A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Gentle on My Mind by Susan Fox

After I wrote about The Heart of Christmas, SuperWendy recommended this as a story in which pregnancy options are given serious consideration. And curse you, Wendy, for turning me on to a new author! Like I needed that!

There will be some spoilers here, but nothing that’s not pretty guessable.

For a mainstream romance, this takes a few risks. The heroine Brooke is a recovering alcoholic, has bipolar disorder, is quite a bit older than the hero, was a terrible mom(!), and — rarest of all — is a grandmother! Although she got pregnant when she was 14, so she’s only a 43 year old grandmother. And did I get tired of hearing her talk about being a grandmother as if that meant she was never allowed to have sex again.

We meet her after she’s turned her life around and reestablished a relationship with her son. (The hero of Home on the Range.) Maintaining her sobriety, her mental health, and her respectability — in a town that expects her to fall off the wagon at any moment — is all important to her. And then a guy with a bullet in him crashes his motorcycle into her fence.

I’m not going to go much into the plot, which has a suspense element but isn’t really romantic suspense. The interesting part for me was, as Wendy mentioned, the fact that Brooke accidentally gets pregnant and actually spends some time pondering her options, especially in light of her need for medication. That’s very, very rare in romance — perhaps even more than a grandmother heroine — and I appreciated seeing it.

The story did get into some personal pet peeve territory. Despite all the risks that she’s well aware of — her age, her mental illness, having to go off her medication  — Brooke never really considers how she’ll cope with being a single mother except in the most general and rosy terms. For example, her plan is to take the baby to work with her. Leaving aside the fact that she works in a beauty salon, that is something that is just not going to work with every baby, especially if that baby turns out to have special needs.

I also laughed out loud when Brooke worries that Jake will be bored with her quiet life and he replies, “I bet it’s hard to be bored when there’s a kid around.” Oh sweet naivete…

But it’s quite an enjoyable story, and definitely not cookie cutter.


Review: Bed of Lies by Teresa Hill

What tickled my fancy: Very interesting thematically by itself and as part of the series as a whole.

What ticked me off: I still want to know what happened when Peter was little…

Who might like it: Fans of loving family stories.

I really appreciate what Hill has done with this romance series. In the first book, a couple took in three foster children from an abusive family. The rest of the series is about those children as adults, realistically having emotional repercussions from those experiences.

Zach’s memories of his early life compelled him to become a defense attorney, fighting for young people who’ve reacted badly to abusive environments and gotten into trouble. In them he sees himself as he could have been, if he hadn’t gotten lucky. But Zach is also carrying another huge burden from his past, and it’s sending him on exactly the road he wants so desperately to avoid.
Julie has known Zach since she was seven and he was a kind, protective twelve year old, concerned about how neglected and alone she was. She ran away from home at eighteen; eight years later, they meet by accident. Having created a new life and a fictitious background for herself, Julie is about to marry a man who’ll give her the security she’s always desperately wanted. Knowing her as she really is, Zach threatens her new world, but when she how much pain lies underneath his perfect facade, she can’t help comforting him — and it all comes crashing down for both of them.

This was my favorite of the series so far.  Romances in which both main characters are majorly screwed up can be tricky, but though Zach and Julie’s feelings are initially expressed through steamy love scenes, I did believe that there was more to them as a couple. It’s a strongly emotional story; if you’ve read the previous books, you’ll already know how this one ends, but it had me tearing up anyway. I do recommend reading them all, in order, because they have a stronger punch that way.

This is a self-published book, but except for one or two minor errors you’d never know it. I thought that some of the conversations went on too long, and there were some loose ends left, but I’d definitely recommend it.

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