Hmmm... where to start. I'm very conflicted about this book. I loved the characters. I'm just not so sure I liked where Winfree took them. Their individual character-building journeys were excellent. The storyline... I'm not so sure it worked for me. My own personal hangups for sure.
This is the story of Angel and Troy Lee. Troy Lee is the deputy that Tick has been picking on for several books now, and Angel is the bar owner that Mark (Cookie) had his one night stand with in Hearts Awakened (the book just prior to this one). The two characters are written very well. I especially liked Troy Lee and his struggle with coming into his own as a cop. Cookie became an interesting mentor for him, given the history between Cookie and Angel, and he plays a huge role in this book because of it. His interactions with all involved - Troy Lee, Angel, Tori, and Tick, are all well done. I do love Mark as a hero. Mmmhmmmm.... But that may have been part of my problem here. Because Troy Lee was an equally wonderful hero. And is a book big enough for two fabulous heroes? Especially when one has had his tale told already?
If you've been around here for any length of time, you know I can't stand the older woman/younger man theme when it's a problem for the woman - the "I'm too old for you" as a main plot device. It's a "what will the neighbors think" avoidance issue that, frankly, makes me want to pull my hair out. For a good while, I thought that was where Winfree was headed with this book. But she wisely moved off that course, and brought Troy Lee and Angel together, beautifully. Angel grew past that, grew into herself, grew more self confident as a woman, grew into Troy Lee's love. Ahhhhhh, says I. Not so fast, says Winfree.
For Angel has a problem. Troy Lee is incredibly understanding. A saint, really. I expected a little frustration on his part. If anything, Troy Lee was a little too perfect, a little too wonderful. He should have lost it - even if just for a moment. And I was not happy with the resolution of said problem. I will say this: Winfree wrote her characters into a very tight, very realistic corner. No good way out. Someone was bound to be unhappy. In this case, it was me.
There is an entire subplot about teen driving that makes me terrified to let my kid take driver's ed and get his permit (damn, that's coming up quickly!). It's incredibly well written. And heartbreaking.
Interestingly, since his own book, all the glimpses we've had of Tick have been quite uncomplimentary. Even though Winfree has gone out of her way to show his stress, both physical amd emotional, I'd really like to see his good side pop out at some point again, cause he's really starting to be a pain in my backside here.
Winfree has written an incredibly layered, emotionally complicated, and frustratingly complex book that didn't go where I wanted it to, dammit. Don't get me wrong, Troy Lee and Angel get their HEA. Oh yes they do. All the twists and turns just weren't exactly what I wanted. And don't you know, it's all about me?
Reading back over this review, it sounds like I didn't care for the book. In fact, until I read the very last page, I was thinking, wow - damn... great book. Again. I've reflected on the book for a couple weeks (I read it on release day 6 Jan) and all this just came pouring out when I sat down to write my review. But if you ask me if I liked the book? I'd still say, aside from the last page... I loved it.
Buy Fall Into Me, and the entire Hearts of the South series (which I named as my best series of 2008, btw) at Samhain.