A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
World-Building in Romance

Still the One by Jill Shalvis

Darcy has spent her whole life on the road. As child she was shuttled from one international posting to another following her parents' s all important diplomatic careers. As an adult she has always chased thrills and adventure as travel writer. But a catastrophic accident has stranded Darcy in small-town Sunshine, Idaho. Darcy is angry, restless and directionless. The only thing that means anything to Darcy right now are the rejected therapy dogs she rescues and re-homes.

AJ is a Physical Therapist and owner of the Sunshine Wellness Center, and Darcy's brother's best friend. He did everything within his power to ensure Darcy received the best care post-accident, pushing her hard during their sessions and then secretly covering her PT bills long after her meager insurance coverage ran out.  He is secretly in love with Darcy but won't pursue her for reasons and allows Darcy to think that he rejected her.  But things get complicated and hot when AJ and Darcy are forced to endure a weekend away together pretending they are in a relationship so that AJ can secure a grant that would allow him to help others in the same way he helped her.

I love a cantankerous heroine, and Darcy had that role covered. In the previous books in the series we have learned a lot about Wyatt, Zoe and Darcy's awful parents, and the emotional scars their neglect and disinterest have left on their children.  Darcy has a lot of them.  She is lonely, angry and very vulnerable. I appreciated her pride and her determination to rescue those dogs, even if I rolled my eyes at her inability to let anyone else help.  I liked that she is deeply uncomfortable being put on display and having to talk about her injuries and recovery process.  Her disabilities and struggle to regain her mobility  don't serve as inspiration porn.

I had a harder time connecting with AJ. I liked him as a super-competent Physical Therapist who struggles with his attraction for Darcy because she is  his best-friend's sister and a former patient.  I didn't like the twist that the deep down his actual internal conflict for stems from  a secret tragic back-story, especially when it stays a big secret from Darcy for way to long (his fiancee rejected him and herself after she was disfigured by IED, so he fears falling in love again).   I wanted to like him and Darcy together but I didn't understand his motivations and behaviors a lot of the time (he went hot and cold, initiating and then backing away) and felt most of their conflicts could have been resolved if they actually spoke to each other rather than ignoring each other and avoid talking about their issues.

In the end the romance didn't hold together well enough for me. I felt there were a lot of issues raised that were not dealt with completely  and others that while powerful and interesting (Darcy's  heart-breaking break-up with her best-friend Xander over being "friend-zoned"), stole away the focus from AJ and Darcy relationship issues.

I felt very lukewarm over Still the One. There were a lot of things to like, interesting characters & situations,  good ethical questions, and some hot sex scenes but in the end it didn't work for me.

comments powered by Disqus