April 2012, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $7.99, 432 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373776586 Part of a series
In this sequel, Higgins adds characters to the Maine community that built her fan base. Like Maggie and Malone in Catch of the Day, and Lucy and Ethan in The Next Best Thing, trust fund baby and childrenís author Parker Welles and her fatherís right hand man James Cahill, must hike a rough hill to find love.
When Parkerís father is imprisoned for insider trading, Parker learns not only have her rooms in his mansion been confiscated, but her trust fund is gone as well. What sheís left with beside her son Nicky is a cottage in rural coastal Maine.
James, who vacationed as a child in the town with the cottage, knows that the inheritance is nothing to brag about. In fact, itís a hoarderís dream and hasnít been kept up in decades.
Since her cousinís wedding when Parker jumped him and they had torrid sex in one of the bedrooms, James has been enamored with her, even though she hates that heís five years younger than she is and he is her fatherís yes man.
Showing up to flip the cottage and sell it quickly, Parker is appalled at what a wreck it is. Sheís grateful to see James, even though she believes her father has sent him to help and is paying him to do so. Their summer of cleaning out and fixing up the cottage while Parker finds her feet as a former trust fund baby and James wrestles with his painful personal past makes up the bulk of the book.
Higgins, for those who havenít read one of her books, is a quirky writer who doesnít follow the standard pattern of authors who write books about city women stuck in rural settings or sophisticates finding happiness in down-home people and pastimes. This means the unexpected is to be expected in her romances. These unexpected moments, starting in this case with Parkerís childrenís book characters becoming her Greek chorus, add charm and force characters to act and react in wonderful ways.
Oddly loveable and believable characters are Higginsí forte. Parkerís son, mother, father, Aunt Viv, Jamesí Little Brother, and the denizens of the Maine town make the story vibrant and alive, just as Parkerís and Jamesí darkest moments and their quest for peaceful resolutions to them give the story depth.
All of this would make the book perfect if it werenít for two startling problems. First, Parker herself is often too naÔve to be believed. At thirty-five, she canít recognize common substances that someone her age should know and she is too hung up on the five year age difference between her and James.
Second, James also has his baffling moments. Other than their one sexual encounter, Parker treats him like dirt, calling him ďThing One,Ē a comment on his status as her fatherís lackey. Why he wants to spend a summer doing manual labor instead of looking for a job now that his boss is in jail never makes sense. Often this and other naÔve moves make him look like the worst of beta heroes who canít stand up for himself. A little less grit in Parker and a little more in James would go a long way to making this a more satisfying book.
While this might not be the strongest of the Maine books by Higgins, it does further the ongoing plotline and at the end delivers the Warm Fuzzles (Parkerís words, not mine) that romance readers expect.
-- Pat Henshaw
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