Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Review: Can't Hurry Love

Can’t Hurry Love
By Molly O’Keefe
Release Date: July 31st, 2012
Publisher: Random House Publishing

Except for her brother and her son, Victoria Schulman has been unfortunate with the men in her life. Her father was a total jerk who not only failed to give his daughter the love and encouragement that should have been her birthright but who actively undermined her confidence. Her husband was a cold, impossible-to-please workaholic who stole from friends in a Ponzi scheme and killed himself when he was caught. Then she fell for a con man who ended up taking her son hostage. The ranch that belonged to her father now belongs to her brother, Luc Baker (Can’t Buy Me Love), and he agrees to let Victoria run it during the year it’s in escrow and then buy it from him. There is one small problem: Victoria knows nothing about ranching.

But she wanted to learn. Needed to. Because she’d utterly failed at everything else in her life, and this place seemed like her last chance to make a home and a future for her son.

To succeed at ranching, Victoria needs Eli Turnbull, the ranch foreman, but Eli’s whole life has been focused on reclaiming the Crooked Creek Ranch and the land that once belonged to his family. Furious when he learns that all Lyle Baker left him in his will is half interest in the cattle, Eli decides that if he has to be a jackass to get the ranch, he will be. With a wealthy uncle to back him, he offers Victoria $2 million for the ranch. But when she refuses to sell, he sells the cattle. His half of the proceeds will give him the money he needs to begin the horse breeding that is his dream. Without the cattle to bring in money for taxes and operating expenses, Victoria will be forced to sell eventually.

Victoria is smarter than he gives her credit for being. When a visit to her lawyer makes clear exactly what Eli has done by selling the cattle, she leases land, including the plot Eli was expecting to buy. The war is on. It ends with Eli using Victoria’s son to strike at her. She fires him. But when her plan to turn the ranch into a resort and spa requires a cash infusion, she offers to sell Eli land. The attraction that sparked between them on the ranch becomes a consuming fire, but both Eli and Victoria have to let go of the parts of their pasts that keep their wounds festering before they can hope for a future.

Reading Can’t Hurry Love, I was reminded of one of my favorite Flannery O’Connor quotations: “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”  Molly O’Keefe’s Crooked Creek books feature deeply flawed characters who need redemption. For Luc and Tara Jean in Can’t Buy Me Love, despite their real faults, I found something likeable in them early on. It took me much longer to like Victoria and Eli and even one of the secondary characters--Luc’s mother, Celeste. There is humor in the book, but at the heart of it, there is darkness because these are characters who dislike themselves.  When Eli makes choices that will hurt Victoria, he dislikes the man he is becoming. Victoria hates the weak, needy woman that she has been. Celeste hates her coldness and snobbery. It was not until they began to change and their vulnerabilities were exposed that I began to care about their happiness.

Victoria’s love for her son Jacob softened my feelings toward her, but the moment I saw her as an engaging character whom I wanted to see achieve her happy ending occurred when she first confronted Eli directly.

For years in her other life, she’d lived on innuendo, backhanded compliments, letting rumors do the hard work for her in terms of letting people know how she felt about them. Telling Eli he was an ass, straight and plain, filled her with both anxiety and elation. She felt mean and righteous both at once.

My reaction to these words? You go, girl!

It took me longer to warm up to Eli. I thought he was gradually becoming less of a jerk, but the moment just after he discovers the architect Victoria has hired is his mother and the child he was surfaces totally melted my resistance.

And he was just a boy, suddenly, lost and grieving. Wondering what he’d done that was so wrong that his mother had left him behind. Wondering why he was so unlovable that she hadn’t taken him with her.

I loved the secondary romance between Celeste and Gavin, and the feelings Gavin inspired in her certainly went a long way toward making her more human and thus more sympathetic. She would have been on my list of most detestable characters of 2012 had she resisted Gavin. I adored him. He and Jacob and Ruby the housekeeper were the sunshine in this dark book. It’s another measure of O’Keefe’s storytelling gift that she knew they were needed. Most of all I loved that I ultimately I believed all these characters deserved redemption and I believed all the facets of love that redeemed them.

Readers who are familiar with O’Keefe’s category romances won’t be surprised by the complexity and realness of the characters, the twists and torrents of family dynamics, or the emotional power of the story. If these are qualities you look for in the romances you read, I highly recommend Can’t Hurry Love. If you read Can’t Buy Me Love and fear that O’Keefe can’t make a weak-kneed whiner and a revenge-obsessed loner into a heroine and hero whose love you can believe in, trust me when I say she can. I finished the second book in the series hoping for Madelyn Cornish and Billy Wilson’s story. I checked and their book, Crazy Thing Called Love, is scheduled for release on January 29, 2013. I know one book I’ll be reading next February.

I can't think of many books I've read past a few pages without falling in love with at least one character. Can't Hurry Love may be unique in that respect? What about you? What books have you read that took you a while to like the hero and/or heroine? What kept you reading? 


Molly O'Keefe said...

Janga - your reviews are always so thoughtful and make me look at things I'd written in a new light! Thank you!

Kathleen O said...

I cannnot wait to read Molly's book.. I think that hero I fell in love with almost instantly is from Robyn Carr's Virgin River and the was Jack Sheridan...
But then I fall a bit in love with all the heroes in the books I read..
Congrats on your new release Molly...

quantum said...

I took me a while to fall for Sugar Beth in SEPs 'Aint She Sweet' but as a rule I do admire the heroine early on in a novel, unless I bin it.

Janga, your review of Molly O'Keefe's book sounded so interesting that I took time out from the olympics to read the free sample. I immediately liked Victoria. Life had clearly dealt her a poor hand and she consequently had some sharp hard edges. Courage and a determination to succeed attracted me to her and there were also hints of a softer side. (Those are all medal winning qualities for an olympic athlete!)

I think I might read the complete book now, and if the sample is a true indicator, Molly O'keefe may soon be on my 'Gold Medal' author list!

Olympic mania is raging through the UK at the moment. I hope too much hasn't rubbed off on me. LOL

Janga said...

Thanks, Molly. You gave me ample food for though in CHL. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Janga said...

Jack Sheridan is a memorable hero, Kathleen. I love the Virgin River books. I'm sure you'll enjoy Can't Hurry Love, very different from the VR series but equally addictive.

Janga said...

Q, Molly O'Keefe has been a gold-medal writer for me since I read my first O'Keefe book.

I can understand the Olympic mania. Did it intensify after Wiggins claimed gold? I, who ordinarily watch TV a couple of hours a month, have been watching hours of Olympic coverage every night.