I had high hopes for this book. High. And they started to be dashed upon the rocky shores below crappy contemporary romance cliffs (about the third chapter). The only reason I continued was that I was already over fifty percent through the book due to reading it at the Laundromat. In the end those last four chapters took me a week to get through and the book ended up with 0 stars because my disappointment is vast.
Why such high hopes? Let's see: takes place in a small town in NJ near NYC (such the small town I grew up in), an Italian-American Jersey boy as a hero, an Irish-American Jersey girl who returns home to start over with her kids. Seriously, this book was tailored made for me.
First thing first - the setting could have been Small Town Anywhere, USA because the town was a mere blip on the page. No Jersey culture or anything to give it more of a Jersey feeling. Might as well call it Maple River, VT or Maple River, MI for all that it matters to the story.
Our hero is the typical passive-aggressive Alpha male that rules Harlequin's world. He couldn't understand why his ex-wife was his ex, because he did his best to protect her and thought of only her safety - which when read came off as controlling and smothering. I say good job to ex-wife for getting out of that awful marriage. Of course, his big loving family couldn't stand ex-wife, which as it turns out was another plus for her in my book.
Oh man, that family was annoying, cloying, and each member other than hero screamed "SEQUEL BAIT!!!" Way to be subtle there, Ms. Author. So hero is some jack ass who is coddled by his family after his divorce and who is passive-aggressive when it comes to protecting what/who he loves. BORING and UNAPPEALING, which is hard to do since I love those blue collar Jersey boys from big Italian families. To add insult to injury, he wanted kids but his ex-wife didn't want kids...with him, even though he is a nice guy. Needless to say, ex-wife was given the standard "Evil Bitch" characterization.
Then there is the heroine. She is divorced, but stays in contact with her ex-husband due to custody agreement. Ex-husband has pretty much lost his sanity and makes threats toward her, the kids, and himself. That is why she packed up and run from her apartment and back to her hometown with kids in tow. Ex-husband dies suddenly of heart failure, so bye-bye threat from that angle. Heroine keeps in contact with m-I-law, who was and still is Team Heroine. That part of the book was pretty good until that damn sex talk they had towards the end. Heroine is a mess of insecurities, childish, wimpy, whiny, horny (holy crap stop with the horniness!), Plain Jane. BORING. BORING. BORING. She might as well been 19 year old New Adult heroine than a mom of two at 33 years old. And she likes to put down other women for shits and giggles (like when she was flirting with hero in the laundry area of the house). Being in her head was exhausting.
The kids were eight and three; the eight year old talked as if he was more like 12, but the three year old was pretty much on target (speaking as a mom of an almost 3 year old myself). Plot muppets basically.
Also the author has definite opinions about gender roles and how they are to play out. Patriarchy is the ideal and anything remotely toeing the line near female independence from men were soundly rejected and belittled by everyone in the book. I was physically cringing and got a stomach ache from reading some of the stuff in this book.
The bright spot in this story was that it took place over several months and not several days, but no to everything else.