When book doctor Jane Pearson arrives at Griffin Lowell's beach house, she expects a brooding loner. After all, his agent hired her to help the reclusive war journalist write his stalled memoir. Instead, Jane finds a tanned, ocean-blue-eyed man in a Hawaiian shirt, hosting a beach party and surrounded by beauties. Faster than he can untie a bikini top, Griffin lets Jane know he doesn't want her. But she desperately needs this job and digs her toes in the sand.
Griffin intends to spend the coming weeks at Beach House No. 9 taking refuge from his painful memories-and from the primly sexy book doctor who wants to bare his soul. But warm nights, moonlit walks and sultry kisses just may unlock both their guarded hearts…
And here is Heather's review:
In Beach House No. 9, the heroine, Jane Pearson, heads out to Crescent Cove, an idyllic, beach cottage-filled gem of not-stucco development in Southern California. Her job: to help Griffin Lowell, a journalist who'd (TRIGGER WARNING) spent a year embedded with American troops in Afghanistan, finish the first half of his memoir in time for the deadline.
Jane ruminates on her frizzy, dishwater-blond hair, her “pleasant but unremarkable features”, plain gray eyes, and her white linen dress, which apparently started out “professional” and now looks “like a drooping Kleenex ghost”. We get it, Jane – you think you're plain, like every other heroine in Romancelandia. She arrives at the cottage, expecting a brooding recluse – and interrupts a house party, where she womanfully ignores a comment from a drunken beach boy about being “some little thing from librarian school”.
Griffin is dressed up as a pirate, wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt (whether or not it was tucked in is left a mystery, so your guess is as good as mine). Despite the fact that he has a bikini-clad beach babe on each arm, when he takes off the headband and eye patch he's wearing, her response is “Shiver me timbers.” He's a blue-eyed, dark-haired, stubble-sporting hottie, and he wastes no time doing smoldering eyesex as he checks her out.
Griffin comes across as rather obnoxious – when she tries to talk business, he tunes her out, then checks her out again. The man's hardly said two words to her and Jane alternately considers giving him a figurative kick in the pants to get him to turn in the eleven pages that are overdue, and being so hot and bothered by this guy that she can't think. He calls her honey-pie, asks for alcohol, and propositions her. He also compares her to a governess (Jane Eyre, much? Also: this goes on throughout the book. She's either called a librarian or a governess and is described repetitively as “prim”. If this is RageFlail-inducing for you, enter at your own risk.).
Jane touches his shin, which results in the usual “electric shock snapping, tingle going up her arm, etc” and her becoming more flustered and attracted to him. To nobody's surprise but hers, she's amazed by this because she'd “always assumed her interest was more in a man's mind than his… manliness.”
We quickly learn that Griffin is “hyper-memoried” – not schizophrenic – but he always hears the memories playing in the background of his head, which is why he surrounds himself with people and noise to drown them out. Just as quickly, he decides Jane is a “small stubborn woman”, a “bookish female”, and
“He'd done his best to ignore her, but she wasn't easy to avoid, damn her pretty eyes.”
So there we go: “I don't like you but I can't stop thinking about your eyes, dammit!” phase has commenced. He alternates between thinking she's sexy and thinking she doesn't have anything that would interest him, and says that nobody who looks like a librarian or governess will be allowed at Beach House No. 9.
Jane, of course, takes that as her cue to don sexy clothes, despite her discomfort with all the skin they reveal. Her desire to revive her career and professional reputation by making Griffin finish his book outweighs any qualms she may have about her clothing. Two random surfers both want to get with her, and Griffin comes to the rescue (of course) by shoving one guy, yanking her into his arms, and slamming his mouth down on hers. Sure hope poor Jane didn't end up with a busted lip, since Griffin kisses like it's WWF Smack Down. (On a side note, I wonder why all these other men don't find the heroine attractive until the hero comes around and decides she's the hottest thing since the gates of Hell? Why is this such a thing in romance?)
Griffin wouldn't be a legit romance hero unless he had something(s) in his past to angst over. In his case, it's the year he spent embedded with troops in Afghanistan, his fellow journalist and former lover who was killed in an ambush, and the fact that his twin brother is still there, photographing his heart out and loving every moment. I totally get where Griffin is coming from here, as I did a tour in Afghanistan in the Army and know how hard readjustment can be, even years after the fact. He's a man who doesn't want to deal with his emotions. He doesn't even want to admit he has them, and this state of denial is the cause of a lot of his obnoxious and rude behavior towards everyone around him.
Jane's angst comes from the way a previous author she'd worked with (and dated) nearly ruined her career and reputation when she left him for being a cheating slimeball, and her dad, a distant, unemotional man who belittled her for being “silly and emotional”. Her two brothers are geniuses, not the most sensitive or emotionally available guys around, and they were homeschooled. Jane didn't show any aptitude for math and science, so her dad judged that public school was “good enough for her”. (Nice guy, right?) The only way Jane can obtain his approval is to succeed professionally. She's determined not to let Griffin get in the way of her professional renaissance, even if she does have a serious case of hornypants for him.
“Her breath quickened, even though she tried pretending she was all cool control. There was no denying that something about the man had found a previously hidden chink in her, an opening that allowed his male energy to worm its way under her armor, heating her up, loosening her muscles, almost… preparing her.”
Avast, me hearties! New purple-tinted euphemism for the Mighty Wang off the port bow! (“Yuck” was my response to reading this line, btw.)
Like many a contemporary romance heroine, Jane has had to take charge of her own life and sexual agency. No one has ever put her first in anything – not her family, not douchey former lover Ian Stone, nobody. With Griffin, she has to unlearn the habit of achieving her own sexual gratification and learn to trust that he will give her pleasure, rather than take his own and neglect her (as Ian apparently did). The sex scenes are pretty hot, though I did take issue with one scene, where Jane believes that he doesn't even know who she is, that she's just “a willing woman” for him to “exorcise his demons upon”, and she goes along with it.
There is a side romance between Tess, Griffin's sister, and her husband David. These two encapsulate the Big Mis of the book, specifically because they each try to do their own thing instead of communicating with one another. I liked them both. I also wanted to slap both of them and wondered how on earth people can be married for the better part of 15 years and still have communication issues, especially since they have four kids to take into consideration. The couple for the next book is also set up here.
By forcing Griffin to work on his book, Jane forces him to confront the memories that haunt him. This leads to a lot of kicking and screaming and tantrums and throwing things on his part, because he doesn't want to feel anything, he doesn't want to love anyone, he just wants to go on ignoring his problems or trying to minimize their impact on him because he carried a camera, not a rifle. It takes Jane falling off a high rock into the water (she can swim, but she's terrified of the ocean) and his attempt to rescue her to make him understand how much he cares for her.
The proposal at the end struck me, and Jane (initially), as a reaction to adrenaline. However, I left the book with the sense that Griffin and Jane would have a fair chance of happiness, provided he got some professional counseling and support to help him adjust and cope with his emotional issues. As much as we like to believe that the Power of True Love™ will win out above all things, sometimes love just needs a bit of extra help.