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+