Tuesday, January 25, 2011
In Which Trai Reviews 'Here Comes the Groom'
The Book: Here Comes the Groom
The Author: Karina Bliss
How I Found It: The nice cover and interesting blurb drew me in when I saw it on eHarlequin, and when Smart Bitches picked it as their book club selection this month, I decided to give it a shot. I'll be participating in the live chat they're having with the author at 11 PM EST (7 PM PST) tonight!
The Review: Dan Jansen and Jocelyn Swann, childhood best friends, are engaged. Well, not really. Their "engagement" consists of a joking contract signed drunkenly on a coaster three years before: if neither of them are married by thirty-three, they'll get married to each other, since they each want to settle and have a family.
Now, three years have passed, and Dan's calling in the contract, hell-bent on planning their wedding. There's only one problem: Jo's not willing to do it! Circumstances have changed for them both. Jo has her own, very valid reasons for not wanting to get married, while Dan has reasons of his own explaining why he does.
One thing's for sure: Jo's not sure if Dan's even in love with her, or if she's really in love with him. When she made a pass at him a year before, he rejected her, and now, he just seems to be using the wedding planning to distract himself from the grief of two comrades dying and several others being grieviously injured during his deployment with the SAS in Afghanistan. (That's the New Zealand Special Air Service.) Jo's convinced Dan needs to sort out his grief; Dan is convinced that he can change Jo's mind--but will either of them budge from their immovable positions?
To start, I'm really glad I decided to pick this one up after all. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a pick from the Smart Bitches crew--I found Soulless and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that way, both of which I loved--and I ended up adoring this book. I think it's the best of the Superromance line that I've read thus far. Bliss created two very realistic characters with very real concerns, and she also wove in the family and friends of each (especially Dan's SAS family) in a way that never felt she was sequel-dropping. This is, allegedly, the first in a series about those guys--next up is Ross, a minor character here--and I'll be happy to read where she takes the story when that book debuts.
This book could have fallen so ridiculously flat. The amazing thing is that it didn't. From the summary, I was a little leery--it sure sounded like Dan was being stalkerish and manipulative. I'm really, really not a fan of the alpha male hero a lot of the time (I'm more of a nice-guy type of girl, apparently), and stalker-ish or forceful behavior in a fictional hero tends to really turn me off. Edward Cullen's behavior comes to mind. From the blurb, it sounded like Jo was going to be forced into something she didn't want to do, and BAM!, Stockholm Syndrome-esque "oh, look, I really do love him!" That's not what we get here.
Dan's reasons for wanting to marry rest in surviving the ambush that killed or injured every one of his men except him. Jo's reasons for not wanting to marry partly revolve around medical crises, and a facet of those is her grandmother's steadily-worsening dementia. Even if they don't agree with the other about the marriage, the good thing about Dan and Jo being best friends is that they really support each other. It was so nice to read about friends being supportive and, for the most part, really talking about their issues, not ignoring them. Dan and Jo each confess their reasons eventually, and they work past their problems like mature adults. The dialogue was clear and true to life, and the prose (beyond what looked like some missing commas and such, on occasion) was fun and lively.
Their problems were very realistic, and as characters, I really did like them. Jo is strong and self-assured, even running her late grandfather's newspaper business. Dan was endearing with his devotion to Jo, and his problems are definitely something that happens today. Nan, Jo's grandmother, is also an important part of the story, and her dementia and its emotional effects on Jo were touchingly portrayed. The romantic aspect between Jo and Dan had an extra emotional layer, due to something I won't spoil here, and their gradual progression to lovers and then, perhaps, to the altar was paced well. There's only two sex scenes, from what I can recall, and while they're spicy, I think I've seen more explicit out there, so it was never gratuitous or over-the-top.
I'd definitely recommend this one to someone who wants to read about real issues in a romance novel. Some serious medical conditions are touched on, but never in a heavy-handed way, just enough to make them feel real. Other issues, such as divorce or the death of a spouse, friend, or relative come up and are dealt with rather than shooed away. Overall, this was one of the best contemporary romances I've read, the best out of this line, and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Ms. Bliss' books, and look forward to the chat with her tonight!