RECIPE: Flourless Blondies (Fructose-free & Gluten-free)


I admit. I've been very lax about using stevia as the sweetener for the treats I've been baking. I admit to something else. I'm addicted to fructose-laden sweeteners. You know, sugar, maple syrup, agave, honey, and even fruit juice.  

More health experts are finding the negative effects of fructose on our body (click here for a brief summary about it). It gets processed in our liver just like alcohol does. My addiction to fructose makes so much sense now! No wonder I crave it & can keep stuffing my face with it. 


So back to stevia. It's a challenging sweetener to bake with since a little goes a long way & it tastes different than fructose sweeteners. There's very few baked-good recipes out there and even fewer that tastes decent.


I experimented with these blondies and they actually turned out pretty good. Not very sweet. But good enough to appease my sweet craving. Without a touch of fructose.


Flourless & Fructose-free Blondies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups peanut butter (I used the crunchy kind)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons liquid stevia
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 c. milk (add if batter is too dry)

1. Beat peanut butter, eggs, stevia, and vanilla until well combined

2. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
3. If batter is too dry or hard to mix, add a tablespoon of milk at a time until batter is easier to mix.
4. Pour in baking pan & pat top down to even it out.
5. Bake @ 325 for 25 minutes or until top looks slightly crackly.
6. Remove from oven. Cool for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!



BLOG REVIEW: The Most Expensive Lie of All by Michelle Conder

25y.o. heroine is desperate.
She has 5 more days to try to secure $10 million to buy her uncle's horse farm.
It's her last tie to her deceased mother and the place she considers home. She's been taking care of the horses herself
and plans on making a success of the horse farm on her own, proving her naysayers wrong. 32y.o. businessman Hero's agreement to her requested loan is conditional upon spending 1 night with him.
He calculated buying out the horse farm over her lower bid but accepted her loan request anyway with intent to not actually give her the $10 million. He wants revenge for how her seduction 8 years ago 
got him kicked out of the farm by her grandfather and ended his flourishing polo-playing career.
He also wants her out of his system and a glut of sex with for a night seemed like the answer.
However, spending time together
and finding out that things were not how he thought they were is making him doubt the soundness of his plans for her. 
But is he too late in changing his revenge plans for her? How can she trust him now?

My 1st Conder read & I was impressed at the soundness of the characterization and how that played into my emotions. Hero and heroine were presented with their good and bad. They both have baggage and had an uncomfortable past with each other. The book started with both of them wanting the horse farm. But for different reasons. Heroine with her desire to succeed independently and hang on to her connection with her mother through the farm. And Hero, with his desire to make more money and to usurp where he was rejected from 8 years ago. They were more enemies than friends, especially on Hero's part. But, as they spent more time with each other & got to know one another more, they saw each other in a different light. I liked how we get to see their defenses crumbling as they start doubting their views about each other. We saw Hero, in particular, battle between his conscience and niggling doubts about heroine's innocence and his firm belief that heroine deceived and betrayed him 8 years ago. Their realizations about the other induced a change in their own beliefs about themselves. The character growth of Hero, in particular, was a touching and believable progress. He changed from this cold and calculated money-focused man to a more open and considerate person. I liked him more and more. Especially when he clearly became into heroine & begin to really understand her & get her.

Heroine was a more steady character.  She'd been working on her independence and no longer letting any man control her. She was almost done with vet school while working hard with her horses. I liked that she admitted to being a people-pleaser and even a doormat. She'd lost her mother at age 10 and was entrusted in her hard-to-please grandfather's care. Her need for love translated into trying to please her controlling grandfather. So, at age 17, she reluctantly consented to marrying now-ex-husband because she feared getting kicked out of his house the way her mother did when she disobeyed him. Her fear of rejection also kept her from telling her grandfather the truth about Hero.

     -----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-----------

At the time of her grandfather's catching her and Hero kissing at the stable, heroine froze in fear. She didn't defend Hero then but she did so when she & her grandfather got back to the house. She confessed to initiating the kiss with Hero because she felt emotionally vulnerable at being forced to marry someone she wasn't sure about and she had a huge crush on Hero for years. But, unbeknownst to her, her grandfather had already kicked Mexican Hero out for touching his White granddaughter. She'd always wondered why he left and why he stopped playing polo. But she was too immature, scared, and controlled by her grandfather at age 17 and later by her husband to do anything about it.

