Wednesday 16 July 2014

#CBR6 Book 74: "Rumor Has It" by Jill Shalvis

Page count: 304 pages
Rating: 304 pages

Summary from Goodreads, cause I'm lazy: 

He’ll help unleash the new woman in her...

Special Ops soldier Griffin Reid doesn’t exactly have happy memories of growing up in Sunshine, Idaho. He’s only come back to recover from a war injury, and while he refuses to admit he’s in a weakened state, he finds comfort in the last person he’d expect.

Kate Evans teaches fourth grade science in Sunshine, the place she’s always called home. Dreaming of graduate school and a happily-ever-after, she’s desperate to break out of the monotony of Sunshine. Luckily, a certain sexy man has just come back into her life.

To Griffin, Kate has always been his little sister’s best friend, but now he’s finding her to be so much more. As both attempt to forge their paths, they must decide if their passionate connection can turn into something lasting…

This is my first ever Jill Shalvis contemporary, and I signed up for the RITA Reader Challenge specifically because I’d been curious about her writing. I generally read a LOT more historicals than contemporaries, Julie James and Jennifer Crusie, as well as Lisa Kleypas’ Travis-trilogy being the only notable exceptions. Still, I like to diversify my reading, and have read so many complimentary things about Shalvis on various review sites, that this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I did enjoy the book a lot. I figured out from checking out the blurbs of the previous books in the series that Holly and Adam, who are about to get married in this book, as well as some of the other couples who are mentioned repeatedly, find their HEAs in the earlier books. Holly is Griffin’s little sister and Adam is his best friend. He returns to Sunshine only a few days before the wedding, not really telling anyone about the reason he’s been discharged permanently from the military.

An engineer working with bomb disposal, he only barely survived a close encounter with an explosion, having managed to get the rest of his troop safe before the explosion went off. Now he’s suffering from crippling migraines, sudden bouts of nausea, light sensitivity, horrible nightmares and is generally not in a good state. Of course, being a big, tough soldier guy, he’s reluctant to admit weakness or vulnerability to anyone, and keeps his scar hidden under a baseball cap most of the time.

The first person Griffin runs into upon his return is Kate, Holly’s best friend, who’s had a crush on him pretty much forever. She’s fallen on her ass in the snow in front of him, and is naturally quite mortified. He helps her up, and notices just how attractive she is. Even though he is warned off her in the strongest possible terms by his sister – Griff has a reputation for loving and leaving women, Kate is inexperienced and vulnerable – Griffin can’t forget about her.

Kate is bending over backwards to help everyone around her. As well as being the ideal teacher for each and every fourth grader she teaches, she spends much of every day taking care of her widowed, slightly hapless father, bratty teenage drama queen sister and geeky, off-beat little brother. She feeds the homeless guy in the park and brings her ex-boyfriend coffee every morning when they drive to work together (her ex is the school principal). For three years in a row, Kate has been offered a prestigious graduate position at UCSD, with a full scholarship, but every year, she’s turned it down to take care of those around her. Now the deadline to accept is less than two weeks away, and she desperately wants to send in her acceptance e-mail, but is worried her family will fall apart without her.

She decides that she’s sick of always being the good girl, and wants some fun, crazy adventure in her life. She sets out to seduce Griffin at the wedding, and though he tries his best to heed his little sister’s warnings and be a gentleman, he can only resist Kate’s increasingly determined efforts to throw herself at him for so long. He’s also surprised to discover that Kate seems perfectly fine with them having a one-night-stand, while he wants to spend more time with her.

Kate is one of the first people in Sunshine to discover his injuries, and insists on taking care of him when she finds him having an especially bad migraine attack. Having only been back in Sunshine for a short while, Griffin has nonetheless discovered how much time Kate spends caring for others, without anyone really ever being there one hundred per cent for her.

As I said, I really liked this book, but it was by no means perfect, and there were a few things that annoyed me about it. There’s a minor subplot about someone possibly stalking Kate when she’s out running, which felt out of place in an otherwise quite light-hearted book.

There’s also the fact that Kate is so gosh-darned perfect! Really, barring the “doesn’t realize how attractive she is even after several different guys hit on her at a party” and the fact that she appears to be completely unable to actually ASK her family whether they’ll be ok if she goes away to graduate school for a year, just assuming that everything will fall apart if she’s not there mothering them. She’s so perfect, I almost expected to discover that birds ate out of her hand and small rodents and forest creatures braided her hair as if she was a Disney princess. I would have liked her to have some flaws, she felt unrealistically flawless, good-hearted and kind.

I also didn’t really care about Griffin’s conflict with his father. I understand why it was there, and that it was an important reason as to why he never felt at home in Sunshine, where pretty much everyone else obviously thrives, but I just didn’t engage me.

I enjoyed the various family relationships in the book, though; even though Kate’s younger siblings occasionally veered a bit too far into stereotypical bratty teenage girl and geeky weird kid plot moppet territory. I will absolutely be checking out more of the Animal Magnetism series, as well as Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor books, which I’ve also heard many good things about. I just hope the protagonists in her other books are more fully rounded as humans, not Mary Sues.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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