The Accidental Bride
By Christina Skye
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
September 18, 2012
Jilly O’Hara is happy. Everything seems to be falling in place. She’s well on her way to realizing her dream of creating a natural-food empire by her thirty-fifth birthday, Her restaurant, Jilly’s Place, in Scottsdale, Arizona, is successful beyond her dreams, booked weeks ahead. She’s had two offers to buy her signature line of organic salsas, and she may even find time to write a cookbook. So maybe her life is her work, but she does take time off for quick trips back to Summer Island, Oregon, where she and Caro, Grace, and Olivia, best friends since their shared girlhood on the island, are working together to give the historic Harbor House a new life. Perhaps those trips aren’t exactly vacations, but keeping busy is necessary for Jilly.
Then one Saturday night just after she has removed an eggplant pizza from the oven, she passes out and wakes up in the hospital. At twenty-seven, she has had a heart attack. She hears the doctor talking about valve malformation and arrhythmia and ordering six months without stress, without caffeine, without sixteen-hour workdays. In other words, for six months Jilly has to give up her life in order to save her life. Caro, Grace, and Olivia know that sticking to doctor’s orders will be next to impossible for Jilly, and so, determined to save her from herself, they conspire to send her to a resort in Lost Creek, Wyoming, for a ten-day stay where she’ll be forced to learn to relax and maybe to knit as well.
Lost Creek loves Walker Hale. They love his dog, Winslow too. The two of them saved a platoon in Afghanistan that included a number of locals, and the town can’t do enough for their heroes. Walker is uncomfortable with all the attention. All he really wants is to be left alone by the grateful citizens of Lost Creek and by his wealthy, high-profile family who are dissatisfied with what he’s made of his life. Since his medical discharge from the Marines, he has worked as a combat training consultant, and he needs the time between assignments to decompress. It’s only when he meets Jilly O’Hara that he begins to think he may want more from life than solitude and the companionship of the faithful Winslow.
Jilly’s not too happy when she realizes what her friends have done, but she is finding time to relax, meeting interesting people, and even taking a few knitting lessons. Although she falls in love with Winslow first, it isn’t long before she finds herself more and more interested in Winslow’s master. Jilly is slow to trust, and when she does open her heart to Walker Hale, she finds he’s not the man she thought he was. He turns out to be a greater danger to her heart than the most stressful kitchen disaster could ever be.
The Accidental Bride is the third story in Christina Skye’s Summer Island series, following the novella “Return to Summer Island” (Caro and Gage’s story) in the anthology The Knitting Diaries and A Home by the Sea (Grace and Noah’s story). I like the world Skye creates in these stories, and I was eager to see Jilly find happiness. With her history of being abandoned as an infant, her passion for cooking, and her fierce loyalty to her friends, I found her an interesting, sympathetic character in the earlier stories. Walker’s stoicism and courage was appealing, and I fell for Winslow at the same time Jilly did. I was a bit disappointed at first that The Accidental Bride moved away from Summer Island, but Lost Creek and its inhabitants held their own delights.
But two things kept me from enjoying Jilly’s story as fully as I expected. First, the wedding that gives the novel its title felt forced and gimmicky to me. I found it hard to believe in the circumstances that led to it, and I felt cheated of seeing the relationship between two characters I cared about develop more naturally.
Second, one of the reasons I’m addicted to series is that I love catching glimpses of the ongoing happiness of the H/H pairs from earlier books. In The Accidental Bride, Caro is on Summer Island caring for her baby and worrying about Gage who is still in danger every day, and Grace is wondering if she and Noah will ever have time together because he can’t seem to keep his promise to break free of his dangerous job. So although Jilly and Walker get their HEA, I wasn’t altogether happy with how they arrived there, and I finished concerned about Caro and Grace. I’ll be back for Olivia’s story. I can only hope that it will bring not only an HEA for her but also reaffirm the HEAs of her three friends.
How about you? Are you bothered by HEAs with question marks? Do you, like me, prefer your HEAs unshadowed?