      ------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS--------------------------------------------

As soon as she could, she apologized to Hero. I liked her combination of assertiveness and humility. She may have been scared but she didn't let that stop her any longer from doing what she wanted. Even when faced with her fear of sex, she didn't let it over-ride her desire to own the horse farm and all that it meant to her. And she was smart to get everything in writing to avoid  sabotage. 

This book also dealt with sexual problems. Heroine believed she had a problem with sexual arousal (i.e., lack of lubrication) because she didn't get turned on with her ex-husband and he denigrated her for it. Sex was always uncomfortable for her the few times she experienced it with him. She also believed she wasn't sexy or sensual enough to hold a man's interest since her ex had erection problems and, again, blamed her for it. I guess, she wasn't interested enough to research it herself or get help and find solutions. She just accepted her limited knowledge and her ex-husband's sexual judgment of her as truth. This was an example of her doormat stage during her marriage. By the time she met Hero, she was scared of sex but would brave it for the sake of the farm. Her self-sacrifice didn't hold though when things went further sexually between her and Hero. She'd freeze or back out on him. I liked that she became assertive enough by this time to say "no". I appreciated Hero's response to her sexual inadequacies even more. He was patient, sensitive, confident, and reassuring with heroine. It came from his care for her and understanding of what she'd been through. Their first sex scene was both tender and hot. It was all about her needs and pleasure. And it turned him on to get her turned on. I loved it. 

I highly recommend this book.
4.5-star

BLOG REVIEW: His Secrets by Lisa Renee Jones

Art-gallery associate is settling into her new career 
and life with her new fiance, artist & biker Hero.
Their new life together is filled with moments of tenderness.
Spontaneous passion.
And experimenting with their sexual desires.
But their vacation in Paris is not all that heroine expected it to be.
She feels Hero pulling away from her
because he fears that she just won't understand.
And, when his past catches up to their present,
he fears that she won't be able to handle it. 
How much of his past can she take? 

I haven't read any previous books in the series. Didn't know this book was part of a series. I read this novella anyway since it was only 45 pages long. There was enough basic summation of what happened previously with their romance, their ongoing problems with other characters, and factors that contributed to their current romance challenge that I didn't feel all that lost reading this novella. In fact, I felt like I didn't really need to read the previous books since I felt caught up with their romance. Well, I did end up reading a sample of  Being Me (Inside Out #2) just to see if I was right. Verdict: partly. Jones' writing was captivating & made me want to read more of what exactly happened previously between Hero and heroine, even though I already knew where it headed. I just might finish it later. In the meantime, I still stand by the notion that the basic info about their in the previous books were summarized enough here. So, if you're looking to get the gist of their overall romance history without the emotional nuances, this novella provided that.

The center of this book was Hero's tortured past. The book was told from his POV(point of view). So we really got a feel for Hero's thoughts and emotions, which were full of angst about heroine's potential reaction to his secret past. He knew that there was no escaping her knowing about it, especially since both of them have been vocal about being completely open to each other. Heroine had already told him about her shameful secret in the previous book regarding her relationship with another man. An urgent call regarding his former lover forced the unveiling of his past now and began the climactic part of the book. Which proved to be anti-climatic.

     --------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details------------

Going into a BDSM club Hero used to frequent clued us in that his secret had to do with his BDSM lifestyle. It was mentioned in this book that heroine had already witnessed his harsh whipping and his desire for more of  this pleasure-pain punishment in 1 of the previous books. They already dealt with heroine's reaction to it and Hero's solution to preventing it from occurring again. So, heroine seeing Hero's former whipper threatening the whip his pain-addicted former lover inside the BDSM club was the extent of what's left of "his secrets" as the book title suggests. I thought "That was it? That's his BIG secret?!". It was disappointing because seeing his former lifestyle via his former BDSM playmates didn't hold a candle to heroine catching Hero in the act of being a masochistic whore in the previous book & getting whipped himself. So, I didn't understand what he had to be so angst-filled and worried about in this book. She'd already seen the worst of his past lifestyle before and dealt with it. 

