Like the last romance novel I read, I picked up this week's trashy read, Jill Shalvis's Slow Heat, because of its glowing reviews in the romance-reading world. The book just came out a couple months ago, and every major romance-reviewing website gave it a fantastic grade. And then, the killer: all the reviews mentioned that the hero had some issues with his rough childhood. Damaged characters?! Count me in!
I love me some damaged people in my romance books. I don't know why; I assume it keeps the story from feeling overly cutesy or easy. And this one definitely brought on its share of damage. The hero, professional baseball player Wade O'Riley, grew up motherless in a trailer with an alcoholic father who basically ignored the fact he had a son. Meanwhile, heroine/publicist Samantha "Sam" McNead has a wealthy and successful family with crappy morals, making her the only person fit enough to take care of her nephew, Tag. However, despite all these characters' terrible odds at life (and their super-unfortunate names), they all end up with a happy ending!
This was a good trashy read. Shalvis isn't necessarily a great writer and tends to get a little repetitive at times, but she also had the awesome ability to surprise me with small, unexpected moments between the characters. Romance novels and their characters are a pretty predictable bunch, but occasionally, a good writer knows how to play around without making things pretty and pat. There's some nice early goings-on between Samantha and Wade, who have to pretend to be in a relationship for a month to give the wayward Wade (heh, alliteration) some good press, that keeps everything from seeming too cheesy and unbelievable. Even better, Shalvis doesn't press Wade's sad past too hard. She doesn't let Wade dwell on it much, and when Wade's loser dad shows up later hoping to make amends, she makes things between the two men messy and gives them the appropriate distance needed in such a situation. Sure, the final "conflict" between Sam and Wade is as inept as every other romance novel I've ever read ever, but it's still handled pretty deftly, and the ending is a nice call-back to some earlier happenings.
So overall, I liked it a lot, and I managed to read it in only a handful of sittings. The characters are likeable but not cliche, and I actually didn't mind the baseball stuff, despite not being a fan of the sport. Plus, cute hero/kid interaction! On the other hand, I am currently working my way through Dostoevsky's masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, and quite frankly, Slow Heat might as well exist on a completely separate planet. Oh well; no harm in a little fun once in awhile, right?