I can’t understand what Teresa Hill was thinking when she wrote this book. I’m not automatically against very young heroines, but this one isn’t just young, she’s childish, reckless and stupid. Realistic? Sure, okay. Romantic? I think not.
When her college boyfriend, Mark, hits her and knocks her down, Emma McRae gets on the first train out of Chicago and heads home to Baxter, Ohio. Unfortunately this will be the last intelligent thing Emma does for quite some time.
When she arrives, her adoptive father (Emma and her two younger siblings were taken in by Sam and Rachel McRae after the death of their badly abused mother) tells her that they’re leaving town to help his sister who’s having serious problems with a pregnancy. Emma declines to accompany them and doesn’t tell him why she’s come home.
Shortly thereafter, a good-looking man shows up on the doorstep looking for Sam and being obviously evasive about what he wants. In fact, adopted himself, the 33-year-old John Ryan is looking for his long-lost brother, a man named Sam McRae.
Emma invites the guy in, shows him around the house, describes her family to him, makes him breakfast, offers him a place to stay and coyly avoids revealing her age - all before she asks for his name. (The only bad news missing from this scenario is that she didn’t meet him over the Internet.) Rye reproves her more than once for her naivete, but she shrugs it off. I guess the bruise on her cheek where Mark slugged her doesn’t really hurt all that much.
Then Mark phones and, shaken, Emma tells Rye her story. He tries to convince her to tell Sam the truth but she refuses. Worried, but knowing that it would be inappropriate for him to spend the night, Rye leaves for a motel. When he can’t reach her by phone, he returns to the house the next morning to check on her before leaving town. A distraught Emma throws herself into his arms - Mark kept calling and she had to take the phone off the hook.
Not knowing (because she hasn’t told him) that anyone in town would gladly put her up, Rye feels bad about leaving her alone in the house to cope and stays for the day. She touches him. She kisses him. And after a day of putting up Christmas lights, he finds that “she dug down inside of him, finding things he didn’t want anyone to find, and giving back things he didn’t quite understand in return.” Not that we know what any of these things are, that’s just what we’re told.
For her part, “she found herself wanting to give him anything she had to give” and “every relationship in her life to this point had been nothing, that this was the first one that really mattered.” Okay, they’ve known each other less than 24 hours, she’s eighteen years old and, according to the book, she’s had exactly one serious relationship - the one she fled yesterday when the guy clobbered her. Please. This nitwit shouldn’t be allowed out of the house.
Apparently Ms. Hill recognized that she had a problem because at the book’s halfway point the “romance” screeches to a halt. We then learn the truth about Sam and Rye’s relationship and watch as Sam, citing her age, insists that Rye make a clean break with Emma (thank you, Sam). The ex-boyfriend gets dangerous, forcing revelations about Rye’s violent past. There are several flash-forwards and then Emma comes home for her twenty-first birthday.
Older but apparently no smarter, Emma tries to put Rye behind her forever by getting herself into a really idiotic sexual situation from which Rye must rescue her. Then Ms. Hill tries to convince us that a “love” based on manipulation, half-truths and outright lies between an immature drama queen and her adopted uncle is so strong that it survived two years of separation and they will now live happily ever after.
Romance? Maybe in Ms. Hill’s book - not in mine. For romance, read Sally Tyler Hayes instead. I’m finding it really hard to believe they’re one and the same author.