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 really like Jill Shalvis's smart, breezy, funny contemporaries, but I'm at the end of my patience with the twee cuteness of Lucky Harbor, the fictional small town in the Pacific Northwest where most of her books are set. Rumor Has It is set in the only slightly less twee mountain town of Sunshine, Idaho, but it's enough of a change that that I could enjoy this book as I have not enjoyed the last few Lucky Harbor books.
Kate is a second grade teacher who takes care of everyone: her students, her friends, her ex-boyfriend-slash-boss, her recovering pill addict father and her two much-younger siblings. She's won a scholarship to attend a graduate degree program in science in California, but she doesn't dare accept because so many people count on her.
Griffin is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan (V is for Veteran in Sock Poppet's A to Z 2014 Reading Challenge), recently discharged from the military on medical disability after an IED explosion nearly took off his head. He now gets debilitating headaches and suffers from nightmares and ringing in the ears. He's come back to Sunshine for his sister's wedding, but he has no intention of staying: he's never gotten along with his father, and he has job offers waiting for him on the East Coast.
Kate effortlessly absorbs Griffin into the circle of people she takes care of, coming across him in the throes of a migraine and soothing his pain. For all she looks after others, though, Kate isn't selfless: she decides she wants Griffin in her bed, and she pursues him despite his gentlemanly reservations. She knows he doesn't intend to stay in town, but she doesn't care: she's not expecting anything long-term.
To his immense surprise and discomfort, Griffin finds himself falling for Kate and, more shocking yet, he finds contentment helping out at the family ranch. Suddenly, Sunshine seems less confining than it was when he was a rebellious kid, and the job offers back east seem less inviting.
And yet just when it seems everything will work out for a happy-ever-after, Griffin discovers a family secret that throws him for a loop. He shuts out Kate and everyone else, and is about to move East when something else happens to upset his plans again. If this sounds kind of chaotic, it is: there are a lot of plot twists in the last quarter of the book, which makes the end feel hurried and disorganized, unfortunately. Even with the messy plot detours at the end, though, my overall reading experience was positive: Kate is smart and funny and not at all a doormat, though she often puts the needs of others above her own; Griffin is emotionally reserved but not immature or damaged; and together they bring out the best qualities in one another, which gives me faith in the staying power of their romance. And, as usual, Shalvis's dialogue is quick and snarky and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, which goes a long way toward making the read entertaining even where the story leaves something to be desired.