This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by AnimeJune. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Contemporary Single Title Romance category.
Grace never thought she'd be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh's lovable mutt to caring for his rambunctious son. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad….
With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family-until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “good bedside manner.”
Josh and Grace don't know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day . . .
And here is AnimeJune's review:
For me, the smalltown romance is like fugu sushi. If prepared with talent and careful attention, it is one of the tastiest types of romance around. The strong community bonds. The colourful characters. The well-realized, layered portrayal of an inclusive and restricted setting with intertwining histories and politics.
Unfortunately, if prepared lazily and with oversimplified, idealized stereotypes and Smug Matchmakers, a small town romance is literary poison.
Grace Brooks needs money. Formerly an ambitious financial executive, she was forced to leave her high-powered job and find refuge in Lucky Harbor – not because things blew up in her face, but rather because her sleazy boss wanted to. Unfortunately, she didn’t stop to check how the economy was doing before quitting her job and no one else is hiring in the financial industry. For now, she’s been subsisting on odd jobs, her dwindling savings, and her unending well of self-pity.
Grace is so desperate for cash, when Dr. Josh Scott dials the wrong number for a dog walker and gets her instead, she jumps at the chance to score an extra forty dollars.
Dr. Josh Scott needs time. He’s stretched to the breaking point between too many priorities at once. He slaves away at his father’s practice, where he is sexually harassed daily by his female patients. He’s the single father to an adorable 5-year-old product of a one-night-stand. He’s the overprotective older brother to his orphaned, paraplegic younger sister who copes with her disability by being a Horrible Person Who Pees on Other Peoples’ Happiness. Of course, he could always sign over his practice to the local hospital which would gain him an assistant and cut his hours down, but he can’t because of reasons. Rational manly reasons. And maybe some daddy issues.
He hires Grace Brooks to walk his dog, but she winds up screwing the pooch in every way except literally when she almost drowns his dog (and herself) in the ocean within five minutes of being hired. Josh finds Grace’s inability to be even remotely competent adorable – and soon she’s graduated from almost drowning his dog in the ocean to almost drowning his child in the pool when she locks herself out of the house.
There’s a lot of hijinks and shenanigans and whatnot in this novel, most of it involving Grace fucking things up. Unfortunately, most of this falls flat because Forever and a Day falls prey to one of the classic smalltown romance blunders – the novel spends too much time on kooky, capital-C Characters and less on the actual, you know, characters.
Josh and Grace feel more like archetypes. Josh is constantly overworked and exhausted and spends too little time with his son for virtually no reason. There’s no shortage of money, there’s no one he needs to prove himself to, and signing over the practice would not result in a drop in quality for his patients. It’s like the book needed him to fill the Overworked Single Dad Who Just Needs To Smell the Roses role but didn’t bother to develop his actual motivations and thought processes beyond checking off that box.
Grace, meanwhile, was adopted by brilliant scientists and feels she has to have an important, high-paying career to “earn” the Brooks last name, while simultaneously believing such success is beyond her thanks to her “mutt” heritage (her words). But she’s such a klutzy screw-up that it’s hard to picture her as a successful financial executive.
And of course, we have the town of Lucky Harbor. The setting for many of Jill Shalvis’ novels, it has the idealistic, bland squishiness of white bread, interrupted now and again by an angsty raisin of an inhabitant who is obviously destined for their own eventual book. There’s no realism or complexity to any of it – the majority of the non-protagonist inhabitants act like the glassy-eyed adherents of a cult that worships horrifically invasive relationship meddling, their rites performed with the help of a public FaceBook page that makes inappropriate and objectifying comments about many of its subjects.
For many readers, the small town romance is appealing because the isolation and the inclusive community can make it seem as if the town exists outside the realm of reality. Anything can happen, and everyone has your back.
Unfortunately, I need a little dose of reality with my romance. A little grit. A little darkness. Some depth beneath the six-pass abs and perky breasts. If you’re looking for a small town romance like that, you’d be better off avoiding Forever and a Day.