This is a Swiss cheese book - full of holes, but still delicious.
Kelly OíBrien is stunned when T. Jackson Winchester the Second suddenly reappears in her life. They first met because Jax became her older brotherís college roommate and best friend when Kelly was twelve. She officially fell in love with him when she was sixteen and he took her to her junior prom because her date got sick.
At the same time, Jax realized that he had powerful feelings for Kelly as well. Because she was so young, however, he said they would date until she was eighteen, and on her birthday he would ask her to marry him. Jax seemed perfectly sincere and equally smitten, but then he disappeared without a word.
The next time Kelly saw Jax was three years later at her brotherís wedding. She was surprised to see him, but not as surprised as he was to find that she had married. Jax disappeared once again. Now itís four years later and she thinks Jax has shown up at her brotherís request because sheís such a basket case over the failure of her marriage.
Kelly still doesnít know why Jax left without a word or that the reason he didnít come for her on her eighteenth birthday was that heíd been framed for drug trafficking while on a journalistic assignment in South America and spent nearly two years in jail.
And itís going to be a while before anybody tells her.
This is an ambitious book with a lot going on. While I found it very absorbing and enjoyable, it jumps frequently between the present, the past, Jaxís term in prison, and the book that Jax is writing. Itís a tribute to the author that she makes the pieces work so well together, but all the bouncing around is still a bit disorienting.
Both Jax and Kelly are likable characters, but not nearly as well defined as Iím used to from this author, possibly a result of the bookís complexity and general lack of focus. There are also some rather unlikely gaps in the protagonistsí behavior. Jax clearly loves Kelly - something about which the reader is confident, even if Kelly isnít - and his tenacious determination to have her back in his life made it easy to root for him. The reader could not help but wonder, though - if he wanted to regain her love and trust so badly, why didnít he just tell her why he couldnít keep his promise?
Kellyís reluctance to trust Jax again is understandable, but as it became more and more obvious that she still had feelings for him it became more and more baffling that she would not ask why he left, breaking all of the promises he made her. Even after another character more or less tells her that there is more to Jaxís story than meets the eye, Kelly simply doesnít follow it up. Her lack of curiosity is inexplicable.
Or it would be, if it werenít so easy to understand Ms. Brockmannís problem. If Kelly or Jax or anyone else had opened their mouths on any of these issues, the story would have been over.
And, honestly, that would have been a shame. I enjoyed this book in spite of the gaps in logic. It was interesting and original and romantic - a combination all too rare for categories, in my experience. I cared about the characters, even when their failure to simply talk to each other made things a little frustrating. I cared about what happened to them and I felt vindicated by their happy ending, even if my patience was wearing thin by the time they got there.
In the final analysis, I thought this was a nice change of pace from Ms. Brockmannís SEAL stories, holes and all.
-- Judi McKee