Devon Carter & Ashley Copeland
As part of a business deal with her father, Devon is required to marry Ashley, but she has to think it's the real deal. Dev likes Ash well enough but has no intention of falling in love and wants a comfortable companionship with her (or so he thinks). Ash is an affectionate and exuberant young woman who leads with the heart she has perched on her sleeve. When she learns the truth about her marriage, she decides to change into the kind of woman she thinks he could love. When she finds out that she's pregnant, she has to decide whether that life is good enough for her and her child.
The first part of this book literally made me ache. Ashley is so trusting and effusive, and you can see her letdown coming from a mile away (much more for having read the blurb on the back). She's actually pretty immature too (changing his ringtone to sound like fairy chimes, calling him constantly, squealing, etc.). I wanted to write her a manual for a marriage of convenience. When she decided to stay with him, I was conflicted and wanted her to just talk to someone. That said, she was still incredibly 2-dimensional, as was Devon. I thought about giving up on this book several times.
Devon, at least, does grovel pretty well, and Ashley doesn't fight their reconciliation to an excessive extent. I enjoyed the scenes where he takes care of her, but otherwise I wasn't that impressed with his character. It's pretty typical Harlequin fare. Not sure if it's the length or the author that keeps the characters from moving me too deeply. A lot more could have been done with Devon, but Ash might be a bit too hopelessly cliche-ed.
There was also a bonus story by Brenda Jackson, who is usually a solid pick. "Never Too Late" is about Sienna and Dane, who are 12 days away from making their divorce official and end up stuck together in a snow storm. The chapters are very short (~2 pages each) which made the narrative feel very stilted to me. While we get more depth in these characters than the longer story, I had no patience for them. Maybe I could get through it in a different mood, but I just couldn't do it this time.
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