It made me wonder if this novella was somehow a repeat or a tamer version of heroine witnessing Hero being a masochistic whore in a previous book. Because their discussion about it was more like a reassurance of what they've already discussed before: that heroine wasn't going to leave Hero because of it and that Hero wasn't going to be tempted back into that lifestyle. It's almost as if Hero didn't trust whatever heroine said to him about it before. It showed his insecurity and continued shame and guilt about his past lifestyle. He blamed himself for why his former lover was addicted to masochism.

     -------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-------------------------------------------

His secrets didn't seem like secrets since Hero and heroine had already discussed his BDSM lifestyle before. The situation may have seemed new but the overall theme was not. Seeing this particular secret in the flesh didn't really bother heroine. It made her sympathize with Hero's former lover but it didn't even seem to change her view of Hero one iota since they've she already knew about his past BDSM lifestyle.  If I read the previous book, I probably would've been irritated with the repeated theme of this 1. Especially since this book was so short that it could just have been added to the previous book.

My overall reaction to this book was ho-hum. The sex scenes were the most exciting part and I liked that it showcased their love for each other. Aside from that, the summation of their past history and their relationships with other characters were informative but dry. The mystery part didn't appeal to me, since it was all new to me and didn't seem that interesting. The characterization was average. Hero was possessive-dominant alpha male who was open about his love for heroine but yet insecure and guilty about his past lifestyle. I liked that heroine reassured him by comparing his self-blame with her own past struggles with self-blame and guilt & shame. It seemed like she'd done some healing and maturing since the previous book(s). However, I wasn't that moved by it. Maybe it's because of the lack of emotional pull of the writing. Maybe it's due to my newness to these characters and their stories. Maybe I had to have read the other books to really get pulled in emotionally. Whatever the reason, this book left me indifferent, except for the angst from Hero before his secret was revealed. And uninterested in reading the following book(s) in this series. I may still read Being Me (Inside Out # 2) at some point though just to see if I may be wrong on my guesses from this novella.

I minimally recommend this book.
2.5-star






BLOG REVIEW: Harlequin E Contemporary Romance Box Set Volume 1 by Sarina Bowen et al

Coming in from the Cold by Sarina Bowen (book 1)
Late 20s temp bartender heroine and 29yo Olympic alpine skier have a 1 night stand during a snowstorm, which both want to continue. But Hero can’t allow it because of how he thinks his life will end up.
Maid to Fit (book 2)
33yo businesswoman has a busy life but doesn’t like feeling dependent on mid-20s ex-military Hero who she employed to tend her house and her 15yo daughter. How long will she hold off on their strong mutual attraction?
Calling His Bluff (book 3)
28y.o. vet keeps surprising her childhood crush early-30s Hollywood photographer Hero since they saw each other again. He’s starting to see that the quiet & bookish little sister of his best friend is all grown up.

Baker's Law (book 4)
34yo cupcake bakery owner reciprocates the interest of their town’s new sheriff 36y.o. Hero. However, she has a hard time trusting him when he suspects a 17y.o. boy who happens to be her new unofficial charge & employee of the recent store burglaries.

I initially was only going to read the first story by Bowen just to reacquaint myself with a Harlequin book. I haven’t read a plain Harlequin in years, although I read plenty of the Harlequin Presents line. Bowen’s book captivated me and surprised me with how explicit the sex scenes were. I loved the sex, angst, and sweet love between the Hero and heroine. Hero does something terrible towards heroine & he grovels for it later.*** I had to write a separate review for it here.  It also sparked my interest to read the other 3 books in this set. 

The second story by Avery had a slow start with introduction of ex-military Hero trying to figure out what to do with his new civilian life and busy heroine trying to figure out how to juggle her multiple hats as a single mother of a 15y.o. teen, caretaker of her ailing mother, and a successful businesswoman.  Sparks didn't fly between Hero and heroine until towards 30% but, when it did, my interest became engaged. Their sexual tension reverberated & was drawn out by the barriers heroine placed. She and Hero were good together, with her career success and smarts and Hero's domesticity and alpha hotness. Hero was also really cute and protective with heroine's teen daughter.

