Dear Ms. Phillips:
This book was a fairly average read until about page 145 or so when it turns into a complete wall banger for me. Probably you loyal fans will enjoy your latest installment, but I wasn’t won over. The tone, characters and plot were average and failed to engage me except in the negative.
Ty Benson’s mother opened her home to more than one troubled teen. Daniel Hunter (aka Hunter) was one and Lilly Dumont was another. Hunter, Ty and Lilly became inseparable until a point in which Lilly’s guardian and uncle became too abusive for Lilly to endure. Hunter, Ty and Lilly fake Lilly’s death and she disappears from Ty and Hunter’s lives forever. (I am not giving anything away here, this is in the prologue).
Ty and Lilly have strong feelings for each other which were never acted upon. The book opens with a new threat to Lilly’s life. Her uncle plans to declare her dead so that he can seize her trust fund. Ty has never been able to forget Lilly. Lilly, now Lacey Kinkaid, built herself a life from the money that Ty and Hunter gave her when she left town at 17. She now is a successful business woman living in NY. When Ty arrives to give her the news of her guardian’s recent machinations, Lilly decides that she has had enough of hiding. Returning to her home town puts her life in peril but forces her to face her dormant feelings for Ty.
I had a little problem buying the plot. If the guardian was after her money, why wait so long to have her declared dead? Throughout most of the this story, I never found this to be answered satisfactorily. While the writing isn’t as clunky as Feehan’s, I still felt that I was being told much of the story rather than being allowed to be a participant in the story. No part of the story is left to the imagination as you define each part of a scene down to the last detail. For example:
He’d beein lust with her when he was young, intrigued by the girl with the big brown eyes and daring nature. Only after she was gone did he realize he’d loved Lilly. First love, puppy love, no matter what he called it, losing her had been painful. They’d been denied the opportunity to explore what might have been and nothing and nobody since had even come close to making him feel as alive as Lilly had.
First, you’ve already told me this in the previous chapter a couple of times. Second, you never allow the reader to draw conclusions from your inferences. If you had stopped the paragraph after “losing her had been painful,” the reader understands implicitly because Lilly left while their relationship was in that twilight period between friends and lovers that there were feelings unfulfilled. We can also infer that those unfulfilled, unrealized feelings can be stronger than any current emotional entanglements. Allowing the reader to become more involved permits us to be more invested in the outcome.
One of the characters cheats in this book. I am not an advocate of cheating and I don’t like to read about it in my romance novels. Yeah, I know it’s real life and all, but unsavory behavior ordinarily should fall under the heading of villian and not heroine.
What really sunk the book for was the disposal of Alex, the lover that Lilly/Lacey had in her life at the time she went home to face her demons. Lilly/Lacey and Ty make love in the story and I kept wondering what the heck happened to Alex. I went back and re-read several pages to see if I had missed something. No, missed nothing. Then I read on. You have Lilly/Lacey break up with Alex on the TELEPHONE! How utterly classless and spineless. Finally, you portray Alex as a complete asshole even though there had been no hint of such an attitude before. Obviously you did this so it would be okay for Lilly/Lacey to cheat on him and then break up with him on the phone. It did not work. It was an obvious attempt at authorial manipulation.
There is an underlying romance brewing between Hunter and a woman named Molly but this is unresolved in this book and clearly sets up the sequel.
Had this merely been a meh book, I would have given you a C, but the actions of the heroine drug this down to a D.
P.S. The cover depicts a svelte young woman in the city. This story takes place in a small town and has very little to do with a dog.