Can't Hurry Love

Molly O'Keefe
August 2012, Contemporary Romance
Bantam, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0345525612
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Hot

I should have paid more attention to the wording of the Can’t Buy Me Love review. Another reviewer here at AAR called it a “powerful dark contemporary.” Since I had already reviewed two books by Molly O’Keefe, I felt pretty comfortable in my familiarity with her style. Still, I was very surprised how little I liked the characters in Can't Hurry Love even after their redemption.

Victoria Baker has come home to Crooked Creek. Her brother Luc inherited the ranch after their father’s death, but he has no interest in running it. Victoria quickly steps up and asks to do so as she hopes for a new beginning for herself and her seven-year-old son Jacob. Her life as a socialite was a sham physically and metaphorically. Her deceased husband financed their lifestyle with a Ponzi scheme but once it was exposed, he committed suicide and left her to face the fallout.

Victoria trusts that Eli Turnbull, the ranch foreman, will teach her the business. However, in that regard she is quickly disappointed. Eli Turnbull had excellent role models in his father and Victoria’s father in being a self-serving bastard. He instead sells off all the ranch’s cattle – something that she eagerly agreed to in her naiveté.

Stuck on a ranch without any assets, Victoria quickly figures out that her only other way for income is to lease the land. Furious after discovering that she leased the very land he wanted to buy, Eli takes his personal vendetta a step further by involving her son - a ruse that quickly gets him fired. He then attempts to manipulate Victoria sexually, thinking she will be easily swayed by her poorly hidden sexually attraction to him. Victoria is torn in two by Eli's kiss. It wakes up her suppressed sensuality, but as Eli ignores her attempts to disengage from the embrace, it starts to feel reminiscent of her history with men – her father, her husband and now Eli have all treat her like she doesn't matter. That realization gives her the strength not to back down. Given the impetus to take control of her life, Victoria resolves to no longer be at the mercy of men. And along with that assurance, Victoria finally gets the courage to navigate a no strings fling with Eli(yes, that Eli.) Neither wants anything long term, but emotions and feelings can’t be hidden.

The difference between this book and the other two that I read is the amount of angst and a couple of plot devices. The writing of course is good, and the emotional scenes feel evocative and heart wrenching if you accept the,"Poor me, I am stunted because of my past," issues. Having both the heroine and hero have arrested development because of this is too much. O’Keefe states on her web page that she welcomes this opportunity to write books about unappealing characters, but for me to believe in their growth, I have to empathize with their pasts and that just didn’t happen.

Eli crossed a line when he involved Victoria’s son Jacob. He decides to put him on a horse right after he sees him use an inhaler. Maybe if he was clueless about his condition, I could cut him some slack but most people know if a person is using this device, then they have breathing issues. Eli also doesn’t do relationships. In fact he refuses to let women into his house, instead doing the deed in his truck. For me this is a flashing red sign. Why could anyone want to get involved with a 31 year old man with these issues?

However, Victoria doesn’t think it is a problem. She doesn’t want a relationship since she spent too many years being dependent on men. She just wants do the down and dirty with Eli since her husband treated her like spun glass. She also seems to think that the man's eagerness for this act indicates her power over him without thinking of it the other way around.

This is the second book in the series. I didn’t read the first but I did get the feeling that more of the characters’ childhood is discussed there. Still, this book did stand on its own, though perhaps reading the first might make one more sympathetic to the characters' issues.

Some of you enjoy tormented characters. I can do it in moderation and I did enjoy O’Keefe’s previous books. The characters here seem extremely damaged, though and the damage ran deeply enough that I was unable to accept their transformation.

-- Leigh Davis

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