Cousin’s story (3rd book) was my least fave because it had a little too much going on (i.e., heroine's sexy gambling persona,  Hero's cat, Hero’s interfering actress ex-wife, heroine's family). It did center on heroine’s unrequited love for Hero who now sees her as a woman.  But I didn't like the emotional imbalance between Hero and heroine. Heroine had loved Hero since she was young and never really got over him, despite her attempts at dating other men. She viewed her seeing him again as her chance at trying to catch his interest again. But this time as a woman. Hero was interested in her now. But it was more due to lust and her sense of adventure. He wasn't knee-deep in love with her as she'd always been with him. He wasn't the most insightful person & considerate person and he tended to be impulsive. I think heroine has enough love going around to overlook his character weaknesses and hold their relationship together.

McDonald’s story (last book) had depth for a sweet & sexy small-town romance book. Good characterization, with mature Hero and heroine who reached a steady pace in their careers in their small town. They were both ready for commitment and both didn't fight it much. The barriers were external and butted heads between her protectiveness over her new teen charge and employee and his work as a sheriff. It got sticky and we see them wrestle between their feelings for each other and what they were protecting. This book had depth, tackling issues of homelessness, legal guardianship, and crime. It was all woven seamlessly through the story. 

I recommend this book(The boxed set is no longer available to purchase. But the Amazon links for each book is as follows: book 1, book 2, book 3, book 4)
3.5-star


BLOG REVIEW: Before You Break by Christina Lee

Psychology student has more good days than bad now, after learning to cope with the loss of her brother's suicide death a few years ago.
Working at her college's suicide hotline center helps her do with others what she wasn't able to with her brother: be a lifeline for those contemplating suicide.
And that's what she unknowingly provides for college baseball player Hero when he calls the hotline anonymously.
It was their first real interaction and neither knew each other's real identities. She thought he was just another frat boy player like many of her boyfriend's frat brothers were.
And he thought she was a curvy hottie but blind to her boyfriend's cheating ways.
Their paths cross personally after he helped her one drunken frat party.
They get closer.
But no matter how available she's showing him she is,
he limits their intimacy.
He does let her in his life
but not the part that truly bothers him.
As he learns to trust himself and trust her,
he shares the truth with her.  The fallout, however, was unexpected.
How can she keep him from taking the plunge literally?

Suicide isn't a popular topic in romance novels. This book puts the issue of suicide front and center without overwhelming the romance. And it was handled sensitively and pragmatically by the author. It provided the book with depth without making it a depressing read. It didn't romanticize suicide nor fix it with romantic love. We saw Hero have good days and awful days. We got to see him gradually heal from a variety of social resources (i.e., heroine, suicide hotline, his aunt & uncle) and his own difficult emotional struggle to push beyond his pain and suicidal thoughts. It was poignant to see him go through his emotional hardship but it was well-balanced with the love and support he had from his loved ones. 

Interestingly, Hero's uncertainties, self-recriminations, and guilt didn't at all detract from his alpha-maleness. 

       ----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------

Hero blamed himself for causing the death of his BFF (best friend) a few days after their high school graduation. He was the driver of the car which collided with a truck. At the time of the accident, his drunk BFF was asleep in the backseat while he was holding hands with his BFF's girlfriend. He and his BFF's girlfriend had been fighting their mutual attraction for awhile. That night, his BFF's girlfriend initiated the hand-holding in the car and he accepted it. Even though that was the closest they ever got, Hero viewed it as a betrayal of his BFF in light of the car accident that occurred minutes later. Furthermore, he felt guilty for being jealous of his popular BFF's charisma and wanting what he had. 

As a result, Hero put all effort into living the life his BFF planned for. College, joining their dad's fraternity, and continuing on with baseball in college. In the meantime, he pushed his own plans and desires to forego college and focus on becoming a car restorer on the side. Despite all this, he was still wrought with guilt and depression. Nothing he did was ever going to be enough to pay for his friend's death. Including his own death. And that's part of why he went back and forth about killing himself or not. He was damned no matter what & there was no escaping it.

       -----------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------

His brokenness and subsequent healing actually made him look that much stronger. And hotter. It added a hard edge to his quiet, private, and caring self. He didn't want the limelight that his politician parents and aspiring politician BFF reveled in. He had simpler desires and and aspirations. As emotionally controlled and neglected as he was by his parents, Hero grew up to be a loving person due to the co-parenting of his beloved aunt and uncle. However, he became emotionally and socially restrained after his BFF's death. Having him become open to others after the torture his soul went through showed the strength of his character.

