Today Haley and Jenna have fan favorite Rachel Gibson up in Pandora’s Box with her latest release, Run to You Here’s the basic set-up: Former Marine turned security professional Beau Junger agrees to do his buddy Vince a favor – drive to Miami and locate Stella Leon and let her know that her half-sister is looking for her. What he doesn’t promise to do is to embark on a road trip with Stella from Miami to Amarillo, Texas. As they make their way across the south, Beau and Stella drive each other crazy, but in the very best of ways.
Note: This discussion may contain some slight spoilers
JENNA So, Haley, this is my first ever Pandora’s Box, and I can’t think of an author I’d rather read than Rachel Gibson.
HALEY Same here! I have really loved her hockey-based books – and I don’t even like hockey that much.
JENNA Well, I’m a huge hockey fan and both my husband and son are hockey players, so her hockey books are right up my alley. But I’ve also enjoyed her other titles. Run to You doesn’t feature any hockey stars, but it still has one of her larger than life heroes.
HALEY While the Chinooks books are still my favorites, I did like Run to You. However, it was kind of a hard sell for me. It took me about 150 pages to really feel drawn in. What did you think of it?
JENNA I enjoyed it quite a bit, however I thought that it felt, I don’t know if rushed is the right word, but almost too short. The ending seemed rather abrupt.
HALEY I agree!
JENNA What about it did you find hard to get into?
HALEY I would’ve liked a little more interaction between our two leads in the first half of the book.
JENNA Yes, I agree. This is basically a road trip romance, but the trip itself seemed rather short. They only made one or two stops, if I remember correctly.
HALEY Exactly. I think that the extended period of time it was stated they spent in the car together could have been put to better use as far as exposition goes. They spent a lot of time together but we didn’t get much from it.
JENNA Yes – totally agree. It’s like “they drove in silence” or she was listening to her music and he was on the phone. I did like how it took some time for Beau to warm up to Stella. I’m not a huge fan of insta-love, so his initial indifference worked for me.
HALEY I would agree with that. It felt believable to me that Beau and Stella were such opposites so it took time for them to warm up to each other.
JENNA How did you like Stella? Often, the heroine is my least favorite part of any romance, but I think Gibson does a good job with her heroines. I did like Stella – I thought she was a good mix of smart and sassy without being obnoxious. She still had vulnerability about her.
HALEY I think I am often the same way. I can get really frustrated with a heroine for being too silly, or totally bored with them for having no real personality. Stella was actually a nicely balanced character for me. As soon as I started the book, I appreciated that she wasn’t your typical heroine. She didn’t really have her life together and I really chuckled at her working in the drag queen bar.
JENNA Me too – and that this kind of work situation was totally normal for her. I liked that she was basically broke but didn’t whine or despair about it. She’s just a normal single girl getting by.
HALEY It was realistic to me. I’m in my twenties and I know a lot of people my age who are still figuring themselves out and are working jobs, like bar tending, just to get by. I also appreciated that she was a lead woman who wasn’t white. It’s not the norm to have Hispanic leads in a mainstream, contemporary romance.
JENNA Yes, that was a refreshing twist, to have her be Hispanic. What did you think about the fact that Stella was a 28-year-old virgin?
HALEY I was just about to ask you about that! It was an interesting twist. However, it wasn’t totally believable to me. I’m not saying a person can’t make it to 28 as a virgin, just that I would’ve liked more justification for Stella’s choices. What did you think?
JENNA Normally, it would be a really hard sell for me to buy a 28-year-old virgin. But in this case, it actually worked for me. I think part of this was because Stella was pretty much an everything-but virgin, so her line in the sand was a mere technicality. Plus, I liked that at least in her mind she was sticking to her Grandmother’s definition of a “good girl”
HALEY That is true. If she had lived like a nun for the last 28 years, while working in bustiers and booty shorts at a bar, I would’ve probably just given up on the book as too ridiculous
JENNA Exactly. When she and Beau got physical, she was very much into it and very creative in finding ways to get around the whole virgin thing.
HALEY I will say, the virginity issue added a nice complication to Beau and Stella’s relationship that you don’t normally see in contemporaries. It made their interactions more meaningful.
JENNA I agree. And I liked how it gave an extra dimension to Beau. That he really respected that she’d set down this rule for herself – that she wasn’t going to give her virginity to anyone but the guy she loved – and he didn’t push her for more. Too, that when she finally did give it up (is that a spoiler?), he was concerned that it meant she loved him.
HALEY Yes, her making that decision really showed us the turning point in their relationship. However, Beau’s reaction to taking her virginity was odd to me.
JENNA How so?
HALEY I’m trying not to totally give anything away, but his proposal threw me. I would’ve liked a little something from his perspective to explain why he felt obligated to marry her.
JENNA True. It wasn’t like she’d just told him she was pregnant. I could see him maybe being apologetic and regretting sleeping with her and having that be a conflict between them – him expressing regret – but that proposal was over the top unnecessary.
HALEY I’m glad it wasn’t just me that felt that way. I expect that reaction in a Historical where social mores dictate that the couple has to get married, but this is 2013. Had she been pregnant, sure, but not just because they slept together.
