Hannah's Promise

Jacey's Reckless Heart

Her Only Chance by Cheryl Anne Porter
(Harl. Tempt. #818, $3.99, R) ISBN 0-373-25918-2
Her Only Chanceneeds two ratings: two hearts for the first half for tired plot devices and a not very likeable main character, and four hearts for the second half which was filled with real people, real situations and real solutions. Unfortunately, the cookie-cutter circumstances and obscure professional requirements did the second half of this story a true disservice by taking up needed page space.

Jamie Lynn Winslow has to undergo required therapy sessions before she can get her license to practice family and relationship counseling. Dr. Hampton, her therapist, deduces quickly and accurately that she needs closure in her relationship with Kellan Chance before he will sign off on her license.

Jamie needs that license because thanks to some dinner party chit chat about her dissertation she has landed a mega-bucks book deal with the attendant round of talk shows. Her research data and book subject is “Women Who Fall for the Wrong Man: Why Do They Do It?" Jamie believes that Kellan Chance is the “wrong” man for her because she’s been having an on-again, off-again relationship with Kellan for ten years. The “off” cycle of the relationship happened whenever Jamie’s fears got the best of her. The solution was to dump Kellan. This went on for years until a year ago when she left him at the altar. Kellan decided (finally) that enough was enough.

Kellan Chance is a Navy Seal (are there any other male characters out there besides Charmin’ Cowboy, Wounded Navy Seal and Ice Cold Gazillionaire?). His brothers are an extreme sports enthusiast and a military pilot; his parents are professional gamblers. He was also the 16-year-old once caught kissing 13-year-old Jamie by her father. After having a parental fit, her father fought with her mother and left for good. By now everyone should be able to diagnose Jamie’s psychological issues with Kellan and her father, namely guilt -- her father left because she was kissing Chance -- and fear of abandonment. In other words, "My own father didn’t love me enough to stick around and Kellan’s entire existence centers around him taking dangerous chances." Intended or not, in the first half of the book these issues come off as just so much psychobabble.

Putting up with Jamie's hot and cold behavior makes Kellan Chance a saint in Seals’ clothing. Kellan's saintly behavior however, can’t negate the unimaginative plot device of a mission gone bad, a best friend who’s seriously wounded during said mission , and Kellan himself being wounded while saving the aforementioned friend. Rather than blame the real culprit (bad intelligence information) our hero must castigate himself and wonder about his abilities to lead. The first half of the book is devoted to two things: Jamie’s preoccupation with getting “closure” for the sake of a book deal, (and she’s willing to be a little disingenuous to get it) and Kellan mired in “failed mission, failed man getting a desk job” angst. Toss in their inability to keep their hands off each other and not really talking about what matters and you get a book that feels chaotic.

The second half of this book is a gem. It dealt realistically with how a couple stuck in an on-again, off-again relationship would or could stop the cycle and either fish or cut bait. Who among us isn’t familiar with that situation, as either an observer, or a participant? Initially Kellan agrees to joint therapy as a favor to Jamie, but doesn't really see the point in spilling his guts to some stranger. However, as the sessions progress he sincerely seeks therapy on his own and participates fully during joint sessions. In fact the R rating is partly for a particular incident in Dr. Hampton’s office after a session that’s funny, tender, hot and a little on the naughty/weird borderline when you think about it (and you will). I actually liked Jamie and Kellan in the second half. Even the father/daughter plot is handled extremely well.

Her Only Chance chose to deal with the actual realties that revolve around two people loving each other for more than ten years yet not quite being able to make it work for whatever reason and that aspect of this novel works well. I recommend you read the first half quickly and slow down to savor the real story in the second half.

--Wilda Turner

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