Heroine was also a survivor. She had many commonalities with Hero. They both struggled with guilt and depression over their part in a loved one's death. They both had to deal with survivor's guilt. But heroine began her healing much earlier than Hero with the help of therapy and her social support.  The main differences were that her support system were actively involved in her welfare and she allowed herself to go through the normal emotional turmoil of grief. Hero, on the other hand, had parents who didn't bother to get to know him and handled things with power and money. He also put a stopper on his emotions and tried to  escape his grief and his memories. So, heroine was at a steady place in her life when she and Hero meet. Her empathy and tried-&-true experience on the other side of suicide were the primary reasons why they connected so well, both on the phone as anonymous crisis-intervention worker and caller and as friends/lovers. It was interesting how their 2 different relationships progressed and came together later.

This book straddles the fence on infidelity. There wasn't sexual cheating per se.

       ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-----------

Hero's holding hands with his BFF's girlfriend and the light touching between Hero and heroine via their brief not-quite-embrace (but close enough that she could feel his hard-on) in the bathroom were forms of getting physical. They were beginnings of sexual foreplay, albeit brief and minor in intimacy degree. Still, in both cases, the attraction were mutually acknowledged and the touches were  motivated by mutual desire for sexual intimacy. 

       ------------------------------------------END SPOILERS------------------------------------------------

There's definitely emotional infidelity. Heroine's boyfriend was Hero's frat brother and, despite  the dwindling relationship heroine had with her boyfriend, she had not broken up with him yet when she and Hero made known their attraction to one another. I understood why heroine had a difficult time letting go of her neglectful boyfriend. And, kudos for her, for realizing and apologizing to her boyfriend about how she used him for her own emotional needs re: grieving her deceased brother who her boyfriend coached.  Heroine was much more impulsive than Hero and was ready to jump from breaking up with her boyfriend to getting it on with Hero in a matter of minutes. Hero's restraint helped both of them make wiser and less emotionally-driven choices for their romance. I loved how he controlled himself because he wanted to do things right with her, as she deserved, even though his sexual desires were urging him to accept heroine's intimate willingness. When they finally became sexually intimate, their connection was so much more because they both were in it with everything in place. All secrets laid bare. All confessions told. It was beautiful & hot. And worth the wait.

I recommend this book.
4-star



BLOG REVIEW: This Time by Kristin Leigh

26y.o. preschool teacher is very hesitant about her ex-boyfriend Hero's attempt to reconnect with her and their daughter now.
He dumped her in front of his friends when she told him about her pregnancy 5 1/2 years ago
and she hadn't heard from him since. As good as he was when they were alone,
he was equally bad to her when he was with his insulting friends
who thought she was fat & below his standards.
His 5-year career as a Navy SEAL seemed to have changed him, 
especially since losing his leg from a bomb. 28y.o. Hero now wants to make up for his abandonment of them.
Heroine limits their relationship as co-parents to their 5y.o. daughter.
But her strong attraction to him makes it hard to resist him.
He tries hard to ward off her regrets and continued mistrust of his permanence in their lives
as he plans to be a permanent part of her life
and their daughter's.
But the disturbing trauma he's still having from the war
may keep him from the life he wants with them.

I heard about this book from Amazon romance Hero-grovels thread (discussion link here) and was very excited about this Hero's grovel. It turned out to be a disappointment for me. This book does show Hero genuinely regretting and sorry for how he treated heroine and their daughter. He even takes steps to atone for his wrongs. Looks good on the outside but problems on the inside. My main problem was his motivation. It wasn't driven by his love for heroine and their daughter. It was about his needs and wants. Just as it's always been. 

In order to show how self-focused Hero was 5 years ago and in the present time, I'm providing  their romance timeline as well as quotes from the book to provide as precise of a context as I can for their romance.

