Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Review: Winning Over Skylar

Winning Over Skylar
By Julianna Morris
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date:
April 1, 2014

Skylar Naples was an eighteen-year-old filled with regret over some bad choices and ashamed of being the daughter of the town drunks. Skylar Gibson hasn’t been that person in fourteen years. She is now a widow, the mother of an almost-fourteen-year-old daughter, and the proprietor of the Gibson Nibble Nook, a prosperous short-order restaurant located almost at the gates of Cooperton, California’s biggest business, Cooper Industries. Jimmie Gibson and his parents loved her and encouraged her and helped her grow into the confident, assertive woman she is, and almost a year after Jimmie’s death, Skylar still misses him and the life they built together. She is fiercely protective of her daughter, Karin, who is still grieving the loss of her father. Skylar would prefer to avoid Aaron Hollister, a bad memory from her past, but she is not intimidated by him or his wealth. She remembers him as a “jackass of major proportions,” and his arrogant, dictatorial mismanagement of his new responsibilities gives her no reason to change her mind.

Aaron Hollister is not happy to have succeeded his grandfather as CEO of Cooper Industries, but as the only grandchild of the grandparents who taken him in after he had spent his early years being shuffled between his divorced parents and various other relatives, he feels obligated to try to bring the business into the twenty-first century and into the black now that his eighty-plus-year-old grandfather has retired. He also never expected to find himself responsible for his sixteen-year-old half-sister, Melanie. Aaron is the eldest and Melanie next-to-the-youngest of S. S. Hollister’s eight children by seven different ex-wives, and the two don’t know each other very well. But Aaron cares about his sister enough to agree when her mother asks him to take Melanie for the school year. He’s not sure how to deal with a teenager, but he is convinced that Skylar, whom he remembers as a “smart-mouthed, trouble-making high-school dropout,” is not an appropriate role model for his sister.   

When Skylar, who has inherited her husband’s position on the Cooperton City Council, is given the responsibility, over her protests, of hearing Aaron’s proposal to expand Cooper Industries, the two cannot avoid each other’s company. Clashes over business ideas are compounded by more personal clashes when Melanie decides to “divorce” her parents so that she can move in with Karin and Skylar. Then just as Skylar and Aaron reach a degree of understanding over these issues, Aaron learns that Karin could be his daughter, and all the relationships become immensely more complicated.

Julianna Morris takes some of the most frequently used tropes in category romance and gives them a fresh twist in the first book of her Those Hollister Boys series. Skylar and Aaron really were bad news in high school, not merely misunderstood kids. She was a rebellious rule-breaker headed for trouble, and he was a privileged jerk who destroyed the vestiges of Skylar’s reputation just to impress his buddies. It’s really a misnomer to label this novel a reunion story or a second-chance-at-love story. Skylar and Aaron were never star-crossed lovers torn apart by forces greater than themselves, and they have not spent fourteen years apart remembering their time together as an idyll and longing to be together. They were two kids controlled by hormones and the appeal of the forbidden. They grew up and got on with their lives when they parted, and the impressions they carried of each other are overwhelmingly negative.

Skylar matures first because of her commitment to creating a good life for her child, with the transition eased first by the help of the Gibsons and later by her happy marriage to Jimmie Gibson. I particularly liked the fact that she and Jimmie love one another and that he accepts Karin without reservations as his child. Aaron learns to be responsible, but it is only when he falls for Skylar, realizes how much he cares for his sister, and opens his heart to his daughter that he adds compassion and empathy to his strong sense of duty and become the man Skylar loves.

I like romances with realistic roots, and Winning Over Skylar satisfies this criteria. Also, not only Skylar and Aaron but all the other characters from the two girls to the senior Gibsons, Aaron’s contradictory father, and the citizens of Cooperton are interesting people who are more than cardboard figures. This was my first book by Julianna Morris, but I have already noted that the story of Aaron’s brother Matt will be released on July 1. And I’ll be checking out her backlist.

What’s the last book you read that sent you looking for the author’s backlist?


Quantum said...

Karen Rose's 'Nothing to Fear' (recommended by Manda Collins) seems to have hooked me on romantic thrillers/suspense and I'm adding more of her audios to the TBB.

In similar vein, Carey Baldwin's romantic thriller 'Confession' also kept me reading way beyond bed time so have downloaded another of hers.

I should say that to balance the more extreme adventure found in the above examples, I also like other varieties of romance that explore the emotions, humour and psychology associated with life and love!

Janga, I'm very grateful for your brilliant reviews which help me a great deal in filtering some of the best of the latter to try. :)

Janga said...

Thanks, Q. You are so good for my ego. :)

Karen Rose and Carey Baldwin are both wonderfully talented writers. You can always trust Manda's recommendations, and she is a far better source for romantic suspense than I am. But I'm glad I have directed you to some winners who write other kinds of romance fiction.