Wednesday, February 17, 2016

#TBRChallenge 2016: A Man Worth Keeping
The Book: A Man Worth Keeping by Molly O'Keefe

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin SuperRomance #1486, 2008, Out of print - available digitally, The Mitchells of Riverview Inn #2.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  After discovering her through her SuperRomances, I glommed O'Keefe's entire backlist.

The Review:  My original plan for this month's TBR Challenge was to read a historical romance.  But after it failed to grab me within the first 50 pages - I decided to pull out the big guns.  O'Keefe rarely lets me down and I read the first book in this series as part of the 2014 TBR Challenge.  So it certainly qualifies for this month's Series Catch-Up theme.

Delia Dupuis and her eight-year-old daughter, Josie, are on the run.  Delia's ex-husband, a cop, is a Very Bad Man.  Delia finds out just how bad and he almost kills her.  As if this weren't complicated enough?  Josie doesn't know the whole story.  All she knows is that her mother "abandoned" her for months to go to France (in reality, Delia's mother was dying of cancer) and that Daddy Dearest dotes on her like she's a princess.  So this "vacation" her Mom keeps trying to sell her on is a little hard to swallow.  Their latest landing spot?  Riverview Inn, where Delia gets a job running the newly completed spa facilities.  The plan is to lay low, make a little money, and then take off again.  Standing in her way?  Max Mitchell.  The owner's brother, resident handyman, and a guy with enough scars (physical and emotional) to clue her in that he's Trouble with a Capital T.

Max is a former cop and he can smell a lie like a fart in a car.  He knows there is more to Delia than meets the eye.  The trick is finding out what that is before she scurries off like a jack-rabbit and/or he totally loses his carefully guarded heart to her.

As emotionally hefty and draining as the first book in this series was, this story suffers from a classic case of the Middle Book Blahs.  I get it.  Delia has to lie.  But because she's lying, because she's so skittish around Max, this doesn't exactly translate into 1) trust and 2) them spending a lot of time on page together.  When they are on page together?  She's too busy being freaked out that he'll discover her secrets.  It's hard to build a romance on that, even in a "longer" category book like a SuperRomance.

The other problem?  I think this book was published right around the time that Harlequin lost it's mind and shortened the word count on the Supers.  This story clocks in at 240 pages.  Supers, generally speaking, land around 280 pages.  40 pages might not seem like a lot - but trust me - it is.  Especially when you're cooking up a family drama plot like O'Keefe has with this series.  Besides Delia and her kid, Max has a long lost mother who comes back into the picture and a father who hasn't been totally honest with his two boys.  It's a lot to cram into a 240 page book (Secretive heroine, ticked off eight-year-old, hero's Mommy Issues, hero's baggage from being a cop, Psycho Cop Ex Husband and....oh yeah!  A romance!).

The romance just never comes together and I kept thinking of ways this story could have been rewritten to make it work better (for example: no Josie - but then you don't get the juxtaposition of ticked off eight-year-old and Max's own childhood baggage so....what does Wendy know?).  I mostly kept reading because, having already read the first book in the series, I wanted more of the Mitchell Family Drama to spin out...which it does.

So what am I left with here?  A classic case of Meh, It Was OK.  If you're new to O'Keefe's work, this is not a book I'd recommend starting with.  In fact, I think I'd only recommend it if you've already read the first book in this particular trilogy as it sorta, kinda stands alone but...not really.  A diversion that kept me flipping the pages, but nothing I'm going to crow about.

Final Grade = C+


Dorine said...

Great review, Wendy! I haven't read O'Keefe - which one would you recommend?

Wendy said...

Dorine: I have lots of suggestions depending on what you're in the mood to read!

Everything I Left Unsaid (blends erotic romance, suspense and women's fiction - I personally don't think it's "New Adult," but others have labelled it as such). Warning: It ends on a cliffhanger, but the second book is out already (The Truth About Him).

For category romance (SuperRomance) - His Wife for One Night

For single title contemporary romance - Crazy Thing Called Love. It's the third book in a series, but stands alone well.

For a historical western: Seduced

Lynn Balabanos said...

I've heard so many good things about Crazy Thing Called Love. I have it on my TBR pile but it's hiding in there somewhere and I never seem to pull it out. Sigh. So many great books, so little time. Well, next month is Recommended Read so maybe I'll yank out that O'Keefe!

Wendy said...

Lynn: LOL! I still need to sit down in front of my TBR and figure out what I'm going to tackle for next month's theme.

CTCL is a book that started out good for me(a solid B grade) and in the second half O'Keefe kicked it up a notch. I read it as part of last year's Challenge and gave it an A grade in the end :)

Dorine said...

Awesome suggestions, Wendy. I'm betting the historical western will win, but I'm going to check them all out. :) Thank you!

Amber said...

Yeah, the lotsa lying is hard to pull off in any length book because of the trust issues, but the shorter format makes it especially hard to believe in happy ever after. Sounds like there's just too much going on for the page count.

SonomaLass said...

I read this trilogy back-to-back, which I think helped. This romance was not the strongest, but the bigger family story pulled me through it.

My favorite O'Keefe (and I like a lot of them) is Her Best Worst Mistake.

azteclady said...

I started, and dropped, a couple of Ms O'Keefe's titles this past year--most of it due to the reading slump from hell, I'm sure, but perhaps also a dissatisfaction with contemporary romance. Either way, I love her historical Westerns--and in fact reviewed "Tempted" for this month's TBR Challenge (late, but done, I'm calling it progress)

Jennifer said...

Molly O'Keefe is definitely an author that I want to try very soon. I'm sorry this didn't work out for you 100%, but, at least it was better than the first book you tried, right? Thanks for hosting the challenge once again!

Wendy said...

Amber: I didn't mention it in my review, but literally - the heroine lies to everybody in this book - not just the hero. Her daughter, the secondary characters - everybody. It just didn't instill a lot of faith in me that the relationship was on solid ground.

SonomaLass: I was SO CLOSE to immediately staring the third book after I finished this one - but I had books lined up ahead (for work related reading) that I absolutely must get done first. And yippee! Her Best Worst Mistake is somewhere in my TBR already.

AL: I dragged my feet for so long on trying her single titles - but I tend to do that with all authors who make the leap from category to single title (it's not always a smooth transition!). Given the baby steps you've taken to get out of the slump, I'm of course going to recommend you start with her Supers :)

Jennifer: Yeah, that historical. It was the final book in a series that I've taken forever to finish and I think I'm at the point where the ship had already sailed. It wasn't a "bad" book - it just didn't grab me. When that happens my go-to is to hit a category romance.