JENNA Exactly. It’s 2013, not 1813. One thing I’m noticing that seems to be a trend for Gibson’s heroes is that for one reason or another, before they meet the heroine, they’ve sworn off sex.
HALEY I can’t remember which of her books have had that same element.
JENNA I’m thinking of The Trouble With Valentine’s Day-the hero had a really bad experience that ended his career when a one-night stand turned all Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction on him. And it seems like some of the other Chinook books feature hockey guys who are sick of the new woman every night lifestyle.
HALEY That’s very true. I had forgotten about The Trouble with Valentine’s Day. That was one of my first books I ever read by Gibson and I loved it. The hero had a dangerous stalker that ended his hockey career so he had sworn off women.
JENNA I think the reason this no-sex thing stood out for me is because Beau gave in so quickly. He had this idea that it was time for him to meet The One and fall in love and settle down, but he never even thought of Stella as a possibility. I wondered what he was waiting for. Granted, she was sort of a “job” but still, why didn’t he see her as a possible life partner?
HALEY They both gave in really quickly, they stated several times they had only known each other for 8 days. Beau didn’t seem all that committed to his decision.
JENNA Exactly. It’s almost like the reason for having him be in that position – of committing to celibacy – was so that he could be over the top horny and more likely to enter into a relationship with Stella.
What did you think about the subplot with Beau and his twin brother?
HALEY I think it was interesting. They’re both afraid of being like their father, yet had both gone his direction in their own way.
JENNA I can see that. My problem with that subplot is that it felt kind of stuck in there to me. Like, we’d get a mention every once in a while about Blake drinking and then all of the sudden he’s a raging alcoholic and a big problem for Beau to have to deal with. Plus, their animosity – which was supposed to just be competitiveness gone out of control – didn’t work for me at all. I mean I like the whole Marines vs. SEALs thing, but when they started actually fighting with punches and all of that, it turned a corner for me.
HALEY It did seem like the conflict with Blake was just to set up the potential for a book with him in it.
JENNA Yeah, I smelled sequel bait. And while I have no problem reading another book by Gibson, I just felt it was unnecessary page time that could have been spent having Beau and Stella interact more.
The one thing I think we haven’t touched on is the whole Stella/Sadie half-sister set up. But I thought that was okay as a premise to get this whole thing rolling.
HALEY It was a decent enough premise, however, since Sadie has so much money, she could’ve just flown to Florida to meet with Stella.
JENNA True. I didn’t even think of that.
HALEY Rather than hiring someone to force Stella to come to Texas.
JENNA Kind of all falls apart there! But didn’t you love the part when Stella won the money at the casino!
HALEY I was happy for Stella with the money. It was kind of a deus ex machina so the character wouldn’t have to worry about money during the road trip and move. However, she was so cute about it that I didn’t begrudge it at all.
JENNA Yes, so she wouldn’t need to rely on Beau’s money. I did like how the ending wasn’t the cliché “now Stella is rich” but rather she plans to find work and remain independent. That she and Sadie will get to know each other.
HALEY Yeah she won, what, $17k? That’s enough to get her set up and start taking classes and look for a job, but not so much that she has a sudden windfall and would become a different person.
JENNA Or that she feels entitled to any of Sadie’s money given that they have the same father.
HALEY As a Texan, the book’s depiction of Texas was kind of funny to me. Gibson threw in as many cowboy boots and hats as she possibly could.
JENNA I’ll have to rely on you for that one – I’m a city girl from Chicago.
HALEY So, I’ll be honest, I did not read the first book in this series, Rescue Me. It is still sitting on my Nook. Have you read it? I think I was still able to enjoy Run to You without reading Vince’s story, since the two are only loosely linked. I did like the set up in this book for Blake to have his own book after his stint in rehab.
JENNA Yes, Run To You definitely works as a standalone. I also have Rescue Me.
HALEY I had originally purchased Rescue Me because Gibson is an auto-buy for me. However, the initial reviews were lackluster and I lost enthusiasm for it. However, I feel more interested in reading it now. Blake’s story will probably be one I will keep an eye out for, but its not a guaranteed read for me right now.
JENNA So, Haley, it seems like we both would agree that while we liked Run To You, it isn’t necessarily our favorite of Gibson’s books?
HALEY Definitely. It is probably a B- for me. A good enough read, but not without issues.
Sensuality wise – it was pretty hot, which is worth noting.
JENNA Yes, very hot. And creative since Stella was determined to remain a virgin. I agree with the B- grade. Gibson gets high marks just for great writing, fantastic dialogue and likeable characters. I think that for me, this just fell a little flat compared to some of her others. But I’d still recommend it.
HALEY I would agree about Gibson’s writing. She is great at nice, active dialogue. Her writing never feels flat – it is always charged with personality. So I definitely recommend her previous books.
JENNA Okay. This has been fun! I like talking directly with someone about books I’ve read.
HALEY It’s been good chatting with you about this one! Especially since you were already a Gibson fan like me!
– Haley Kral and Jenna Harper