Monday, February 21, 2011

His Wife For One Night

Sometimes a good book needs to grow on me.  I start it, it's pleasant enough, not necessarily wow'ing me.  Then when I'm well and truly lulled, the author pulls out the big guns and hits me upside the head.  A double-whammy smackdown.  I get that punch-in-the-gut feeling, and I fall in love.  Then there are books like His Wife for One Night by Molly O'Keefe.  This type of book doesn't come along all that often for me, but when it does?  Sheer bliss.  What type is it?  The type of book that you read the first page, the first chapter and you just know.  You know you're going to love the book.  You know you're going to fall in love with these characters.  You just....know

Jack McKibbon grew up on a cattle ranch north of Los Angeles and has only one fond memory of his childhood - Mia Alatore.  His mother was pure evil, his father a coward who hid behind a whiskey bottle, but Mia?  Mia was his best friend.  The housekeeper's daughter.  She idolized Jack.  She allowed him dream.  And he dreamed big.  All the way to becoming a well-respected scientist whose life work it is to bring water to a thirsty world.  So when Mia needs help, help that can be solved by marrying her, he steps up to the plate.  She's working his family ranch, taking care of his sick father, and he's off saving the world.  It's a marriage of convenience until a night in Santa Barbara makes things terribly inconvenient.  Then tragedy strikes, and Jack finds himself coming home to the Rocky M ranch to lick his wounds, only to be confronted by a wife who wants a divorce.

Mia has loved Jack her entire life.  Desperately, passionately, loved him.  But Jack's too big, larger than life; Jack belongs to the whole world.  Now, after years of him coming, going, calling her to attend some fundraiser as his date, her putting her heart on her sleeve, she's done.  She can't do it anymore.  She can't keep putting her heart out there only to have Jack leave again.  She hasn't stopped loving him, but she can't keep on torturing herself this way.  She has a small measure of pride left.  Now, just as she's had the guts to tell him she wants out?  He's back, and suggesting that maybe they could really try this time.

This is an emotionally complicated and messy love story.  Jack, bless his heart, is totally self-absorbed and clueless.  He's not malicious about it, he's just....a scientist.  He's very logical and analytical, putting the various aspects of his life into neat, tidy compartments.  Work is in one.  Mia is in another.  And his past?  Another compartment, shoved into a dark, dusty back corner where he never goes.  When Santa Barbara happens, the lids to his compartments open up, the contents begin spilling out, and things get messy.  Jack doesn't do messy. 

You bleed for a heroine like Mia.  She's not afraid of hard work.  She's a strong woman.  But she's desperately in love with a man who just doesn't "get it."  Certainly she's prickly, and she doesn't necessarily throw herself at him, but Jack is so wrapped up in his own head that he doesn't see what's obviously standing right in front of him.  It all adds up to hurt feelings, painful declarations, and emotionally charged scenes between the two.  But now that Jack seems to have caught a clue, is it too late?  Because Mia just can't take it anymore.  She's hit her breaking point.  She's just not that much of a masochist to keep having her heart trampled all over.  Jack seems sincere, but can her heart afford to take the risk?

I don't like romance novels to be too easy - because honestly?  Who the hell ever said love was easy?  It's not.  It takes work, and with work comes pain, heartache, hurt feelings, anger, all the stuff we don't want to deal with.  But when we do deal with it?  It's heaven, and that's why they call it love.  O'Keefe weaves a painful back story, drops in two damaged people, and makes them bleed for their happily-ever-after.  It's magic.  Magic from the very first chapter.

Final Grade = A

14 comments:

avoriana said...

Oh my God, I want to read this book. This heroine sounds so good--she's got self-respect and she knows how to love already at the beginning of the book? Characters working through actual real-life relationship problems? Marriage in trouble? And on a ranch? Gotta have it.

Jane said...

Loved this book too! For all the reasons you said.

Victoria Janssen said...

This sounds excellent!

Kathryn said...

Good reviews have been floating around for this book. But WSL gave it an A! It's now the birthday gift I'll give myself.

Sinead M said...

Loved, loved this book. She is a fabulour writer

Maureen McGowan said...

I couldn't agree more with your review. This book is awesome. I admit I'm a friend, but also a huge fan. :)

Wendy said...

Avoriana: I'm a very heroine-centric romance reader, and I adored Mia. Warts and all (because she's not a saint!) adored her.

Jane: I went back and read your review (skipped it first go around because I had this one on tap for the month). I'm always fascinated with how two people can read the same book and hit upon different points in their reviews, even when both reviews are positive (or vice versa). TOTALLY agree about Jack's father's HEA. Thinking we haven't seen the last of that subplot....

Victoria: I really, really enjoyed this one. A lot.

Kathryn: I didn't want to put this one book down. I could have read it straight through, had I "allowed" myself to do so. But dang, I just had to take little breaks to savor it :)

Sinead & Maureen: I really enjoyed it a lot. Need to look at my spreadsheet....pretty sure this is my first "A" read of the year?

Molly O'Keefe said...

Wow! Wendy - thanks so much. I am so glad you enjoyed it like that. As a reader - I love that feeling when you stumble on a keeper. I'm really really delighted - thanks. Keep up the good fight for romance readers everywhere!

Leslie said...

How could anyone not want to read this after that great review? On my nook it goes. Now to find time to read it. :)

nath said...

Sounds awesome, Wendy :) We all need books like that, the ones we know we'll like from the beginning :)

I'll keep this one in mind :) I love this kind of books, where finally, the heroine has had enough, she needs to move on and the hero wakes up from his cluelessness LOL.

Wendy said...

Molly: Well thank you - because I really enjoyed this story tremendously!

Leslie: I have a hard time with "A" reviews. Always afraid I'll sound to gushy. Uh, which I probably did here. But I couldn't help myself....

Nath: It was such an emotional read for me. I really felt like I "knew" these characters.

Sarah said...

Excellent review! I'm buying this for my Kindle ASAP.

*Goddess* said...

I just read this book and I LOVED the part where Jack came home to the ranch and Mia went to him, wanting to help him recover and when he pushed her away, she said, 'Screw you, Jack," and THEN she actually LEFT HIM ALONE for five days! I loved that she didn't kiss his behind, like so many of the heroines, who come off looking like Joan of Arc.

I didnt' have a chance to check yet, so I don't know if you've read it or not, but "The Past Between Us" is another one of those books I just knew was going to be great after reading the first couple of pages.

Wendy said...

Goddess: And that's one of the things I really loved about this story. That the heroine, after years of pining, had finally reached her breaking point and was like "Enough!"

I'll add The Past Between Us to my next Harlequin shopping order. I think I might have missed that one the first go around. Need to double-check my Sony Reader first :)