A Marriage-Minded Man by Karen Templeton
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Book three in series, Silhouette Special Edition #1994, 2009, Out of print, Available digitally
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Templeton is an autobuy for me, plus I enjoyed the first two books in this series.
The Review: I like fairy tale escapism as much as the next girl, but what really flips my switch are romances about "normal" people. This is the type of romance that Karen Templeton excels in writing. She gives readers characters who feel authentic, who feel like they really could exist in our real lives. Dukes, Princes, Billionaire Tycoons - all well and good. But I like the idea of a carpenter/contractor and a local Realtor falling in love. Especially when they're reunited high school sweethearts and they both have a host of believable "real life" baggage blocking their path to happy-ever-after.
Tess Montoya's marriage went down in flames. While her husband was serving in Iraq, she was keeping the home fires burning - although it turns out not hot enough. He cheated, she kicked him to the curb, and now she's a single mother with two small children. The problem arises from the fact that she's bottled up her emotions, not wanting to "dump" her troubles on her friends....which is how she ends up in Eli Garrett's bed. He tries to resist, but hell - a grown man who hasn't gotten laid in a while can only resist so much. And Tess Montoya? The girl who tied him up in knots when they dated in high school? Eli knows he's traipsing right through the middle of a mine field - but he just can't say no.
There's a lot of things standing in the way of our reunited couple making an honest go at it. Tess doesn't trust easily, and Eli broke her heart once before. Couple this with a distant, indifferent mother, a father who abandoned them both, and oh yeah - her husband cheating on her. This is a woman who has had zero luck in the twu wuv department. For his part, Eli has a reputation (some of it earned, most of it not) that he has to live down and he's got a Deep Dark Secret Past Hurt he's nursing. But he looks at Tess, looks at her kids, and.....oh man, he's sunk.
This is a nice, pleasant story about nice, pleasant people. Tess does have her heels dug in pretty hard, but it's easy to understand why. Eli is a nice guy who is struggling to find a why to reach out to Tess after he's made past mistakes where she is concerned. The author does a nice job of creating a interesting, vibrant, New Mexico small town, filled with the required series secondary characters who add just enough to this story without being annoying intrusions.
My quibbles with this story are mostly of my own marking. I've read the first two books in this series, back when they were first released. So I'm not only behind, but my memory was a little hazy on some series details. I mean, this is the first book in the series I haven't read yet - and it came out almost four years ago! The author does get around to giving us the back-story on Tess and Eli, but she takes a few chapters to get around to it. It takes a while for the author to get all the baggage "out there" - and I think if I had read this book back in 2009 (when I should have!) - I would have been more patient for her to get to the meat and potatoes of the angst portion of the story.
Still, if that's all I'm quibbling about - that ain't much. Of Templeton's work I've read thus far this isn't a favorite, but it's still a good solid read and it has lit a fire under me to finish reading this dang series already. Now I just need to find books four, five and six. Damn, I know they're lying around here somewhere.....
Final Grade = B