Two people with a past who meet again and rekindle their romance is a familiar plotline, and Elizabeth Harbison uses it skillfully to make Drive Me Wild a story worth reading.
Grace Bowes grew up in Blue Moon Bay, Maryland and was considered one of the golden ones: a cheerleader, prom queen and girlfriend to the most popular boy in school. She married this golden boy, Michael, left for New Jersey and had a son, Jimmy, now age 10. Grace and Jimmy have returned to Blue Moon Bay after a financially devastating divorce left them with no money, no home and no way to make one. It is Grace’s plan to move in with her widowed mother, get a job and save enough money to return to New Jersey, the only home Jimmy has known.
Being the small resort town that it is, jobs are limited, especially to someone whose primary skills are to run PTA programs, fund raise for charities and be a stay at home mom. Grace applies to the only job for which she thinks she can qualify: school bus driver.
She shows up for her interview only to encounter the one person she hopes never to run into again: Luke Stewart, best friend to Michael while they were growing up, and the only person Grace ever went out with besides Michael. Their one encounter on a lonely night long ago has left memories they have both denied for years. Now Luke will be her boss.
Grace is her own woman, having battled her emotions and upheavals over Michael’s betrayals. She is slowly realizing that the problems in her marriage were as much due to Michael as to her, and they should never have gotten married. Jimmy is the one good thing to come of it, and she vows to do whatever it takes to make his childhood happy. Grace thinks moving back to New Jersey will ensure it.
Luke’s growth into manhood is a little less detailed, but enough information is given to know that he is a good guy. He is headmaster of a school, caretaker of aging parents and generous with kids. He is described as being “hunkalicious” by one admirer and recognized as the best catch in town. He loves the town and sees no reason to explore any other place, as this is home.
Luke and Grace dance around their feelings and it is pure pleasure to watch the spark rekindle. Even when they give in, they continue to assert that nothing can come of it. The core dilemma is Grace’s need to leave and Luke’s to stay. The resolution, while predictable and a little too tidy is generally charming and rewarding.
Jimmy is a written as a normal 10-year-old. His interaction and growing relationship with Luke is poignant and natural. He plays a small part in their actual relationship, which is a nice thing to see rather than a child being the catalyst or detractor of the romance. The other characters are brought into the story as needed, adding to the small town flavor without being stereotypical or part of a formula. Grace’s mom and her secretive romance with one of the town’s old timers is a cute addition.
The interactions between Luke and Grace, whether they were arguing over the school bus driver’s test or engaged in a hot love scene, are most pleasurable. The wordplay is both light and fun while building sexual tension nicely. Even as I became frustrated with Grace for her stubbornness or with Luke for not pushing harder, I wanted everything to work out for them.
With that as a sign of a good romantic story, it is clear I can recommend Drive Me Wild as an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.