    -------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details------

The 1st time:
Hero was 23y.o. when he met 21y.o. heroine and dated her for 3 months because he liked her but not with any permanent commitment in mind. He only had 6 more weeks until his 1st deployment (6 months long) when he met her and he was only after some "carefree"(p. 11) time with her. She, however, fell in love with him and expected more from him. She gave up her virginity to him after 2 weeks of dating him and didn't use any protection when he didn't use a condom (because “he hadn’t been thinking of anything other than getting it on”(p.13) with her). One week before deployment, he started avoiding her because "“he was tired of defending her to his friends (who thought she was fat)"(p.13). But when she confronted him about avoiding her in the bar he and his friends were at, he acted like a jerk by checking out another woman in front of her & told her “good riddance” when she turned away. Her pregnancy announcement made him happy. But, when he heard his friends laugh at him, he instead told her ”how is it my problem you’re pregnant? Look, baby, We had a 1 night stand. Go find the other guys you’ve been banging lately and tell them you’re pregnant. It’s not my problem."...because he didn’t want (his friends) to laugh at him anymore...and (he) wanted to keep “a badass image going” (p.13). This was his last statement to her until he wrote to her 5 years later. He turned her back on her and their unborn child to keep his image with his friends. He did it out of "stupidity and selfishness"(p.147).

9 months later:
He continued to make stupid and selfish choices. And now let's add passivity in the mix. He knew from heroine's friend that she just gave birth to their daughter. He's been regretting how he cruelly dumped and abandoned her ever since he did so. But he didn't do anything about it. Instead he merely stood outside hospital crying because he's not part of their life and then he left. Nobody, including heroine, prevented him from going to see them in the past 6 months since he dumped her. In fact, “his conscience & heart (were) screaming at him to stop, go back”(p. 14). But he left anyway because he “told himself it didn’t matter (that) she’d get over it and move on"(p.14). How could he know it didn't matter since he hadn't talk to her for months? This man rationalized his cowardice and irresponsibility as somehow something she condoned. He was even concerned that she was going to adopt out their baby and didn't like it if she did. But did he do anything to ask her, stop it from happening, or taking responsibility for his daughter's care? A big NO. He only “continued to walk away” (p. 14). He had lots of options to act on his regrets and concerns but he only stayed passive.

2 months after - his injury 5 years later:
Two months after his hospital 'visit', his LT (lieutenant) had a serious talk with him about being a SEAL after his friends were kicked off the team for smoking pot. When likening the SEAL team to family, Hero thought about how he actually had his own family with heroine and their now 2-month-old baby. And he felt sorry for himself that they likely don’t want to have anything to do with him because of what he did. His LT's pep talk made him resolve “to grow up, be man. Be a SEAL.”(p16). And Hero did so as a SEAL. But that's about it.

What he did with his self-pity about not being part of heroine and their daughter's life was to “put the whole issue behind him...(even though) shame and regret had eaten away at him...he’d convinced himself that they were better off without him.”(p.30). Instead of making some kind of contact for his daughter's sake (i.e., ask how she's faring, if she's with heroine or adopted out to a good family) or making child support payments, he did nothing for his daughter. In fact, he named his friends and various charity in his life insurance policy (more on this later). No concessions made for his daughter at all during his 5 years as a Navy SEAL. He didn't tell anyone in his close team that he had a daughter. As far as heroine was concerned, he supposedly never forgot her and regretted what he did to her. He "dealt with his guilt by finding EVERY(my caps) woman with light brown hair and brown eyes and fucking her"(p.134). So, instead of doing his best to contact heroine (he did try initially but her phone # changed) who stayed in the same town she was in when they were together and try to make up for his jerk behavior to her anytime during the 5 years, he didn't do anything directly for her benefit. He put a lot of effort looking for heroine's look-alike but he didn't even make any effort to ask her friend about heroine or his daughter's whereabouts, when he was in town for a wedding and saw heroine's friend there. He only sought to forget her and seek his pleasures elsewhere. This does not sound like a emotionally matured and responsible man. He's just older in age.

Present time:
Hero now wanted a relationship with heroine and his daughter. Being injured and with lots of time to think made him realize that he was all alone because he's no longer an active member of his SEALs team and his granny died 2 years ago. In one letter, he confessed to “(needing) someone, ANYONE, and Tara & Madelyn were the only people he really had outside of the team. And he didn’t want to ask his team to coddle him.”(p.32). So heroine and their daughter were the most convenient people to connect with due to their history. I believe that if she didn't succumb to him, he would've found another woman to coddle him. What's also sad was that he knew that he likely would never have "tried (contacting her) again if (he) hadn’t lost (his) leg” (p. 42). His disabled life now made it convenient for him to want to be settled with heroine and their daughter. What's sad for heroine was that his reconnecting with them was motivated more by his wanting a relationship with his daughter. It was with his daughter that he realized that "(his heart) had never really beat before"(p.152). Heroine was secondary. And I don't think he would've looked for her if it hadn't been for their daughter.

