Here Comes the Groom

Here Comes the GroomBy Karina Bliss

Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased

If Jocelyn Swann weren’t so furious, she’d probably laugh. Her best friend, Dan Jansen, has launched a campaign worthy of his Special Forces training to arrange their wedding, from music and minister to flowers and food. What part of “no” does he not understand?

Their marriage “agreement” was a tipsy scrawl on the back of a coaster…three years ago It’s not a question of love. Of course she loves Dan. She’s loved him all her life. If only she could get him to slow down a minute and listen–to be the friend she needs right now–she could convince him that marriage would ruin everything.

Goodreads Summary

There was so much going on here.  I keep trying to think of where to begin, but maybe that’s the problem.  There just isn’t anywhere because there are too many anywheres and I’m overthinking it.  How’s that for headache-inducing?

The story begins with Dan saving Jo from herself as she’s drunkenly attempting to get laid by a complete stranger.  He’s about to ship out to Afghanistan and she’s about to have surgery that she hasn’t and isn’t going to tell him about.  When he scares off her prospect and hauls her up to her hotel room, she makes a pass at him, which he rebuffs with a little bit of horror (and she tosses up her drinks a moment later).

Flash a year forward.  Dan has returned home to New Zealand a substantially changed man.  Two of his mates were brutally killed in the war, one badly wounded physically, one emotionally and he’s dealing with survivor’s guilt because he was off the team that day.  This was probably the most well developed piece of the story and I still wish there had been more of it.  The way Dan dealt with his grief, related to his dead mate’s widow and son and the depth of his friendship with his injured mate were all so poignant, they painted the picture of his personality more strongly than anything he did with Jo.  I couldn’t fault him for wanting to come home to the one person who always supported him and to grab on and live life to its fullest.  His going in knowing he loved her, just not that way, seemed inconvenient but not an obstacle.  It all looked pretty simple to him: he loved Jo, he wanted to marry her and have the whole, “living in harmony, kids, happy ever after,” so he set up his plan and went to work.  Having her specific consent would have been a good idea, but she had after all signed the back of a coaster three years ago saying that she would if they hadn’t gotten hitched to anyone else by the time they were thirty-three.

Jo’s been the boss of the local paper for the past ten years since her grandfather’s death and it’s perilously close to falling into the red.  She’s also the main caregiver for her grandmother who’s in the later stages of dementia.  It’s safe to say she’s got a full plate, so when Dan comes home sending out their wedding invitations she laughs at the joke for five minutes then wants to bop him on the head when she realizes he’s serious.  Jo’s given up on marriage, kids and the whole deal, especially with her best friend and most definitely when it looks like he’s only marrying her out of a misplaced sense of urgency because of his mates’ deaths.  Toss in the fact that she can tell he’s only “settling” for her and she doesn’t want anything to do with his plans.

This would be where I would stop and think, “Okay, that’s enough stuff.  Get on with the story.”

Nope.  There’s more stuff to add.

Side stories about Dan’s parents, Jo’s employee and her boyfriend, a potential takeover of the paper, Dan’s sister, the widow and son of one of Dan’s mates and a big secret of Jo’s are in there too.  Not all of them are huge (a couple are), but they all distract, especially when there’s a deficit in Dan and Jo’s story that needed filling.

Passion.  I never felt it.  Did they grow to love each other in a way beyond friendship?  Of course, and it was well before the end of the book so I’m not giving away any big spoiler.  It may well be the limitations imposed by the Superromance line left me feeling a little let down too but I never got the impression that these two (or at least Jo) were breathless for each other.  That’s not to say there wasn’t intimacy because there was – I just wasn’t..feeling it.  I don’t think I ever really figured out if Jo regretted that first drunken pass at Dan or not.

There was a last bit of insane drama at the end that was so cheesy that I have to admit it was kind of good cheesy.  Daytime soap opera cheesy, no offense to daytime soap operas intended.  It didn’t really add or detract from the story in my opinion since I thought it was an overall waste of time on Jo’s part, but it was still funny.

My Summary: This was a sweet love story but it lacked a level of chemistry that I thought would make it a truly romantic love story.  It could have used either another hundred pages or the same number of pages minus a side story or two.  The author deftly handles the traumatic aftermath of the attack on Dan’s team in Afghanistan, the effects of dementia on the loved ones left to care for them and the life-altering issues surrounding Jo’s secret.  I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

My Rating: B-

(note: in another example of cover art fail, Dan is described as having gold-blond hair that curls over his collar and falls over his forehead.  Jo has short wispy, curly auburn-red hair)

Barbara

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