Barney Sterling, a local lawman, finds himself drawn to the lovely, guarded Taffy, but he’s stunned by her proposition—that they marry immediately to improve her chances of regaining custody of her daughter. Barney takes marriage too seriously to commit himself to a woman he hardly knows. Yet soon his sympathies fall with the desperate Taffy, and pretending to be in love becomes the easiest part of the plan. But they have no idea what they’re up against, or what they’re willing to risk to make a miracle come true in Mystic Creek.
Comment: This is the most recent installment in the Mystic Creek series by Catherine Anderson, in fact it's only the second. This is a book that happened to not spend too long in the pile and I picked it mostly because I was waiting for another one and it was the first I saw when I decided I had to fill my reading tie with something until the other arrived...
This is the story of Taffeta Brown, a women who lost the guard of her 5 year old child because of a bad representation in court. Now she's living a quiet, normal life trying to have a reputation that will allow her to have her daughter back. In the meantime, the child has been with her reckless father who hasn't kept the best company and Taffeta despairs over her child, so she thinks if she can be married to a respected man, she will have better chances to win in court eventually. Rushed because her daughter might be in danger, she asks Barney Sterling, a deputy, to help her. At first he refuses, but eventually finds out she was innocent when she lost the guard of her daughter and decides to help. But if things were meant to be simple at first...apparently their feelings develop quite fast between them.
This book isn't bad. But it's not amazing or special enough either.
I still remember the older romances by this author, so amazing, featuring damaged heroines somehow but always ended with the notion everyone is worthy of love and respect, especially if the heroine had been through terrible experiences...I felt the author's words were magical, the settings so adorable and the romances perfect but not silly and the overall experience of reading a book by her was knowing we would have a wonderfully written romance story.
Now, it seems the characters are one dimensional: all perfect despite the situations in which they are or their pasts and the romance feels formulaic and meaningless.
This is my biggest issue with the book, despite the seriousness of Taffeta's problems, despite the fact we know she's a good person who was misjudged and undermined by the court, there's nothing about her I want to know better, she's not someone I wish I could meet in real life and her whole character, regardless of her inner beauty and such, is just not that interesting.
This means that most of the book is rather boring because it obviously centers a lot in her and what she wants.
Barney is a cute character, one of those not perfect heroes but with a inner sense of duty and respect for others, it's impossible not to like him. But the relationship with Taffeta, the way things develop between them isn't as romantic or magical as I wished.
So, basically, the biggest problem is the writing itself. Because all situations, descriptions and such could have looked better, more intriguing, more amazing, if the author had done things like she used to, but the reality is none of the characters made me eager to root for them nor did I feel anticipation to see them kiss for the first time, or say I love you or simply realize they were in love. Before all this would have been building up with such anticipation and chemistry that it was marvelous to finally see them accept their feelings (like in Baby Love or My Sunshine, two of my favorite books by the author in other series). Instead, things were boring, predictable and nor thrilling enough.
Of course I was glad Taffeta and Barney fell in love, the marriage by convenience trope is one of those I like seeing develop and the beginning was sort of ok, but the couple just didn't strike me as alive, special, their relationship was always too careful, too logic, it didn't have that "oh when will they realize their feelings" anticipation...
Then, the daughter, Sarah, was such a let down. Actively present children in romances can be a difficult element to portray and in this case, despite the circumstances that play a part in it, I still couldn't like Taffeta's daughter.
The dialogues between grown ups wasn't always smooth as it could, and the conversations they all had with the kid weren't too hard to believe in, I mean, maybe it could happen someone speak like that and act like that being a 5 year old but... still not buying it.
So, all in all, the mostly boring couple, not very engaging plot and writing issues which have become more and more obvious as time goes by in this author's work have led me to not consider this more than average. It's not lower because I still cherish the worlds the author creates, the communities, the family relationships and bonds and the idea of the stories. The delivery is just not up to what it used to be, I don't know why, but is a pity...