I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this (thank you, Ms. Dane!). So far, I have truly loved the Chase brothers. Now, before I start, I should point out that this book seems to utilize one of my least favorite plot devices - heroine with the "older woman-younger man issue". This has been discussed in numerous blog posts out there. And does this cover make it look like he is jailbait, or what? Sorry, but the hero is almost 30 - that is no 30 year old, that is my 18 year old nephew. All that is said with no offense meant to Ms. Dane, as authors do not have final control over the cover art, which I would have liked had he been a tad older. But on to the book itself.
As I said, the plot device appears to be the "older woman-younger man" and all the issues that women seem to have with that. But Ms. Dane is far too sophisticated and mature an author for that. The Chase books have all delved deeply into the heroines' innermost fears and anxieties, and this book is no exception. It just requires a little patience to reach the brass ring.
While the first two books in the series were romantic suspense, this is more of a relationship book. Dane once again explores the relationships that I enjoyed so much in the first book - those between girlfriends, and between brothers, and in a wonderful scene, fathers and sons. Once again, we have a man falling for a woman that dated his brother. Marc doesn't want his brother Matt to be uncomfortable, so he brings his growing feelings for Liv out into the open almost immediately, in one of several scenes of the four brothers getting together to discuss women in general, and Marc and Liv specifically. It was terrific to get a bird's eye view into the gossipy circle of these very close men. In one scene in particular, their father gets in on the action, and all four men listen intently as he doles out the advice. Wonderful - there are still men out there that respect their parents and listen to them.
In many gossip sessions between Liv and her girlfriends, Maggie and Cassie, they discuss men in general (and ogle them as well *g*) and Liv and Marc specifically. It was a delight to see the girls' conversations mirroring those of the guys'. And I loved that although Maggie and Cassie are married to hot men, they still ogle and check out other guys. Because we all do that. Very realistic.
In an interesting juxtaposition, the one woman in the trio of friends who appears the stongest is actually the one with the lowest self-esteem, and some of the biggest insecurities. I found this almost painful to read (though not in a bad way), and I'm not sure why. Usually Ms. Dane's heroines are so strong, and although Liv may appear so on the surface, and may believe that she is, she is not. Ms Dane's heroines in this series so far have been the opposite - appearing outwardly fragile at times, but with an inner strength that belies their supposed weakness. Perhaps Liv was just not what I expected. Perhaps it's a testament to the strength of Ms. Dane's ability as an author.
As in Giving Chase, this relationship grows out of friendship (those are the best kind *g*). As they get closer and the relationship grows more intense, Liv uses the excuse that she is 6 years older than Marc to distance herself - brings it up repeatedly (thus the old "older woman - younger man" device that I dislike so much in other books). Plus, she wants to get married, and Marc is a confirmed bachelor - a big-time ladies man. However, Marc wants her for good, and insists on digging deeper than Liv's excuses to the true issues below. Those issues have absolutely nothing to do with the age difference and everything to do with Liv's biggest fears - that the people she loves will leave her. After much soul-searching, and Marc's dogged determination, Liv comes to understand the true issues that she is running from, and learns to open her heart to Marc. Only then does the inner strength that was missing come to light.
Ironically, the one person I didn't care for so much in the book, once again, was Shane. Something about him doesn't sit well with me, and hasn't from the start. Here, I think it was that he was not alpha enough, not rough enough around the edges. It didn't fit with the pitcure I've developed of him in my head. Now, granted, the man had just returned from his honeymoon. I'm sure he was happy as a clam. And I have to laugh at myself, because in the past I've complained about him being too alpha, too rough around the edges. (*smacking self* make up your mind!)
So, while I truly enjoyed this book, really dug it, in fact, the last third left me feeling uncomfortable in a way I didn't expect. I don't believe this is a bad thing. In fact, a book that makes you think, takes you out of your comfort zone can be a great thing. And I thank Ms. Dane for exploring Liv deeply, and for making the issue one that I can understand, one that I can sympathize with. Had this been about "older woman - younger man", I would have been sorely disappointed. And I would hate to hate a Lauren Dane book. Thankfully, that is not the case. I loved it. I couldn't put Chased down, read it all in one sitting. Took less than a couple hours. That's usually my key indicator. This is another fantastic entry in the Chase brothers series. Buy it here beginning Tuesday. Next up is Matt, in June.