other’s motives.  They find they are more than just attracted to each other, but might even, in spite of all their flaws, LIKE one another.

I really liked the first book I read by Molly O’Keefe, Wild Child, and while this one was similar, it didn’t quite measure up.  It was similarly gritty and similarly featured characters with a lot of emotional baggage.  Luc has defined himself and his life by his success in hockey and pretty much neglects the toll that it has taken on his body and his brain.  He’s not particularly ready to let anyone into his life, particularly if they’re going to get in the way of his determination to play one more year in hockey, but he’s in a little better shape than Tara.  Tara is a mess.  She has a past littered with bad decisions, regrets, and an awful, abusive, and criminal ex-boyfriend.  She can’t forgive herself, doesn’t like herself, doesn’t value herself.  And that makes it almost impossible for her to let Luc in and to accept that their relationship is more than just sex.  I definitely liked that these were not your average romance novel characters and that they were as much the obstacle in their relationship as any outside force was.

But… this book just felt convoluted.  The plot starts with the fake engagement and some serious I-hate-you-but-you’re-hot vibes between Tara and Luc.  Tara doesn’t like that Luc abandoned his elderly father and Luc thinks Tara is all about the money.  But then Lyle dies and suddenly the tension about him and his money is out of the way.  Next Luc is made Tara’s boss in Lyle’s will, but that never really comes to make any difference in the story as Luc couldn’t care less about the family business.  And then Tara’s ex-boyfriend starts lurking around threatening her and the Baker family and he (as well as Tara’s past) becomes the next big obstacle between she and Luc.  All the while, Luc’s health and career worries are lurking in the background.  Not to mention there are occasional passages from Luc’s sister’s POV, setting up for the next installment in the series.  It just gets to be a lot.  Especially as the main element of the romantic storyline is how Tara and Luc are changing in light of the other events going on in their lives and in light of having met someone willing to put up with and love them.  I think all the other stuff going on in the plot distracted from some of the character development, which left the characters feeling blurry; it became tough to grasp their motivations.

All in all, I am interested to read more of Molly O’Keefe’s novels, as I really like that she does the gritty romance so well.  Wild Child was much tighter plot-wise, so I am just going to write this one off as a book that didn’t quite come together for me.

Winter Mini-Reviews 2: Romance

I am trying to wrap up my 2014 reviews by posting some mini-reviews for things I neglected to review in full.  This is the romance novel edition.

 

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins writes fun, cute, breezy romance novels.  In this one, we have Posey, who has always been a bit of a wallflower, and Liam, the boy she had a crush on all through high school.  Liam has recently moved back to town, a fairly recent widower with a teenage daughter in tow.  Liam was a total bad boy in high school and builds motorcycles for a living.  He’s grown up, but is still gorgeous with a bit of an edge– with the exception of his overprotectiveness when it comes to his daughter.  Posey is skinny and boyish and makes her living scavenging old homes for her architectural resale business.  She’s adopted and her family is crazy, but in a loving way.  Liam and Posey are attracted to one another, but their complicated past gets between them.

What I liked: the ridiculous side characters– for example, Posey’s brother is a surgeon obsessed with amputations and her cousin hosts a cooking show called The Barefoot Fraulein, the animals (always a plus in Higgins)
What I felt meh about: Posey and Liam as a couple– too much baggage, too many differences between them for me to really buy their romance, Liam’s overprotectiveness– men obsessed with their daughters’ virtue drive me crazy
All in all: I will read Kristan Higgins again, I’m sure, but wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re better at suspending your disbelief than I am.

 

Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe

Monica has returned to her hometown in Bishop, Arkansas (holy cow, a book set in Arkansas) to begin writing her next tell-all book, this time about the night her mother shot her drunken, abusive father in self-defense.  Monica is a bit of a wreck, having survived an incredibly unstable childhood and a wild, drug-fueled adolescence, much of it televised on a reality TV show her fame-whore of a mother landed them on.

Jackson is the mayor of Bishop and feels completely shackled by the responsibility on his shoulders– an economically failing town and the teenage sister he is rearing.  He dreams of freedom, namely in the form of random sexual encounters with women, and getting the heck out of Dodge.

Jackson lands Bishop a spot on a reality TV show, competing as the best town to house a new cookie factory.  Monica’s notoriety can only help his cause.  The two get involved with one another– both in saving Bishop and in a romantic way.  But the buckets and buckets of emotional issues make theirs a bumpy road to falling in love.

What I liked: the love story between two pretty messed up people, O’Keefe pushes the boundaries of the romance genre- flipping some tropes around on us, the small town setting
What I felt meh about: I mostly really liked this one, but I don’t think there was anything tipping the scales into omg awesome for me
All in all: I have already checked out another book by O’Keefe from the library.  This is smart genre romance and that’s something I can’t get enough of.

Believe by Erin McCarthy

Robin is a college student who parties.  Hard.  That is, until she wakes up after a night of drinking to find she slept with her roommate’s boyfriend.  She swears off drinking and partying, not liking the kind of person she becomes when she does.  Phoenix is fresh out of jail, broke, and sleeping on his cousins’ couch.  Robin and he meet at the cousins’ house and find one another really refreshing to be around.  There’s no judgment, no expectations, no pressure.  They quickly fall in love with one another with their past indiscretions lurking in the background, ready to make things difficult.

What I liked: Erin McCarthy’s writing, that the characters were getting second chances
What I felt meh about: Phoenix and Robin declare their love way too soon, especially since they are both supposed to be so damaged by their pasts; Phoenix seems far too nice to have the anger management problem he supposedly has; Phoenix tattoos Robin’s face onto his body after knowing her for a month- INSANE
All in all: Enh.  I liked it enough to read it, but it was silly and cliched.  This author is really hit and miss for me.  Not sure I want to keep trying with her any more.