Meh, I wish I could have loved this. Lennox writes good banter, employs light, wry humour, usually has a wonderfully atmospheric setting and characters who are fundamentally good, but not flat. Certainly Misty has those elements, but there was a problem in the execution that, sadly, coming in the second half, left yours truly with reader-disappointment. First, to the back-cover blurb:
Teacher Misty Lawrence has lived her whole life in Banksia Bay, cherishing a secret list of faraway dreams. Just as she’s finally about to take flight, Nicholas Holt; tall, dark and deliciously bronzed turns up in her classroom with his little son Bailey and an injured stray spaniel in tow.
Misty soon falls head over heels for all three but her scrapbook of wishes keeps calling. Misty must decide: follow her dreams, or her heart? Because a girl can’t have it all or can she?
I do confess I chose Misty and the Single Dad out of the TBR because the cover screamed Wendy’s “animals” theme and it’s true “Ketchup”, the dog pictured, brings these two together and offers cute gamboling-dog scenes. He’s joined by another pooch, “Took,” and the two provide even more of those. So: animals, favourite category romance author, school-marm heroine, handsome single dad, and adorable plot moppet. What could go wrong?
Turns out, quite a bit, though Misty and single dad don’t start out this way. I was charmed and amused by everyone’s sharp and/or cute dialogue, even in woof-form. Who can resist this opening? Misty sees Nick standing at her classroom door with Bailey:
…a Greek God was standing at her classroom door. She looked and looked again. Adonis. God of Desire and Manly Good Looks. Definitely. Son-of-Adonis didn’t look as if he agreed. He looked terrified.
This is what Lennox did well in the first half: spare, funny, sharp. With a few sentences, we learn about the characters, their attraction, and a potential obstacle in the little boy’s “fear”. At the same time, it’s light, it’s promising, it’s romance: things will work out.
And Lennox delivered…for the most part. Misty and Nick are loveably antagonistic until they’re not. And Bailey is terrified until he’s adorably cheeky. Great stuff.
Unfortunately, Nick and Bailey’s backstory is melodramatically implausible. Which I can forgive if the romance holds up. It did…until it didn’t. Something goes off in the second half: while Nick and Misty build to a nice growth of feelings and attraction, suddenly, they were cornily in love in a reader-whiplash kind of way: where did that come from? That development was usurped by exposition, ye-old-tell-don’t-show. Then, a bad mother appears and my eyes rolled. Subsequently, Misty does something out-of-character, which I guess was the point of her “scrapbook of wishes”, but it didn’t make sense if she loves Nick and Bailey and the pooches as much as she claims she does. I have to admit Nick’s grand gesture was pretty cool, but overall, not one of Lennox’s best.