Lorraine Heath – "Hard Lovin’ Man"

29 Oct

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Pocket Star Book, 2003

The back blurb:
“When Kelley Spencer moves back to her hometown of Hopeful with her sister, she hopes desperately to protect sixteen-year-old Madison from the trouble that seemed to find her in Dallas. Almost immediately, a brush with the law reveals that the police chief is none other than Jack Morgan – the man who broke Kelley’s heart many years before. He’s the last man she thought she’d find still living in Hopeful … and the only man she’s ever loved.
Jack Morgan wants nothing more than a second chance with Kelley Spencer – and he’s not shy about showing it. Their love might have been doomed all those years ago, but nothing’s stopping him now. That is, nothing but Kelley’s dark secret that might drive Jack to leave her again … this time forever.”

I got this novel for two reasons:
– I wanted to read something by Heath for some time now (because of her Westerns which are sadly out of print)
– I like second-chance-at-love stories, older woman-younger man stories, and I liked One Summer by Karen Robards, that is without the badly done creepy parts.
Hard Lovin’ Man fits this pretty well (and I didn’t read anything about badly done creepy parts) so I was all set to enjoy it.

And then I didn’t. Not really.

The hero, Jack Morgan, is nice enough. I didn’t even mind the kids too much. I liked how Heath had both the hero and the heroine struggle with parenthood and that their ways of dealing with it showed different ways to handle such a change in a life, which contrasted the characters nicely. (Yes, it’s a bit hazy but that’s because of Kelley’s dark secret).

I had two (huge) problems:

1. The heroine, Kelley Spencer
No, it’s not the obvious one of a teacher getting involved with a student (which in a way happens after his graduation anyway). It’s the way this character is written. Kelley states on and on how there is no future for her and Jack. And I never understood why she thought that. Because of her problems with Madison? Because of her dark secret (which seems to be the reason later)? Then she goes and does something that contradicts the things she says and thinks. For example, on page 151 she thinks: “There would be always something between her and Jack. A history, without a future.” The next time they meet, at a county fair, they walk hand in hand (p. 163). Because “[…] Kelley couldn’t help but feel a little as though they were shifting away from the past and tonight she was seeing a side to Jack that had eluded her before” (p. 161).
What’s of her reasons that there could be no future? She still keeps referring to them. I know this “one step forward, one step back” happens because her head and her heart say different things but I didn’t find the way this was portrayed convincing, more like Kelley’s fidgeting had to happen to prolong the story. This is the most obvious with her little stunt at the end. There are easily ten more pages to be written with that thrown in.
Allegedly, Jack broke her heart nine years ago. Hard to believe when she’s constantly amazed at what he does and what he has become now. I have trouble understanding how such a shallow, not-much-expecting opinion about a person could lead to a broken heart. What did she see in him then? And how can she expect him to be exactly like that even now? More importantly, what did Jack see in her now?
Understand, my problems with Kelley are not because I didn’t like her. That’s not really important to me in reading. What I didn’t like is the feeling I got that Kelley was written the way she is – contradicting in thought and action – not because she has an inconsistent character but because her characterisation was inconsistent for the stories sake. The story dictated her thoughts and actions.

2. Kelley’s daaaaaaark secret
I guessed rather soon what Kelley’s dark secret is. It’s also something that just could not not be in Kelley’s mind when she’s thinking about certain things. But it was deliberately left out to increase suspense. Result: the allusions to the secret started to annoy me more and more. It would have been better to be up front about it, especially because I think it could have had a powerful effect when writing about Kelley’s dealings with Jack and Madison (probably even with the added benefit of making the reader side with Kelley). Plus, didn’t think the dark secret is the deal-breaker Kelley makes it out to be.

The chemistry between Jack and Kelley was curiously flat, even the flashback didn’t make me go “awwwwwh!” I’m going in search of Robards’s One Summer now.

Would I recommend this novel? Probably yes.

Would I read this novel again? Maybe.

Grade: 3 / 5


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