Fun, small-town romance
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: March 31, 2016
Pages: 214 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
This is Book 4 in a series of contemporary romance novels that remind me of the Harlequin novels that used to be called “Harlequin American” and these days are called “Harlequin Heartwarming.” Per Harlequin guidelines, these are novels in which “romance, family and community are strong features of these stories.” This series is set in an imaginary small town called Wishful, Mississippi. Because this series is light drama with touches of humor, small town life is presented in a very positive light. The link between the books are continuing characters and the town itself. However, the books can be read independently of each other. I myself read this particular book without having read any others in the series, and I had no problem following the story.
I learned from the backstory presented in this book that the two protagonists, Piper Parish, age 29, and Myles Stewart, age 31, appear in a previous book in which they fall hard for each other when they co-star in a community theater production of White Christmas, the classic 1954 musical comedy movie starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Myles plays Bob (Bing’s part), and Piper plays Betty (Rosemary’s part). Having mistaken real romance for the fake romance of a play in the past, Piper informs Myles that she has a firm rule that she will not date her leading man ever again until at least three months have passed after the close of the play. This will, theoretically, allow fakery to fade away sufficiently to allow her to make a clear-eyed assessment if any attraction worth exploring remains. (Note: According to the blurb of this book, Myles and Piper are in the play White Christmas in BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART, and Piper also appears in ONCE UPON A SETUP.)
Piper’s day job is at a local doctor’s office as a nurse. Myles has a master’s degree from prestigious Columbia University in New York, and had been living up north in New York City until about a year ago, when two things brought him home. He missed small town life in his hometown, Wishful, and he had a chance to fulfill a major life ambition, buying the local newspaper and becoming the editor-in-chief. He invested all his savings, but the purchase ultimately was only possible because of a crucial loan from of a mysterious, anonymous investor.
Myles has been counting off the days until he can finally date Piper, and his attraction has only grown. The fact that he has been willing to patiently wait for Piper, and not date anyone else in the meantime, has definitely increased his real-world appeal to her. During those three months they have seen each other in group settings, especially doing karaoke performances together at the local bar, and they have also been texting each other. So they’ve had a chance to develop a friendship. As the book starts the three months are just now up and Myles is ready and eager to ask Piper out and move from platonic friend to romantic partner. Their dating life gets off to a very promising start until Miles suddenly develops overwhelming financial problems.
The lawyer representing his unnamed investor notifies Myles that the investor is calling in the loan because the investor has lost faith in Myles’s ability to bring the paper out of the red. If Myles doesn’t repay the loan in full within 45 days, the investor will take over ownership of the paper. Myles has no desire to humuliate himself by asking his wealthy parents or his even more wealthy paternal grandmother for money, because they don’t support his dream, and he is positive they will turn him down. He jokingly tells Piper that the only hope for him is to head to Las Vegas and bribe a showgirl to marry him. This would allow him to access a trust fund set up for him by his deceased paternal grandfather, which can only happen if he gets married. Piper surprises him by taking him seriously and volunteering to participate in a marriage of convenience, for which she says she would insist on signing an ironclad prenuptual agreement, and promises that they can get divorced down the road, no muss, no fuss.
Piper’s plan is that after a quickie, courthouse marriage, they would carry on dating, because they both think they have potential as a relationship for the long haul. But they would tell no one about the marriage and not live together, because that would endanger the natural development of their romance by rushing it. Unfortunately for them, on the day that they get married, a friend of Myles’s grandmother spies them coming out of the courthouse of a neighboring town. She figures out they just got married, reports it to his grandmother, and the proverbial fat hits the fire. The secret, fake marriage must now appear real, requiring the acting job of both their lives, as they fake marital bliss to their families and the entire, gossipy town.
I’ve been a big fan of White Christmas and have watched it as a family ritual every year for decades. Therefore, I personally found it fun that this story echoes the romantic conflict of that 1950’s movie. In addition, Piper’s mother often sounds like a stock character from other typical 1950’s movies, with her maternal advice to Piper that she should keep her home a haven for Myles as her husband and not bother him with her petty, female problems. Myles’s grandmother is also a classic Southern matriarch right out of an old movie.
I liked the theme that both Myles and Piper see themselves as outsiders in their own family who are not like everyone else. The idea of “us against the world” is an ever-green staple of romantic comedy.
In terms of graphic content, this too is similar to Harlequin Heartwarming. There is no coarse language, and the sex is very limited and only happens after they are legally married. The sex is tender rather than lusty, and it’s not at all graphic. There is a lot of drinking and some drunkenness.
This is a fun read with very little melodrama.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 4
Small Town Age Plot: 3