Ahh, finally today I've made it to the book I've been dying to write about since finishing it at 6 am this morning...
Go NetGalley, for finding me another new author to obsess over.
And go figure, she's friends with another new(-to-me) author, Cristin Harber.
Let me tell you how I choose books to read -- I keep tabs on my favorite authors and write their release dates in my planner. Occasionally, and it's extremely rare, Barnes and Noble will throw up a pretty cover on their website, or the grocery store will have a pretty cover hanging out front and center. Yes, I judge my books by their covers. Every now and then, it's the title that draws me in.
Let me tell you how I choose books on NetGalley.
I hit 'recently added' (or select 'date added' in the drop down box in the 'romance' genre) and skim until a title or cover appeals to me. Rarely will I even bother to skim the synopsis. If it looks good, 'request' gets selected. As I selected 'request' on this book, the first line strangely appealed to me -- a mother at the beach with four kids? Navy SEAL? Hmm, can't be too bad, hope the author wrote it well.
Everything about this book, everything, appealed to me. Not a section of this book disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, I like a few sidestories here and there, but the fact that this book was always in Abby or Matt's head was a definite plus for me. It allowed the book to flow and move from one day to the next, to the next, to the next.
The book starts out at the beach, where Matt went with his cousin for a few days away. His cousin also brought along some 'hot' ladies. However, it's not the woman in the sparkling orange bikini that catches his eye.
No, it's the (pregnant) mother of the 5 year old boy who nailed him in the head with a football. Along with Jack, Matt meets 7 year old Annie, a shy little girl who grows to remind Matt of her mother; 3 year old Gracie with love of life, much like most toddlers; and 2 year old Charlie, the little cute monster who probably ends up doing the most work in getting Matt to actually meet their mother.
After playing with Jack in the sand the first day, he realizes he didn't actually meet the kids' mother. The next day, Charlie runs through and stains orange-bikini's white pants. Between that and Jack and Gracie's continuously asking to play, Matt gets his way in and meets Abby.
Abby is widowed, but she hasn't felt married in many years. It was merely a piece of paper. It hurts her to watch Matt play with the kids and know that her deceased husband had never had any desire to play with them. Jack and Gracie just eat the attention up. Annie is extremely reserved when it comes to Matt, but he doesn't ignore her. Charlie is a cherub who clings to Matt's neck.
It all feels extremely natural and warm to Matt. Daily, Jack asks for Matt to come by the next day and play; daily, Abby fears her kids' hopes will get too high and Matt will eventually leave -- they all do. Besides, Matt is just a stranger they met at the beach.
When asked about what he does, at first Matt leaves out that he's a SEAL. He doesn't want the glorification of his job. He wants Abby to want him.
As the week progresses, without so much as a kiss, mind you, Matt falls more and more for this woman and her kids. When the week ends, Matt and Abby exchange numbers (not without a scorching kiss, of course, the first of many), but Abby figures he's being nice.
When Matt is back in his normal routine, he can't get his mind off of Abby and her children. He wants to see them. Hell, he needs to see them; maybe he'll be able to get his head back into the game. Two years ago, he'd promised his best friend that he wouldn't quit the SEALs (as Teddy was dying, nonetheless; obviously this is a promise that would be hard to break), which was where his heart had been heading at the time. But Matt keeps seeing Abby in his mind, and he starts to question his loyalty to his friend and wonder more about Abby.
I could probably go on and on and on about this book. I could write a full-on synopsis and tell you every little thing that happened.
But I won't.
This is a book that any contemporary romance reader in her (his...?) right mind NEEDS to read. Like now. Yesterday, even.
I think what draws me so deeply to this book is the idea that Abby is single, pregnant, and has a brood of children. I love when men step up and take on a fathering role to children that are not theirs biologically. He may have fallen in love with Abby, but there is not a doubt in my mind that he fell in love with those children first. Getting the three littles' opinion didn't take much work, but he certainly worked for Annie's trust -- a fragile trust that he nearly broke later in the story.
On one hand, the way Matt folds himself into her family is lovely and natural, but on the other, I can't help but feel that maybe I'd be a little creeped out by this man needing to play with my children when we'd only known him for an hour. But hey, it worked out.
Most books take about 75% or more to get to the point where the guy realizes he has everything he's ever needed in his arms. The wedding is the epilogue. What I loved about this book is the realization that he could have everything in her and her children, was before they even kissed, before they said goodbye and went their separate ways. The book goes through the true struggles of a military family. It delves into the honor and trust and promises some of these military men make to their spouses, to their buddies on the field. It touches the terror of being away from home and hearing that something terrible happened at home, trying like hell to get back there to see with your own eyes everything was ok. It touches the aspect that sometimes these men (and women, if looking at military as a whole) get called away on the drop of a dime, and feelings get hurt and words get taken wrong.
There's a scene at the beach, the last night, when he's getting ready to leave Abby and the kids -- both driving to their own destinations the next day. He's tucking all the kids into bed, and the sadness in his thoughts made me want to cry the entire scene. Pretty sure I misted up. Maybe even shed a tear or two.
I really loved this family -- because, let's be honest, they were a single unit nearly from the get-go. This is one of those books that I wish the author would do a sequel to; not even an additional story with someone one of them knows (take cousin Rob, for instance) but rather another look at Matt and Abby's lives 5, 10 years down the road. Regardless, I'm excited to read the rest of this new series; with Matt and Abby living so close to his parents' house, perhaps we will get to glimpse into their lives with each additional story.
I re-read nearly every book that I have. I have a few go-to books that I know I can read again and again and never bore of them.
My go-to book for the last year plus was Maya Banks' Whispers in the Dark.
....my new go-to book may very well be Worth the Fall.