September 2012, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373776594
So, if I’d had a heart attack at twenty-seven and had been told by my physicians I needed to decrease the stress in my life, and if my three closest friends responded to this crisis by tricking me into going to a knitting retreat —especially given that neither I nor the heroine of this book knit — my stress level would soar to stratospheric levels. That sort of “we love you and know what’s best for you despite the fact you’re a grown up successful woman” strikes me as manipulative and condescending. So, given that’s the opening plot device in An Accidental Bride, it’s safe to say this book and I did not get off to a good start.
Jilly O’Hara is a driven chef who owns a wildly popular restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. She’s busted her butt for years and is now at the top of her game. Then, one hectic Saturday night, she has a heart attack at work and is subsequently told by doctors she needs six stress free months — no work and all relaxing play. Jilly is appalled. Her cooking empire will collapse without her, she hasn’t any hobbies, and she’s terrified of boredom. So, rather than work with her to come up with a plan she might have some say in, her three best friends stage an “intervention” and pack her off to a knitting retreat high in the mountains of rural Wyoming. (Hilariously, to me at least, the higher altitude is initially a bit rough on her cardiac system.) Jilly has no idea she’s headed for the Lost Creek Resort until she arrives there.
She’s a bit distracted by the time she arrives at the resort because, at the itty bitty airport she flew into, she met a man. And boy does he strike her as a man. Not only is he a whole lot of hunky, strong, and silent guy, he’s accompanied by an adorable dog. (This would be the time to confess pets in stories rarely excite me.) Jilly and Winslow — the dog — fall in love at first pet. Jilly and Winslow’s owner, the taciturn Walker Hale, take notice of each other as well — although there’s no petting — heavy or otherwise — between them.
This is a pretty straight forward love story for the first two thirds of the book. Jilly and Walker grow to know one another and they begin to let down the barriers they’ve put up against the world. They are surrounded by lovable and loving characters in the small Wyoming town, all of whom would love to see Walker, the town hero, fall in love and settle down for some well-deserved happiness. I found much of this book unobjectionable, but not especially memorable.
Then, two thirds of the way through the novel, an odious plot twist appears. The sweet but feisty elderly woman who owns the resort needs to go into the hospital for tests and everyone is worried the doctors will suggest risky surgery. So, obviously the only thing to do to bring joy into her life is to stage a fake wedding between Jilly and Walker. Honestly, if I hadn’t taken a solemn pledge here at AAR to finish every book I’ve agreed to review, I’d have tossed this one the moment I read,
And there’s only one distraction that works for her.” He looked up, facing Jilly defiantly. “A wedding. Your wedding, that’s what would be better than any doctor’s visit. Better than medicine or any kind of surgery. You know that she’s been trying to get you married for months, Walker. I can’t think of a better time.” He looked at Jilly and gave a crooked smile. “Or a better person.”
And then, when Jilly began to sputter an answer, he raised his hands in surrender. “I know it wouldn’t be real and permanent. I’m not asking for the impossible. We just want you to go through with the ceremony and a small reception afterward. Jilly will be leaving soon anyway, so it’s not like you’ll be bumping into each other every day. After a few months, you can have everything quietly annulled. I’ve already checked with my friend, who’s a lawyer in Denver. We have the paperwork ready. You can leave everything else up to us.
So, between the ho-hum plot and the fake wedding, this book wasn’t my cup of tea. That said, if you’re looking for a reasonably written, super-sweet, light read without much sex, you might like this book… especially if you think pets and knitting are the key to happiness.
-- Dabney Grinnan
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