Elizabeth Marshall seemingly had the perfect life. Successful husband, beautiful home and a whole boat-full of money, she has the life that is the envy of many. That is, until the doors are closed and everyone has gone home. Then Elizabeth is subjected to the whims of a controlling man, a man who punishes imperfections with his fists. Then one night, everything changed. The controlling man was dead and Elizabeth was left to deal with accusations and judgement all by herself.
Six months after the death of the man that shall now be known only as The Ass, Elizabeth moves into a new town to escape the memories of that night. Determined to move on and start afresh, she doesn’t quite manage to shake the wounds that have been imprinted onto her soul. When her new neighbour Chris starts acting abrupt and gruff around her, part of her wants to run for the hills and stay the hell away from him. The problem is that the other part wants to fall into his arms.
Chris has been through a very nasty divorce. Married to a superficial woman who couldn’t keep her legs closed, he wanted to only to be left in peace to lick his wounds. Then Elizabeth moved in downstairs and became his walking, talking wet dream, sent to haunt his days and nights. He wants nothing to do with her, wants to only get on with his cosy little world. Then the threats start. Seems that someone wants to do Elizabeth harm and they are certainly not shy about showing it. Left with the option of seeing her harmed or try to keep her safe, Chris finds himself thrust into the dark world of Elizabeth’s past. Naming himself as her protector makes it very difficult for him to steer clear of her. Once the dust has settled and he knows she is safe, will he be able to walk away unscathed?
Well, this was as far removed from Ms Hayes’s last book as you can get but I enjoyed it all the same. The suspense plot was well crafted and wasn’t just there to propel the love story along. I really have a problem with half baked suspense plots but this was a good side plot in its own right. I’ll be honest, I’d guessed the identity of the stalker from the beginning and I have no idea why. Still, I enjoyed the escalation of the events, the uncertainty as to where it was going next. It kept the pages turning.
The bit of the story that I enjoyed the most was Chris’s reluctance to give into his initial lust. She knocked him on his knees from the moment he saw her, even finding her yoga pants and baggy shirt combo’s sexy (?!), but still he tried not to give in. I love this kind of story. I liked that it wasn’t because of her that he didn’t want to get involved but because of his witch of an ex-wife. This was not a Mr Darcy type reluctance (“I love you inspite of everything that you are” etc), he wasn’t questioning her worth. Even when he found out about the death of The Ass, he didn’t try to suggest that there was any other reason he didn’t want to get involved with her other than fear. I love a man who can own his feelings like that. He was so kind, protective and gruff…he made me a little swoony. I definitely swooned when he tried to take care of her, when he tried to help her even when he knew it would bring them closer together. I cheered when he put her in a big protective bubble for the majority of this book; it didn’t make my inner feminist scream as she really needed protecting!
I usually have a problem with abused women in a love story. It’s not that I don’t agree that they should never find love again; it’s just that I often think it’s too soon. These were different circumstances, they were perilous circumstances. Chris proved time and time again he would stand for Elizabeth, that he would keep her safe. Even with the emotional scars she undoubtedly had, there was very little doubt that she could fail to recognise how trustworthy he was. This is why I accepted their love story, that I did’t have a problem with the whole thing. I liked the growth of Elizabeth’s character over the tale but I do believe that she could only grow because of him. He gave her the safety that she needed to stop being so afraid whilst never trying to stifle her. She became a character I could like (rather than the scared little rabbit she was at the start) and I found I could settle into the tale.
I usually comment on the sex here but the majority of the sex in this book is off page or glossed over. I didn’t mind that, it gave the overall book a much more sweet tone that was probably more appropriate for the themes that it was dealing with. I am hoping that in the next brothers book (yes, Chris has brothers. Yes, we meet them all. Yes, they all sound hot) we get a little more of the smexy times but I suppose that depends entirely on his HEA. Either way, I can’t wait to read it.