By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I read this for Ruthie Knox's Room at the Inn, a variation on Frank Capra's Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life. Ruthie Knox is one of my favorite authors, but I found this novella deeply unsatisfying. The hero's unbelievable self absorption pissed me off from the first chapter.
Carson's mother has died, and when his grieving father's health begins to deteriorate as well, Carson resentfully returns to his small hometown to take care of him...telling himself, and anyone who will listen, that he's not going to stick around once his dad is on his feet again. The reader's first impression of Carson is that he's an arrogant git who thinks his big, important, jet-setting career as an architect is more important than taking care of a grieving, ailing parent.
Things don't improve. Soon we learn that he didn't bother coming home for his mother's funeral, or indeed for the last two years of her life, though he knew she was dying. Then we learn that his college girlfriend gave his mother a fucking kidney to buy her another fifteen years to live, and took care of his parents and pretty much everyone in town, and Carson thanks her by ignoring her for long stretches of time while coming home every few years for booty calls. (Julie is perfectly lovely, but the fact that she puts up with this for 16 years makes her a total doormat.)
With a premise like that, I knew I was going to need an epic grovel to end all grovels from Carson. I mean, he needed to choke down the biggest steaming hot serving of humble pie EVER in the history of Romanceland in order to earn my forgiveness, and he didn't. His epiphany, when it comes, is uninspired, and his grand gesture isn't nearly grand enough to make up for nearly two decades of being a totally selfish bastard. Julie could have done better. I wish she knew that.