For the past 7 years, 35y.o. heroine has lived in a world of grief,
mourning the death of her young husband & their happy life together of 12 years.
She may be finally ready for some companionship. But the feelings that 35y.o. Hero invoked in her, when they danced together 6 weeks ago, frightens her
as well as discomforts her since he was 1 of her husband's closest friends.
A present crisis, however, prevents her from continuing to avoid him.
And town-mechanic Hero uses it to his advantage,accepting whatever she's willing to give him
and taking on the dilemmas she shares with him.
Even when it means shouldering her feelings for her deceased husband
and the people in her life.
But his reluctance to share his secrets may be the very thing that will keep her from him.
This Force book handled the issues of loss and grief very sensitively. It took into account the myriad of feelings and issues people encounter when a spouse dies unexpectedly, a young military spouse at that. It even included the impact it had on the family members and friends of heroine's husband. It was quite a comprehensive coverage of how the accidental death of heroine's husband had on their small Vermont town. The book was really more a story of how heroine's husband's death impacted them. Heroine, Hero, her family, his family, their close friends, and the people in their Vermont town were still reeling from his death 7 years ago. There were many tears shed by various people in the book at the mention of heroine's husband. Even his brother was still deeply grieving 7 years later and 1 of her husband's close friends even said he had difficulty marrying a woman heroine's husband had never met. Heroine's husband was like the sun in their universe and his death left them stumbling in the dark. And their grief was compounded by the recent death of the beloved dog of heroine's husband. Everyone came near and far for the dog's funeral, where husband's Hero once again was the central emotional and discussion focus. In comparison to all this, heroine's romance with Hero was secondary.
Strangely, I had to figure out who the hero was in this book. It was a toss-up between heroine's husband (HH) and the man I'm calling "Hero" in this book. About 80% of the book was devoted to heroine & the townspeople's mourning the deaths of HH and his recently-deceased dog. The way they talked about him and mourned his death from 7 years ago made HH seem like a god. Even Hero was worshipful of HH. HH was so lauded by everyone. And, I mean, everyone. HH was like the perfect guy. I was even somewhat in love with him. There were a few times I actually wished that HH was the hero of this book. Part of the problem was that Hero was characterized as inferior to HH in many ways. He was a member of HH-led band of friends. He was a town mechanic to HH's college-educated and rising-in-ranks military career.
He was a follower of HH's adventurous and fun-filled antics. He was an admirer of HH's bigger-than-life personality. He was more a beta male compared to HH's alpha-maleness. His family and background was unknown by his friends since childhood, while HH's whole life was an open book & glorified by all.
Hero also never received heroine's romantic attentions until about 6 years after HH's death.
----------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------
Hero didn't even (dare?) consider heroine romantically until 2 years after HH's death. He felt insecure about his worthiness to heroine, who he and everyone else in town were treating like a goddess due to her being married to their god HH. He knew he couldn't measure up to HH and was worried that heroine would ever love someone like him, when she was married to a god-man like HH. Hero was definitely a likable guy. He was romantic, patient, strong, sexy, attentive, and affectionate. He was a catch and heroine was lucky to have someone like him love her, especially with all her emotional mess. Hero just wasn't quite the heart-throb that HH was. And it's this comparison with HH all throughout the book that made Hero secondary to HH as the book's overall hero. The central focus on Hero and heroine's romance towards the end made it a little too late for Hero. The first 80% book had already firmly established HH as the main hero of this book. I believe that, if there was a soap-opera-like twist in this book where HH was declared dead by mistake, heroine will undoubtedly choose HH over Hero. What she told her brother about her feelings for deceased HH was really telling in Chapter 22:
"I will always belong to him, Gavin. Always. But I may also belong to Nolan, too, and I need you to be okay with that.”
HH was her first love, her great love. She had eyes only for him. Even in the 7th year after his death, you could still see how much she loved him. You could sense how much she loved him for than Hero. She fell in love with Hero because he was a catch and there was no possibility of HH ever coming back. Her love for him wasn't the all-consuming, great love she had for HH. Her love for Hero was gradual, solid, warm, and based on deep friendship, trust, and knowledge of each other. Her love for Hero was more like warm molasses that slowly trickles and adds a solid sweetness, while her love for HH was like drinking cold Coca-Cola. It immediately hits you with its zest, strong sweetness, and a powerful carbonated kick and gets you to want to drink more of it when the effect subsides.
Hero and heroine loved each other. It's a mature kind of love that had weathered storms together. They're very similar in their characters and have similar goals and life views. They're also sexually compatible and have fun together. They were more like acquaintances before who were around each other due to having similar friends. Their time together now allowed their friendship to deepen and made it easy to transform into a trusting love relationship. A secure future together was clearly in the works for them.
Hero's secrets were not that big of a deal, compared to heroine's wrestling with her feelings between him and HH. They were probably written in to give stable Hero an air of mystery.
------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details------------
Hero had 2 secrets from heroine: his involvement in stock-car racing and his dysfunctional parents. He was worried about how heroine would feel about him racing cars at 200 mph. Racing was something he accidentally became involved in and had come to enjoy. He had no qualms giving it up though if heroine wanted him to. There really wasn't any angst about this. Between his keeping his secret from her and her watching him race there was just other things in the book that got in the way to sustain any anxiety or angst about this big secret hobby from heroine. And it was all resolved very quickly and predictably.
The emotional impact for me about his secret regarding his alcoholic dad and heroine-addict mom was more in his isolation in dealing with it than it was that he had dysfunctional parents. None of this friends knew about his parents and upbringing. He'd been friends with them since childhood and, in their 20+ years of "close" friendship in their tiny Vermont town, none of them took enough interest in him to find out why they never met or saw his still-living parents or why he lived with his grandfather instead. It was quite sad. It wasn't until heroine became more involved with Hero did it become important to her to inquire about his family. It probably became hard to ignore when his drunken father showed up and made a raucous for Hero.
The issues that arose from Hero's secrets were quickly resolved and failed to give Hero any kind of mystery. His secrets seemed so peripheral to the issues regarding HH that they hardly held my interest. They were also written blandly and interspersed between so much talk about HH so it lost whatever impact it was supposed to deliver.
I mildly this book.