Series: Jackson: Girls Night Out #2
Published by HQN Books on January 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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There's no hiding from sizzling chemistry… Artist Isabelle West has good reasons for preferring a solitary life. Tucked away in a cabin in the woods, she has everything she needs…except a red-hot love life. That is, until a hard-bodied US marshal threatens to unearth secrets she's spent years protecting. But giving in to the sparks flying between them can only lead to one thing…disaster. Tom Duncan lives by the letter of the law. But no one has tempted him—or confused him—more than free-spirited Isabelle, who arouses his suspicion and his desire. As their connection grows, and their nights get hotter, they find their wild attraction might shake everything he stands for—and expose everything she has to hide.Bonus Girls' Night Out novella, Fanning the Flames, included!
Holy moly. I liked this story a lot. I loooooved these characters. Isabelle and Tom were amazing, even while their story itself was a little lackluster. First off, they’re both in their mid-to-late thirties, so that was wonderful. I like reading about characters who are out of their twenties. They’re more likely to know exactly what they want and go after it without a lot of the wishy-washiness and game playing of the younger characters.
And these two absolutely knew what they wanted. You could say there was some game playing, in the way they were both hiding things from the other, but they each suffered enough internal angst over it to make it believable.
Isabelle has been in hiding for years. Her father ended up being a criminal, and she had to run to stay safe after her dad went into hiding. She didn’t do anything illegal initially, though since then she’s been living under a false identity, which is certainly against the law. But she knows that some of her dad’s old criminal associates are still looking for her, and other law enforcement agents still think she knows where her dad is, so she has reason to be suspicious with US Marshal Tom Duncan shows up on her doorstep. He tells her he’s there on a security detail to protect a judge who lives nearby, but she still thinks he’s there for her. Tom wasn’t there for her, but her skittish attitude and jumpy behavior makes him suspicious and he decides to look into her background.
He quickly discovers who she is, but he doesn’t tell her. He does go ahead and sleep with her, though, which didn’t exactly endear him to me. He’s basically getting into her pants while lying to her. Technically, I guess you could say the same for Isabelle, though her lies don’t quite rub me the wrong way like Tom’s does. Isabelle’s is more a lie of omission, a lie to protect herself. It’s a lie she tells to everyone, where Tom’s is more an active lie. He continues to sleep with her, even while digging further into her background and eventually causing his digging to attract the interest of some bad dudes.
The story itself was the least of my interest in this book. Isabelle and Tom were fantastic, Isabelle especially. I loved how she knew herself and loved herself and owned her wants and desires. She accepted and reveled in her sexuality the way few romance heroines do. No body angst, no qualms about asking for or demanding what she wanted in bed, I just loved her. She really enjoyed her time with Tom and accepted it for what it was, without asking for promises of the future. Neither of them want children, and it just wasn’t even an issue. It came up once and that was it. That’s another thing you rarely see in romance. Everyone seems to be desperate to have kids; hardly anyone just says “No, I don’t want any.” Tom was completely alpha without being a controlling, possessive dick about it. He seems to recognize the weight of what he’s doing and what the consequences could be, both in his career and his personal life. He knows what the right thing to do is, but he doesn’t pretend it’s easy. There’s one scene where he does what he has to do, knowing that it could end everything for him and Isabelle, that broke my heart.
And the end. This is not a white-picket fence, married and pregnant epilogue that have become the bane of my romance novel reading life. This is two people who recognize what they have and are determined to make it work. And they will, but it is something they’ll have to work at. There’s no “I love you, so this will be perfect forever.” If they want to stick it out, if they want to stay together, they are both going to have make an effort every day, at least for the forseeable future. That’s another part of the hero and heroine being a little bit older than average. By the time you’re in your thirties, there’s more at stake for both people. There’s more history, more in your background and past, you probably each own a home or are at least pretty settled in where you’re currently living. Your careers are more set, you’re probably starting to see some results from the work you’ve been doing for the last several years, and frankly, you’re more settled in your own ways and your own routines. Having someone invade that, even when they’re welcome and wanted, is an adjustment that has to be made. I liked that Dahl recognized that and didn’t pretend it would be instant bliss.
This was a good entry in the Jackson series. I think Victoria might be next? It was a little hard to tell in this one; she was a little quiet and was clearly holding on to some secrets of her own, so I don’t think we’re done with her. I’ll keep going with this series, though. And probably Dahl’s backlist.