But her plan goes awry when Alex insists on vetting each contender. The way he dismisses them feels like the actions of a protective boyfriend. Strangely, his attitude makes her even more attracted to him. Too bad he doesn't meet even one of her requirements….
I do love my SuperRomances. It's always been one of my favorite lines from Harlequin, almost always guaranteed to pack an emotional wallop and at the same time deliver a good, solid love story. Amy Knupp is one who does this particularly well.
I really, really loved this book. Taylor's brother Quinn and our hero Alex grew up together as best friends, and went off to war together. When Alex's helicopter was shot down, Alex was injured and Quinn died. The story picks up after Alex comes home for some further recuperation.
I could totally relate to Taylor's shyness and her feelings of not fitting in. She is a total brainiac who has completely neglected her social life. She's a compulsive listmaker and socially awkward. She wears sensible clothes and works too many hours. But oh, how I loved her shoe fetish. It made her seem a little more feminine and humanized her that much more. She slowly comes to accept the easy friendship of Alex's sister, Vienna. Vienna and Taylor complement each other - and their friendship was completely believable. I loved that they fed both fun and serious off of each other. And that Vienna slowly brings Taylor out of her awkwardness and discomfort with having meaningful conversations. There's a terrific scene where they go to the park and swing right after a particularly emotional talk, and I absolutely loved the writing there -
You couldn't talk very well when you were swinging. They slipped into an unspoken contest of who could go higher, and Taylor gradually breathed easier, released the emotional tension that had balled up inside her throat. Flying back and forth through the air, stomach dipping at each crest, had a way of changing a girl's perspective, even if only temporarily.
Ten minutes must have passed, the only sound between them a sporadic laugh or holler. Taylor was taken back to another time, a simpler time when a swing in the park was the objective, not an escape. A time when supporting her body weight hadn't made her arm muscles ache or her butt feel like it had been wedged into a too-small harness. Instead of letting herself slow down gradually, she went for the instant dismount and jumped off as she had done when she was six. The landing was harder than she remembered and she ended up on her side, momentarily stunned into silence.
"Are you ok?" Vienna hollered from midair.
Taylor rolled onto her back, soaking up the sun and the smell of the recently cut grass... and started laughing. When Vienna landed with a clumsy thud and an "Oof" nearby, she laughed until her stomach started hurting. She heard Vienna do the same. Tears filled her eyes and Taylor gasped for air. When she finally looked at Vienna, that set them off even more.
At last Vienna let out a long, loud sigh. "The landing isn't quite the same as when you weigh 50 pounds."
"I think I have bruises," Taylor said, cracking up again. "But I haven't laughed so hard in ages. I needed that."
I loved the feeling of freedom and relaxation that scene conveys, and the way it served to bring Taylor and Vienna closer. Plus, I could relate to every single physical sensation and feeling about swinging that Knapp writes there.
Alex was the 'screw-up' brother in his family (in his own mind only). He never went to college - entered the Army at 18. But he learned to fly and that became his great love and his life. He came home to a brother who just lost everything and a sister who is on the verge of the rest of her life. I liked that the relationships forged between Alex and his brother and sister grew and became strong, healthy bonds between siblings. I loved the dynamics in Alex's family. They deepened his characterization, gave us insight into him and though there were several scenes with his family, they in no way overpowered the main love story between Alex and Taylor.
Out of a sense of obligation to Quinn, he helps Taylor fix up her house to sell, slowly coming to realize what a special person she is. I could sympathize with Alex's feelings of guilt. Both for the Quinn's death in his helicopter and for messing around with his best friend's sister. I loved how he treated Taylor so beautifully, aside from his occasional bonehead stubbornness,which had nothing to do with Taylor and everything to do with him. Alex subtlely suffered from feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and guilt. He tries to do his best by Taylor, and tries to treat her as he always did - as his best friend's little sister, nicknamed Scarlet (for her red hair). I liked that his attraction grew slowly.
I liked that Taylor moved forward with her life, not waiting around for Alex, dating and trying to find that special someone and feel more comfortable in social situations. Once she acknowledged that special person was Alex, she went for it. They are generous with their support of each other, and as a gift to Alex, she gives him Quinn's boat, where Alex and Quinn spent many days together. While out on the boat on his own, in another beautifully written scene full of heartbreak and joy at the same time, Alex comes to terms with Quinn's loss, and with what he really wants out of life, which is Taylor.
A truly shining example of what Harlequin SuperRomance is all about; life, love, heart & home.
ETA: I just decided to do the TBR Challenge, so this counts perfectly for the January book - a category romance! Go me!
Also, just realized I had a typo in the author's name, so have changed the post title accordingly.