Mary Margaret Daughtridge
April 2008, Contemporary Romance
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 140221118X
Take a Navy SEAL and his troubled son and put them in a house with a woman who’s a family therapist. Now add a hurricane to strand them there and presto! Instant cabin romance. SEALed with a Kiss would have made a very good cabin/series romance, but it’s padded to the gills, the writing style is awkward, and the character’s names put me off my feed.
Jackson “Jax” Graham is a Navy SEAL, a widower with a four year old son named Tyler. Jax’s marriage wasn’t a happy one, but he loved his son from the day he first held him. Unfortunately, he is practically a stranger to young Tyler. Navy SEALs have to go places at a moment's notice and can’t talk about what they’ve done, so Jax hasn’t been around much. He has no intention of retiring, so he plans to let Tyler’s grandmother Lauren (whom he does not like) have primary care of the boy. Jax’s commander is a great believer in family ties and he orders Jax to spend a month with Tyler so they can connect as father and son. Jax, Tyler, and Lauren are at a beach house on the North Carolina coast, and so far things haven’t been working out between father and son, mostly because Lauren is hovering close. One afternoon on the beach, Jax and Tyler meet family therapist Pickett Sessoms and she helps Jax connect with Tyler. He is grateful for her help, but when she leaves, Tyler withdraws again.
There’s a hurricane brewing off the coast and even though it's not a big one, the beach house is not safe. Jax can't stand the idea of staying with Lauren any longer and he still wants to be with Tyler, so he gets a motel room and plans to wait out the storm. When Tyler gets scared, he runs out in the street and almost gets run over by a car, so the motel owner throws them both out (yes, it is unbelievable). All the motels are full, so Jax calls Pickett and asks if he and Tyler can wait out the storm with her at her house, which is far enough inland to be safe.
If only SEALed with a Kiss had stopped there, it would have been a pretty good series romance. Except for the awkward sentences, and the character’s names, Jax’s habit of swearing no matter where he is, and the constant mental lusting, and the padding of every scene in the book – I think you get my drift. This book had a pretty good germ of a plot but everything else about it is a mess.
Take the character’s names. I’m sorry, but the name Pickett does not bring a woman to mind. Every time Jax (and I’m not sold on that name either) said Pickett, the song In the Midnight Hour would start playing in my head. Pickett has a sister named Lyle – yes, a sister. The only Lyle I’ve ever known was a middle-aged man with a pot belly. I know SEALs have nicknames,(I think it must be the law) but Jax’s friend Caleb Dulaude (a nice name) has a particularly dumb one. It's Do-Lord. Argh!!!
But even if the names were perfect for the characters, the writing style makes it hard to read the book. Everything is so drawn out. I counted about six pages of musing and conversation between Pickett and Jax over the state of her thighs. At the end, Pickett has to jump off a burning pier and she stretches things out for so long I was wondering if she planned on being a Joan of Arc reenactor. Frankly, this book is padded worse than almost any book I’ve read and there were times I felt like I’d never get to the end of some scenes. I mean, do you have to explain why it's necessary to put ice in a cooler? Also, I hope an editor gets hold of this before it goes to print since someone does not know the difference between it’s and its.
Pickett isn’t all that memorable as a character. She’s a family therapist who allows her own family to push her around. She's tried sex twice and decided it was icky so hasn't tried it again but naturally Jax takes care of that problem for her. She’s nice to Tyler and she loves dogs, but other than that she’s boring and a bit clueless. As for Jax, I think he's rude with no sense of decorum. Yes, I know that a lot of SEALs swear but I would hope not at their four year old sons and not at women. Call me old-fashioned, but I wanted to swab Jax’s mouth out with very strong lye soap.
I normally enjoy books with SEALs as characters, but there wasn’t much that could have saved SEALed with a Kiss. Too bad – there’s a wonderful cabin romance somewhere in the morass of words but it would take an army of editors to chop this down to size.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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