Nobody's Hero by Carrie Alexander (Sigh, web site is grossly out of date)
The Particulars: Harlequin SuperRomance #1504; 2008; Out of print, Available digitally; Part of connected duet that includes the excellent A Holiday Romance.
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Carrie Alexander is an autobuy for me in the HSR line.
The Review: Sean Raffety is a Massachusetts state trooper looking for a little solitude. Recovering from a gun shot wound from a traffic stop gone bad, he answers an ad for a home-swap vacation. Alice Potter is living it up at his parents' condo in Arizona, and he's hanging out at her cozy cabin on tiny Osprey Island (off the coast of Maine). His plan is to lay low and lick his wounds. In other words, be a hermit. He didn't plan on a pint-sized 10-year-old, obsessed with Trixie Belden, dogging his heels. And he sure as hell didn't plan on finding her mother so dang attractive either.
Connie Bradford is working on the island. A master gardener, she's restoring an overgrown garden maze for some wealthy island residents. Her husband, Phil, died from leukemia three years ago and she's still trying to find ways to reach out to their daughter, Pippa. Pippa is inquisitive, precocious, and independent. She clings to her old Trixie Belden books because it was something she shared with her father. But now that fascination with Trixie has her gallivanting off, inventing "mysteries," and sticking her nose in places where it most certainly does not belong. She was hoping this trip to the island would distract Pippa away from fictional mysteries, and instead she ends up roping in Sean Rafferty.
This is an interesting read, charmingly cozy and a bit of a love letter to all the little girls out there who fell hard for the "girl sleuth" books. I myself was a bit enamored with Nancy Drew as a tween, and even though I didn't own a pair of binoculars or keep a notebook filled with "curious observations" - I could see my love of puzzles and mysteries reflected back at me in Pippa. The author even gives the girl a little mystery to unravel, complete with overheard conversations, secret meetings, and spooky fog rolling in. It's gives Pippa's world a Gothic feel without, you know, really being a Gothic.
That said, as much as I liked the story and the characters, the romance here lacks some sizzle. Yes, this one is G-rated, but G-rated books still need to "sizzle" for me even if it's only "tension." Sean and Connie are nice people. Good, solid people who deserve some happiness. However, their romance lacks any real sense of urgency. Sean has plenty of baggage (the shooting, an ex and a teenage son) but it's baggage that doesn't really seem to haunt him. He doesn't brood. Which on one hand is good. Nothing worse than a mopey hero. But on the other it's not-so-good since it means there's not a lot of emotional tension between our romantic couple.
Most of the conflict to this story centers around Pippa getting into various scrapes, and then during the second half, Sean's kid shows up. Mostly it's about the kids, and should Sean and Connie even try to start seeing each other. Is the timing all wrong? Which hey, is amazingly true to life, but not always the most exciting conflict to read about.
I'm going to be honest though, I read this book in a day. Which at the state my reading mojo is in right now (somewhere around Siberia), is nothing to sneeze at. Also, while I generally have a low tolerance for precocious kidlets getting into various shenanigans, the whole Trixie Belden angle charmed the hell out of me. I think I'll hang on to this one for my Mom to read when she visits me in a couple of months. It didn't light my world on fire, but it's cute....in a good way.
Final Grade = B-