This ad worked for me so well I was astonished. Hero description, heroine description, briefest plot summary with hints at the tropes to be used.
I WAS SO THERE.
Then I got a look at the cover. Beautiful! Looks…professional!
Add to that the .99c price, and it was not difficult to click the ad, look at the book description, and click to buy. And judging from the link traffic stats, many of you did, too. I hope you enjoyed the book as much as I did.
Will Kincaid is a former NFL receiver who blows out his knee making a Superbowl-winning catch and will likely never play football again. Unsure of what to do with himself, and not wanting to hawk underwear on tv (as he says several times in the course of the story), Will moves home to Lake Perdue, the small Virginia town where he grew up. He does so partially to appease his mildly overbearing father and partially to hide out from the pile up of fame-and-fortune offers his agent was fielding on his behalf. He wanted time to think and time to be left alone.
On his first drive into town – running late for the parade in his honor (oops) – he rear-ends Hannah Jacobs with his Ferrari. Hannah knew Will in high school, and their past is complicated and filled with misunderstood feelings. Hannah was the smartest girl in school, and Will had expected her to go away to college, so he's surprised to learn that she never left town. She lives in the home she grew up in, cares for the aunt who raised her, and works as a librarian. She's something of a recluse, and when she first runs into Will (literally) she pulls a hat on her head and a scarf over her mouth so he won't recognize her. Hannah very much wants to be invisible.
Ultimately Will recognizes her, remembers their past (and the misunderstandings within it) and seeks her own, which is horribly embarrassing to Hannah, because everything Will does in town is subject to never-ending speculation by the townspeople, who are all aflutter over the town's new homegrown celebrity. The locals can't get enough of Will, and their admiration and attention bothers Hannah – and also Will, who is used to it but is also uncomfortable with it at times.
The story traces a year or so in the town as Will and Hannah work together on a special project for the town, one that gives Will a feeling of purpose and direction and that immeasurably helps Hannah in a professional sense.
I thought the story was simple, friendly, and sweet. It was very easy to read and very absorbing – but there were moments of really beautiful writing too.
There's small town romance, and a limited cast of characters, but enough people with real emotions and interactions that I cared about all of them. I genuinely liked the hero and heroine, and their secrets and problems (and their way of handling them) seemed real to me. What could have easily been trite and overwrought was not.
I had to ask myself if the “wallflower librarian” stereotype would piss off some folks who might read it, especially since initially Will is rather judgmental of Hannah's choices and her life, pointing out that she's an “old maid” hiding from life and everyone.
I don't think so, but I can't predict other people's reactions accurately most of the time. I thought Hannah's profession as a librarian didn't seem to me to be so much a stereotyped portrayal as an accurate representation of how she personally coped with her secret. She read and escaped into books for years, and so it seemed like a natural extension that she would become a librarian.
There were also moments of heavy symbolism, repetition (Will whines or mentions his knee a LOT in the beginning, prompting me to note, “I Get It. You have a Bad Knee”) and flashback conversations between teenage Will and Hannah that are too arch and symbolic to be believable, but even with those heavy handed moments, I kept going eagerly to see what happened – even though I knew the big twists and turns that were coming. I saw the big secrets long before they were revealed, but I still wanted to know how the characters would handle them, and what would happen. What I liked very much was that the handling of the issues and secrets was not a simple process, and for each character took time and effort. No one was cured by the magic wang in this book (and NB: the sex scenes are fade to black).
I also found Will's father to be predictable in his antagonism, and thought he was among the least-well-developed characters, along with the town sheriff. Yet even with the thin character development, Will's relationship with his father isn't neatly handled, and I appreciated that realistic portrayal of troublesome family relationships. For me, every time there was something that bothered me a bit, there was something else done well that balanced it out.
One reader on Facebook mentioned that this book had originally been published as a Harlequin/Silhouette SuperRomance in the 90s – but I couldn't find information on the original title of the book. The possibility that it was an older romance shows in a few places.
First, there's a gathering of some characters in a town call, and there's the smell of cigarette smoke in the air. My understanding is that most towns ban smoking inside public buildings nowadays – though this was a rural setting and I could be wrong about that. I also raised a brow at the idea that Hannah's library wasn't computerized and still relied on stamp check-out cards. Will's ex-girlfriend's name is “Grace,” which, HA!
Also, there's one scene where the hero consults a doctor in a major town many miles away, and that seemed outdated to me as well, since the reason for seeing the doctor was something that would very likely have been treatable by a professional closer to home. However, the hero's status as an ex-NFL player probably factored into his decision to leave town to seek that doctor's expertise.
This description really dated it for me though:
He still preferred Levi’s, the kind that had been washed so many times they’d gone soft and white. Today he’d paired them with a denim and a worn-looking leather jacket that cost more than a lot of used cars. He wore equally well-worn loafers on sockless feet. He hated socks.
Loafers without socks, and a denim shirt with jeans? Isn't that a Canadian tuxedo? You are some hot stuff there, Will. WOO!
For those who were confused by the grammar of the title, the words come from the phrase, “Truths like roses have thorns about them,” coined by Thoreau. In this case, the roses are a motif that appears in the story a few times, one that ties the heroine to her home, and also comes to symbolize her determination.
This book was often tipping side to side in my esteem, at times too heavy handed, at times deft and elegant in the writing and descriptions. I was feeling a lot of trepidation about reading this book since I'd tweeted about who the ad had worked for me. What if the ad worked and the book did not? I was almost waiting to hate it, and I kept checking my own reaction. Was I still charmed? Did I want to read more? In the end, I put aside work in the evening to read more and I stayed up later than I should have to finish it. It was friendly and sweet, and a very quick read for me. Definitely .99c well spent, and a Facebook ad well-clicked.