Bruised, muddled, confused, hesitant – all attributes customarily assigned to characters within a novel. Unfortunately, in this case these are attributes of the plot itself. Ashley Steele is a successful gospel singer who has just undergone a painful and unpleasant divorce, and is sharing custody of her nine-year old daughter with her ex. Derrick Quinn is a horse-breeder (I think) who hates horses because his wife was killed while riding one. He has a teenage son.
Derrick returns home, and he and Ashley light the old attraction bonfire. From then on, things tend to get into a rather muddy spiral. Derrick spends a lot of time promising himself (and Ashley) that they are not going to get involved because he can’t take the risk of loving and losing another woman who has a successful career that would take her away from him. Then he takes Ashley to bed. Go figure.
Meanwhile, the wicked step-sister – sorry, that would be the wife of Derrick’s late brother (yes, there are a lot of dead people in the background of this story) is lusting for Derrick, hating Ashley, and being a general pain in the plot line. Now, I know a book needs a good villain, but it often irks me that intelligent heroes and heroines are quite blind when it comes to the obvious! And this was a major ‘irk’!! Delia is so achingly horrid – even cooking up voodoo curses to use against Ashley – and yet no one seems to notice! Aaargh!!!
When you toss in the alcoholic, vitriolic ex-husband, and assorted other wounded family members, including the adopted Annice who’s hunting for her birth parents, this is more like family day at a group help counseling session than a romance novel. I wish I could have become more involved with these people, but I couldn’t find anything to hold onto when it came to Derrick and Ashley, and the problem only got worse with so many other issues running loose at the same time. It is a well-written book, but could have used a much tougher edit – plots are like plants in some ways, they grow best in an open environment and need to be weeded carefully and thoroughly. This one is being strangled by waaaay too much clutter.