The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin SuperRomance #1460, 2007, Book 1 in The Mitchells of Riverview Inn trilogy, Out of Print, Available digitally
Why Was It In Wendy’s TBR?: After discovering the awesomeness of O’Keefe’s Supers I glommed her entire category backlist. I picked this one for the Recommended Read TBR Challenge theme because it’s a favorite of Miss Bates.
Suddenly, the reality of her life hammered home like a nail in her coffin. She worked shifts at a chain restaurant and was hungover at three on a Friday afternoon.If O’Keefe has a “formula,” I would say it’s in her highly damaged, a half-step away from rock-bottom characters. This story is no different. That cliché “you always hurt the ones you love?” Yeah, this book. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author had that written on a post-it note and stuck to her computer monitor during the writing process.
Gabe Mitchell has built his dream on the Hudson River. An inn with breathtaking views, private cabins and a state-of-the-art kitchen. The problem is he cannot seem to find a chef and the few who have applied (and crashed and burned the interview process) have told him nobody would want to work in “the middle of nowhere” anyway. Gabe is desperate. He’s a few weeks from opening, has a society wedding booked at the last minute, and….no chef. Only a man this desperate would show up, hat in hand, on his ex-wife’s doorstep.
Alice is a great chef. A great chef working at a crappy chain restaurant after her marriage dies a slow, painful death and her own restaurant goes down in flames (figuratively, not literally). She’s living life at the bottom of the nearest bottle and is barely hanging on by her fingernails. Gabe showing up opens a lot of old wounds that haven’t even scabbed over yet. But he’s desperate and turns out so is she. So she agrees to bail him out, work at his inn for a couple of months, and then she’s gone. Or so she thinks.
What makes this story so incredibly gut-wrenching is that you’re reading about two people who still love each other but are in a serious pain. Gabe and Alice were passionately in love. Until reality hit. Reality that they both wanted family, wanted to build a life together, and two miscarriages (late ones) rocked their foundation. They’re both devastated, but instead of grieving together, they end up tearing each other apart. Now they’re back in close quarters out of desperation. Alice essentially a drunk. Gabe unable and unwilling to “deal” with anything. His idea of “dealing” is to sweep everything under the rug and pretend like it never happened.
It’s a hard, hard story. The kind of book that emotionally exhausts you while you’re reading it and the kind of book I tend to back-hand category naysayers with when they say “::sniff:: I don’t read escapist fantasy trash about sheikhs and princesses ::sniff::”
Gah. Seriously. Shut-up.
If I have any quibbles about this story it’s that it’s so heavy that I’m not sure even a SuperRomance is enough to really flog out all the “issues.” Plus it reads very much as a trilogy. As a stand-alone it doesn’t entirely work. Yes, our couple ends up together, but there’s a development later in the story that leaves me with a worried pit at the bottom of my stomach (will it work out OK?). Also we have series baggage (Mommy Issues Ahoy!) that is blatantly left dangling at the end to feed the next two books in the trilogy.
Still, it’s a really good book. The sort of book that romance readers know exist in the genre, but naysayers don’t have a clue about since they’re too busy sneering at us about sheikhs, secret babies, Greek tycoons and/or Fifty Shades. There’s nothing in this story that I couldn’t see happening in “real life” – which made it all the more poignant.
Final Grade = B+