This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by KellyM. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Contemporary Romance category.
An accomplished lawyer and driven single mother, Ellen Callahan isn’t looking for any help. She’s doing just fine on her own. So Ellen’s more than a little peeved when her brother, an international pop star, hires a security guard to protect her from a prying press that will stop at nothing to dig up dirt on him. But when the tanned and toned Caleb Clark shows up at her door, Ellen might just have to plead the fifth.
Back home after a deployment in Iraq and looking for work as a civilian, Caleb signs on as Ellen’s bodyguard. After combat in the hot desert sun, this job should be a breeze. But guarding the willful beauty is harder than he imagined—and Caleb can’t resist the temptation to mix business with pleasure. With their desires growing more undeniable by the day, Ellen and Caleb give in to an evening of steamy passion. But will they ever be able to share more than just a one-night stand?
And here's KellyM's review:
Lightning quick plot summary – this book is about Ellen Callahan, the lawyer twin sister of a pop star named Jamie. She's spent the past couple of years rebuilding her life after a nasty divorce. Ellen has become uber-independent and loves the life she has made for her and her toddler son. She's got some major trust issues left over from her previous marriage. Along comes trouble in the form of Caleb Clark, a retired Army MP who is trying to get his fledgling security business off the ground. He's hired by Jamie's security company to work locally to keep Ellen and Jamie's (ex?) girlfriend, Carly, safe from paparrazi and fans, who really should find new hobbies. Ellen doesn't like the idea of needing security. She's very much opposed to changing ANYTHING about her carefully constructed new life, especially when someone large and male is calling the shots in her domain. Locking of horns, followed by flirting and locking of *ahem* other things, and big, scary feels ensue.
I decided to read Along Came Trouble first on its own, then go back and read the preceding novella (How to Misbehave, which was also pretty fantastic), followed by a re-read of Along Came Trouble. I wanted to see if this book would stand on its own, and I think it definitely did.
A few minor issues that I had…
I've been reading romance long enough to know that I get a little annoyed when the reluctant character finally realizes that she loves the guy, and then proceeds to dither for another 20 or 30 pages before finally just TALKING to him. I got annoyed when Ellen was all 'oh, woe is me, I am who I am and I cannot change.' I know, I'm being a little hard on her, and this is how real people work sometimes, but it gets under my skin just a bit. In the end, I liked how the whole thing was resolved, so I'm willing to forgive the dithering.
There were also some conversations early in the book where the dialogue was broken up by lots of narrative and internal monologue from the characters. I had to go back a couple of pages a few times to remember what the talkers were going on about before all that thinking happened. As I got more into the book, either I was invested enough in the story that I didn't notice the over-thinking, or there was less of it.
Anyone who knows me would tell you that it's an Earth Day miracle that I didn't look at the descriptions for the other books in the Camelot series before reading this book. I wanted to go in as blind as possible. Unfortunately, that meant that I spent the first 2/3 of the book (I couldn't hold out FOREVER) looking forward to reading Jamie and Carly's story, which I assumed was told in the preceding novella. Along Came Trouble hinges a lot on what's happening with Jamie and Carly, and it seems to drop us right into the middle of their issues. It's not a bad drop – theirs is a relatively straightforward story and I didn't feel left behind by it. During the part where Jamie realizes that he needs to get back to Carly, I actually wrote a note saying “this whole section would probably pack a better emotional punch if I'd read their novella first”. Then I discovered that the preceding novella is NOT, in fact, about Ellen's twin brother and her neighbor. Sadface. I mean, it wasn't a HUGE letdown. I still really liked this book and really want to read the rest of the series (now, please). I just felt like I would really like to read Jamie and Carly's book too.
All that aside, I kind of loved this book. I loved the way the characters interacted and flirted. They had great dialogue. And there were lots of cute moments in Ellen's internal narratives as well:
“You want to keep your beer in my fridge?”
“I was hoping.”
“And your chips in my cabinet?”
“In case I get hungry after.”
“After the beer?”
He lifted his eyebrows.
“Didn't I just meet you a couple days ago?” she asked.
“Yeah, and look how well we're getting along. We'll be married by the weekend.” He flashed her a winning, if slightly weary, smile.
Ellen rolled her eyes and stomped, stomped, stomped on the tiny fluttering, leaping thing in her chest.
They also had some fairly smoking chemistry. And I'm such a sucker for the alpha caretaker hero, I can't even stand it. I loved the kid's speech patterns. I don't usually love kids in romances, but Henry was so darned cute.
And I REALLY loved that the conflict in this book stemmed more from the main characters trying to figure out how to deal with their respective baggage and each other. I'm not a big fan of romantic suspense, and I prefer the conflicts in my contemporaries to be more internal. This story had the potential to go a darker route – with an increasingly unstable ex-husband and a paparrazo with a past hovering in the background, there could easily have been some kind of kidnapping plot or something similar. That would've been very disappointing for me. These two characters have enough conflict just trying to get to know one another and accomodate each other's issues. They didn't need a suspense subplot, and I'm very glad they didn't get one.
I also like the “hero in pursuit” angle. He completely knows what he wants, and he's able and willing to admit that he's falling fast and hard for her. It's a nice change from some of the historicals that I've been reading lately, where the characters have to be in mortal danger before the hero finally admits that he loves the long-suffering heroine. Yay for guys who can figure it out!
On the subject of emotional baggage, I really appreciated that BOTH main characters in this book have issues to deal with. This isn't the story of the emotionally scarred divorcee trying to move on. I mean, it is, but that's not all it is. It's also the story of a guy who's still trying to come to terms with a family that he's been away from through many years of deployments, and a guy who's trying to build a business, but is worried that he might fail. And it's a story about family – the one you're born with and the one you make. It's messy and imperfect, and that's what makes it wonderful.
So, this is only my second Ruthie Knox book, and I really think I'm starting to develop a bit of a girl-crush. I can't wait to dig into the rest of the Camelot series!