Until about the last ten percent of this book I was without a doubt giving this one a five star review. I was getting ready to make posters of this bad boy. Hang them up in my room to swoon over them. There I was, starting it soon after dinner, and then it was two in the morning and I. Could. Not. Stop. Reading. It has been so long since a simple romantic contemporary did that to me. And those are the ones that stick, because those are the ones that got me started. My first loves were Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie. Rachel Gibson came in and swept me away. And then there were hits and misses with Susan Donovan and Christie Ridgway, but there at the core were these fantastic stories about headstrong people fighting their way through life and the humor, heart, and basic human element of love that holds it all together. It's why characters like Daisy Devreaux and Alex Markov will always hold a place in my heart despite the millions of books I've read since then. It's why just saying "Francesa Day and Dallie Beaudine" give me that swoony feeling like someone just sighed, "Clark Gable."
So, cards on the table, I've been waiting for that sort of story again. Here is another genre that people think is easy. That all they have to do is make two people bicker then fall in love and bang it out then bam! you've got a romance. Sure, whatever. Do whatever you'd like. But for us fans who keep tattered copies of books on our shelves there is a magic to getting it right. And this is the first time in a long while that I read a story that got it right. Almost.
I've read Brenda Novak before, but her romantic suspense books that were heavy on the murder. There were a few I liked, and some I dismissed. But after reading the blurb on this one I knew I had to give it a try. The whole Hollywood thing is something SEP has done, and has done well, and I like the drama that paparazzi and publicity can give the story. And this one caught me hook, line and guts from the start. Simon O'Neal is the biggest star of the moment. It's 2002 and he's Brad Pitt. It's 2007 and he's Johnny Depp. He's gorgeous and throws it down in some unforgettable sex scenes with co-stars he happens to be banging it out with off screen too. He's Robert Downey Jr. screwing things up right now with the drinking and the ladies and it looks like he doesn't care. He's showing up at his ex-wife's house, demanding to see his kid, fist fighting with bikers, and isn't listening to his publicist.
Gail threw the deuces on this trainwreck of a guy, and just so happens now every big client is doing the same to her. Simon has pull in this town, and now to save her business she has to go play nice. And things happen and then it's do or die to save both her business and his chances of getting his son back. So what do they come up with? A plan to get married and play nice.
Sounds ridiculous, but it was pulled off really well. I love the planning then went into it. I loved Gail's frustration coming up against Simon's apparent indifference. Simon was such a different sort of hero. It would have been easy to make him a lot of obvious things, but he wasn't. Novak never went there with it. Aspects of his personality were revealed in details here in there, in conversation, in actions. The romance evolves slowly, and the steam factor between these two was ridiculous. I loved just watching them and couldn't put it down because each scene just gave more. Offered more insight, more romance, more Simon and Gail. It was delicious and fresh, and it was a perfect combination of surprises and moments of YES! I WANTED HER TO SAY THAT!
That being said, the ending disappointed me. It was building up to so much. Fireworks! Declarations of passion and love! But alas, it was a quiet, quick defusing. A sort of, "Hey, no big. Drama solved itself. Also, turns out I am in love with you so let's do this." I wish the epilogue wasn't more focused on opening it up to the next in the series rather than making the ending of this one fatter and happier. But all in all, despite the rushed ending, this one still gets a place on the shelf and gets me excited to come back to Whiskey Creek.