Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday Review: Island Promises

Island Promises
By RaeAnne Thayne, Marie Ferrarella, and Leanne Banks
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 
January 7, 2014

If you are shivering through these record-breaking January temperatures, as many of us are, this anthology may be just the book to provide a pleasant escape as you join the wedding party and guests in Kauai, Hawaii, for the destination wedding of Nick McNeil and Cara Russell.

“Hawaiian Holiday” by RaeAnne Thayne 

Megan McNeil is accompanying her seven-year-old twin daughters, Sarah and Grace, to Kauai so that the girls can be flower girls in their father’s wedding. Megan and Nick amicably ended their brief marriage five years ago, and they have remained friendly, both dedicated to parenting the twins. Even so, Megan would have skipped the wedding if Grace’s medical needs had not required that Megan travel with her daughter, who has moderate cerebral palsy. She knows the nine-hour flight from Chicago to Hawaii will be exhausting for her and the twins, but she doesn’t expect to share the journey with Shane Russell. Who knew the sexy cop that she flirted with several months ago when a bullet wound sent him to the ER where she works as a nurse would turn out to be the brother of the bride? 

Shane has not forgotten Megan or the sting of rejection when the phone number she gave him turned out to be fake. The initial spark between them is even stronger now, and he appreciates her honesty about why she gave him the fake number. He is also captivated by the charms of the twins. But Megan thinks her responsibility to her daughters doesn’t leave room in her life for a romantic relationship, and Shane, with his parents and their serial spouses, swore long ago never to date women with children because he didn’t want other children hurt as he and Cara were. Are the romantic setting and the bliss of Nick and Cara enough to persuade these two to believe in a love that lasts a lifetime, not just for a holiday?

I loved the warmth and sweetness of this story. It was refreshing to see exes who sincerely wished each other the best and worked together for their children’s best interests. Sarah and Grace came across as real and appealing, and I especially liked seeing a special-needs child whose health issue did not define her as a person. Thayne is an author whose work I find consistently engaging, and I thought this novella was the best in the anthology.

“Hawaiian Reunion” by Marie Ferrarella

Devlin Marshall, Nick’s best man, does not want to spoil his friend and fellow firefighter’s wedding with the news that Devlin’s own marriage is ending, so he strikes a deal with his estranged wife: if she will attend the wedding with him and play the role of the happily-married Mrs. Marshall everyone thinks she is, then Devlin will sign the divorce papers.

Amy Marshall is eager for her divorce to be final before Devlin discovers a secret she is determined to keep from him as long as possible. Cara and Nick’s happiness reminds her of how deeply she and Devlin were in love once, and sharing intimate space with Devlin again reminds her that she finds him as sexy as ever. But she stubbornly refuses to accept Devlin’s assurance that she is the only woman he has ever wanted and that he has always been faithful to her.

Marie Ferrarella has written some terrific stories over the past three decades, but I regret to say this is not one of them. Devlin is a dream hero—handsome, tender, and faithful with a sense of humor. But I actively disliked Amy. I thought her jealousy was irrational and obsessive, and I thought the reunion came too quickly. The jealousy issue was resolved too simplistically to be credible, and I didn’t believe in this HEA. Frankly, I thought Devlin deserved better.

“Hawaiian Retreat” by Leanne Banks

Gabi Foster is the half-sister of the groom. She and Nick have always been close, and she knows she can’t miss his wedding. But she is not enthusiastic about attending. First, it is an awkward time for her to be away from work where she thinks she is on track to finally win a promotion and the approval of the CEO, who also happens to be her father. She also has reservations about Cara and her ability to measure up to Megan. Finally, she is not at all looking forward to meeting her ex, a friend of Nick’s and a fellow fighter, or the ex’s pregnant wife. To make things worse, the friend who agreed to be her date for all the wedding festivities can’t get out of Chicago because of the weather. Things start to look more promising when she meets a surfing instructor who volunteers to be her date.

Finn Beckett left a successful Wall Street career to move to Hawaii when he became the guardian of his orphaned nephew Kai. He though Kai needed the security of a familiar place and his mother’s extended family, and so Finn exchanged his suit and laptop for shorts and a surfboard. Finn knows workaholic Gabi is headed back to Chicago, and he tries to protect his own heart and Kai, who bonds with Gabi right away—to no avail. Finn and Kai both fall fathoms deep for Gabi, who finds they are both occupying her thoughts to the exclusion of things that have been all-important to her. But neither Finn nor Gabi is expecting her to start questioning whether she really wants to leave Paradise after all.

I really liked these characters. Gabi is an endearing mix of confidence and vulnerability, and Finn’s big heart and high degree of self-knowledge coupled with his good looks make him a hero who appeals on many levels. Kai is a heart-stealer. This is also the most sensual of the three stories. My only complaint about this story is that it just moves too quickly. I wanted to see more of how the relationship between Finn and Gabi developed. I wanted this one to be a novel.

Overall, I liked the way the wedding theme connected these three novellas. With one excellent story and one good one, I recommend Island Promise as a quick, easy read with some characters contemporary romance readers will delight to see achieve their HEA.  

Destination weddings have become increasingly popular in romance fiction over the past several years. If you were writing a destination wedding story, where would you send the wedding party and guests?

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