The first time I read this book, I rated it as three stars. This is mostly because I’ve been kind of held by back by being annoyed by two Anderson tropes that pretty much appear in every single book she’s released in the last decade or so. During my reread of the Keegan-Paxton series as well as re-reading Stephanie Laurens, I’m not going to take those aspects into account anymore. This is who she is as a writer, and since I keep buying her books, I don’t think it’s fair to make that part of my analysis.
Those two tropes are heroines with incredibly melodramatic and tragic backstories as well as her slightly unrealistic dialogue, both of which are present here. Since I like everything else about this book, we’re taking them off the table.
Amanda Banning is a young single mother on the run from an abusive husband, trying to care for her young daughter. Jeb Sterling is a typical Anderson hero who comes from a large family of mostly boys with pretty much the perfect parents and a lot of money. It’s set in central Oregon in a new setting for Anderson: Mystic Creek. Previously, her contemporary books were set in Crystal Falls. It’s sort of a shared universe because Mystic is near Crystal Falls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some sort of overlap at some point.
Jeb and Amanda meet because of a really bad winter storm that destroys her rental home, but Jeb already knows a lot about Amanda because she’s been writing things on strips of paper and letting them fly off into the wind.
This is a really sweet romance with a great dog, some interesting twists and turns, and a lot of family around the holidays which is nice to read these days. While in the past I might not have really liked just how insane they made Amanda’s husband, I’m fully cognizant of the fact that men like Mark do exist and women like Amanda are often left completely powerless, so that’s another thing we’re not judging for.
Probably my one complaint is that in an effort to make her heroes really good guys, Anderson tends to make them almost perfect. For example, Jeb’s big flaw is that he’s impulsive but it doesn’t really ever get him into trouble. I think I might like just a bit more there. But in a world where men complain about a razor add suggesting they not be assholes, I find that I don’t mind traveling to Anderson’s world where the Sterling family exists.
The other minor complaint is the fact that Mark is killed at the end of the book which removes him from Amanda’s world in a way that a lot of abusive women don’t get to enjoy. The fact is that abusive men are often killed in the attempt to kill their victims, so I’ve also come around on this. Do I wish that Mark was slightly less psychotic? I guess. But the plot is done well, and escalates nicely so I’m good.
Overall The first time I read this book, I rated it as three stars. This is mostly because I've been kind of held by back by being annoyed by two Anderson tropes that pretty much appear in ...