AUTHOR: Meg Maguire
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 64k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
Hurt and on the run, Sarah stumbles onto a property in Montana, thinking she’ll spend the night in the barn before sneaking off in the morning. She’s surprised when she wakes the owner’s dogs, who in turn wake the owner. Russ rushes out with his rifle to see what the commotion is all about and discovers a young woman bleeding. As a doctor, even if he is a veterinarian, he has to see what’s wrong and take care of it, so he ushers her inside and tends to her wounds. He insists she stay on until she’s healed, during which time the two flirt and get to know each other. When Sarah tries to move on – by stealing from him and sneaking away in the middle of the night – Russ catches her. Hurt by her deception, he now has to figure out what to do with her…
Sometimes, all it takes for me to love a book is to fall in love with the hero.
Sarah Novak is on the run after being a part of a crime in Buffalo. She’s tried hitchhiking, with disastrous effects, and her latest attempt to find shelter ended up with the owner shooting buckshot into her side. It’s purely accidental she stumbles onto Russ’s property, and even more so that he turns out to be a vet. He insists on taking care of her injury as well as giving her a place to stay until she’s well enough to move on. Sarah gives him a fake name and refuses to answer questions about her past, an indulgence he grants because he both wants to trust in the best of people and he’s lonely as all hell. Their flirtation and friendship becomes something more over a couple days, but Sarah knows she has to move on. She takes measures to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night, stealing a little from Russ in order to get by, but unfortunately for her, Russ wakes up and catches her. Hurt and angered by her betrayal, he then has to decide what exactly he’s going to do with her.
I’ll state it simply. I. Loved. Russ. I was in love with him before Sarah made the disastrous choice to run out, and that only exploded in the face of his anger and roiling emotions after she betrayed him. Widowed for seven years, he’s led an incredibly isolated life in the time since. In a lot of ways, he’s moved on from his wife’s death, compartmentalizing it in such a way that he can function. But deep in his heart, he’s incredibly lonely and masks that pain with his work. Sarah gives him a glimpse of what it would be like to have someone in his life again, and for the first time in years, he begins to feel human again. Part of that is sheer lust. He doesn’t have many opportunities in the backwoods of Montana, and Sarah is a pretty girl. But they hit it off, too, enjoying each other’s company as friends before they become lovers. He finds a playfulness that counters his quiet existence and blossoms in this brief affair.
But then Sarah’s deception comes to life, and Russ feels like a complete fool. He’s angry and hurt, but his fury is as much directed at himself for giving in to the hope as it is at her for lying and stealing from him. He has to decide for himself how he’s going to deal with it, and it’s this emotional need that drives the rest of the story. His desperation is palpable, but I never felt like it was misdirected. It comes from his loneliness, and honestly, he and Sarah hit it off so well, I can’t blame him for wanting to embrace it fully. There’s a scene before he discovers the truth about Sarah where she has turned down his offer to spend the night with him in his bed, but he, after being unable to fall asleep on his own, goes out to her on the couch and asks to sleep with her there. This simple action is the quintessential example of just how cut off this man really was. I can see how some people might think him a sucker for choosing to believing in Sarah – even he calls himself one more than once – but it stems from his good heart and need to believe in the best of people. He made some bad choices. That makes him human.
While I loved Russ, I had problems with Sarah. It wasn’t at first, but as soon as it became clear what she was going to do to him, I got furious at her for hurting him like that. By that point, we don’t have any details on why exactly she’s on the run, but I think if I had known more, I would have been more sympathetic to the choices she made then, even as awful as they were. As it was, I didn’t know enough to be able to gather a fair judgment on her, and so I spent the entire middle section of the book pretty much hating the girl. It’s not helped that she turns into a mouse full of apologies when Russ hauls her back to his house. The spark that he’d liked about her in the beginning was gone, and I needed some of that to try and understand why I should care about her. It eventually returns, but honestly, it took too long to get there. It’s not helped that the reasons for her running were incredibly lame. They just made her look stupid in the long run, which only hindered the process of trying to sympathize with her.
The writing is clean and evocative, with fantastic dialogue, but I do have one quibble. The author was great about using scene breaks to denote POV shifts, but there’s a sex scene in the middle where she headhops between the two while each masturbates to thoughts of the other. I know why she did it. It’s obvious that it’s deliberate, a way to mirror their thoughts and emotions so closely. But compared to the smoothness of the rest of the story, the effect was incredibly jarring, so much so that I literally stopped and went back to re-read more than once to make sure I wasn’t being stupid about what I was seeing.
That being said, I was sucked in by Russ and the incredibly realistic interactions between him and Sarah. Their banter and actions captivated me up to the point where Sarah went off the deep end for me, while his emotions held me prisoner from that point on. I loved that they were so wonderfully flawed. Neither is particularly smart, though they’re both capable, and they react from the gut rather than the head. In a lot of ways, Russ felt like Everyman, his imperfections only highlighting just how real his emotions were.
This is the second hero and book by this author that I’ve loved this year. After this one, she’s going to my autobuy list. I seriously need to take a look at her backlist, too.
8/10 – Clean, evocative, great dialogue, with only a minor scene in the middle to really throw me
10/10 – The heart and soul of this story, decent but so lonely
6/10 – Her really lame backstory combined with actions that just felt completely despicable – even if she did recognize they were – made it really hard for me to like her
9/10 – I was so sucked into Russ’s emotions and needs that I didn’t really care how flimsy the reasons were for them to be together
7/10 – The aspects of his job felt fully realized, but Sarah’s part in it felt flat in comparison