Harlequin, 2006 (2006)
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton
any years ago, Ava Vincent was Miranda Kincaid. She ran away from home at the age of fifteen, and never contacted her parents or her three brothers in the twenty years since. She now works and lives in the small town of Aransas, Texas, and doesn't realize until it's too late that two of her brothers live there. She also works with a man who happens to live next door to one of her brothers, Mark.
ack Williams lost his wife to a car accident a number of years ago, leaving him with his only son Cole, now a teenager. They relocated to Aransas after Cole started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Jack has been involved with women since his wife's death, but has had no serious relationships. Now, getting to know Ava, he is starting to hope again for a committed relationship. He likes what he sees in her, and Cole seems to like Ava too. But Ava has a lot of baggage and a big secret. She is hesitant to start any relationship, but is having a hard time resisting Jack.
n the meantime, Ava is dealing with the reunion with her long lost family. While she missed her brothers these past twenty years, she still has deep anger towards her parents. Her father is long gone, but her mother has remarried and wants to make amends for a childhood that was far from wonderful. Ava has not forgiven her mother and is not sure she ever can.
has very serious undertones of the dysfunctional childhood that Ava and her brothers shared. Ava in particular suffered at the hands of her father. But while the abusive childhood is a big part of Ava's character, most of the story remains in the present, as Ava wants to get to know Jack better, but does not think he will accept her past. And Jack senses Ava's need to keep her secret, but he and Cole feel that she could be a great addition to their little family, despite the mixed signals they get from her.
hile I enjoyed the story in general, I found the dialogue a bit stiff and forced at times. I did like the characters of Jack Williams and his son Cole, whose relationship felt genuine. I had a harder time liking Ava, mainly because of her attitude in letting the past rule her present life. On top of that, I had a difficult time believing that she was able to finally let go of the past at the snap of a finger, which ruined the ending for me.
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