I didn't like how he manipulated her with his letters and seduction. He wanted to be a daddy to their daughter but knew that heroine was understandably guarded. He sends a check for $7000 as his belated child support payment, with a note that "no one told me to sent it, but maybe it will help. Please don’t leave me in the dark.”(p 18). I got the sense that it was his payment to get access to their daughter with the following letter: ”Can I meet her?...I won’t stop writing. I just want to see you and meet her…Please cash the check”(19). And he paid for his access some more by setting up(FINALLY!) a monthly automatic child support of $1000 (a big chunk of his disability check). He also changed his life insurance policy’s beneficiary from his friends & charities to their daughter as his beneficiary & heroine as her caretaker because “he decided to change that in light of the fact that he has a living relative. A daughter”. Just shows how much he remembered his daughter in the past 5 years!

       --------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------

Hero emotionally, physically, and financially abandoned his young daughter when he was supposedly growing up and being a man, a SEAL. He may have been a successful SEAL. But he was a failure as a father and a romantic partner. Now that he had time on his hands & nothing else to do, acting like a father to their daughter was now convenient. And if heroine was still available and willing, she'd be a bonus.

I didn't feel his love for her in all the time he was with her. Definitely strong physical attraction and caring for her because she was a nice, sweet, and smart woman who cared about him. But the kind of love that makes sacrifices to benefit only the other without thought of taking any good for oneself? No. This Hero didn't have that for heroine. His grovel was more to get in his daughter's life and, hopefully, heroine too if she was still willing. His grovel was self-serving and out of convenience. He really didn't make much sacrifice. His financial contribution now was more like paying a ticket for his daughter. Plus he had nothing to spend it on at that point since his stay at the hospital was indefinite. And he didn't have any further plans for his life. So he didn't sacrifice his time, energy, or career for them either. He had lot of both and none of the 3rd. And his approach to heroine was more like a take-it-or-leave-it approach. SInce she was free and willing when he'd seduce her, he seduced her pants off. Literally. Even when she'd put the stop on their foreplay, he'd take it to the next level anyway with his charm and knowledge that she still wanted him. He used her and she was his doormat.

Heroine showed some character growth. Some gumption and maturity during their 5 years apart. But it crumbled, when faced with her sexual attraction to him. Her strict boundaries about only relating with matters about their daughter gave way to talking about their past, which then gave way to considering now and the future. Soon considering became acting & then, there they were humping like bunnies every chance they were physically alone together. They had nothing to talk about, aside from their daughter. When it wasn't discussing their daughter or having sex, they sat awkwardly with each other and suffered some uncomfortable silence. So, sex became their ice-breaker. And heroine's protestations were meaningless, when she succumbed to his seductive maneuvers each and every time. I liked her at first but then I got annoyed with her when she regressed into his sexual plaything and emotional consolation. It's almost like she got hit on the head and had amnesia or something. Every time he'd whine about being lonely and not having anyone in his life, she'd fall for it. I was mentally reproaching her and saying "Girl, who was there for you during the nights alone with the baby? Where was he during your pregnancy or labor? Who coddled you in the past 5 years while he was banging chicks to forget you? He forgot you and your daughter all those years and he's whining about being lonely now that he's injured? Do not fall for his charm. Step away from him and don't let yourself be alone with him.". She was regressing to her pathetic self from 5 years back. I couldn't stand it.

Do I think they have a future together? Yes, but not a healthy one if they continue with how they're going. He'll manipulate her to get his way and she'll likely give in. Again and again. If he's with some impressionable friends, it's likely that he'll follow the crowd again and disown her. He'll likely stand up for their daughter though. She's got his heart. Fortunately, he's LT was still part of his current life due to his LT's fiance being friends with heroine. So, he'd be a good life coach for Hero. Maybe his PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder) therapy will include her and some couples therapy will help them together.

I limitedly recommend this book.
2.5-star