Cruising Toward Love

Cruising Toward Love
By Christi Barth

Publisher: BookStrand
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Author

Can an unexplained breakup and ten years of heartache be cured by the romance – and endless buffets – of a tropical cruise? When her sister is left at the altar, small town librarian Zoe Balis jumps at the chance to take the bride’s unused ticket for the honeymoon cruise. But she didn’t count on sharing a cabin with the man who broke her heart ten years ago!

Army medic Nate Hyatt never told Zoe goodbye when he enlisted – or the real reason why he dumped her on prom night after a year as high school sweethearts. And he never stopped dreaming about the girl he left behind. Could this voyage be his chance to fix the worst mistake he ever made? After all, a Caribbean cruise should be romantic… if he can convince her to move past ten years of bitterness and hurt.

Once aboard the luxury liner, Zoe befriends a bored Internet mogul with more heart than tact. Nate vents his problems to a ship’s photographer battling PTSD. The four team up on an island hopping treasure hunt. The stakes grow higher with each of Zoe’s mysterious brushes with death. They race to discover why she’s a target and who’s behind it, while still competing in the treasure hunt.

Zoe’s never gotten over her first love, and is tempted to let Nate back into her life. But she already lost him once. She’s not willing to risk loving a man whose career keeps him in a combat zone. Can Nate breach her defenses and suture her broken heart? Grab a deck chair and see if they survive the stormy relationship seas as they cruise toward love!

Goodreads Summary

The story begins with a lot of humor which is good because it’s Hurricane Zoe season for a while. She’s dealing with her sister, Bridezilla Stella and then she gets covered in mud, courtesy of ex-boyfriend Nate and his motorcycle. Nate, the one who publicly dumped her, so blatantly that apparently she’s damaged goods all these years later as far as the meddling town she lives in is concerned. The cackling old women and Stella had me laughing, especially because I probably know people just like them.

Nate and Zoe have a lot of chemistry together, not all of it good. He broke her heart but still won’t tell her why, being all guy about it. Zoe of course gets overly hysterical about it and hilarity ensues as the two of them gout of their way to avoid each other, thereby running into each other constantly, including on the honeymoon cruise Stella and her runaway groom were planning on taking.

By the time Nate and Zoe had worked out their past Misunderstanding (boy, these two just needed someone to sit down with them with a pad of paper, a protractor and a marker), it was surprisingly Nate who was the mushy romantic. He was just adorable in his pursuit of Zoe, who was operating under a mini-misunderstanding of her own by then. They still had some wonderfully sweet and sexy scenes, many of them courtesy of the mysterious attacker who doesn’t want Zoe to finish the treasure hunt.

I’m not normally a fan of secondary couples in romances. They’re either obvious filler or if they’re good there aren’t enough of them in the book. I didn’t find that to be true with Callie and Reed. Callie was a funny, sparkling character who was smart and very nearly stole the show from Zoe. Reed was her opposite in many ways, being quiet and trying to keep his distance from Callie because of job with the cruise ship and his issues with PTSD. They made an interesting couple, one that was fun to read about.

The treasure hunt itself was kind of fun just for the sheer trivia factor. Librarian Zoe (and then Nate and Callie) spouted off all sorts of facts when given the clues to sort out the location of the prizes. Then there was the race to get there (fun!) and the competition with the other passengers, the funniest of which was the ridiculously competitive British couple who kept calling them out each round.

If there was a weak point, it was the suspense plot. I’m not sure Zoe was right in the head with some of the decisions she made, but this was fiction and I forgive a lot in a romance novel so I just read on. The resolution did fall flat for me though and that was a little more disappointing. Rather than going out with any sort of a bang, it ended with a little confused whimper – I wish it tied in better with Nate and Zoe’s story since she’d been targeted for murder.

My Summary: This was a romantic, fun and picturesque story that managed to weave a lot of elements and storylines together pretty successfully. Nate and Zoe are the perfect example of a couple who can go back, right wrongs and ease past hurts, while Callie and Reed are a new couple who can ease his old hurts only by going forward together. There’s just the right amount of heat and humor and if the suspense plot sometimes got a little off track, the sight-seeing and imagery of all of that blue, blue water more than made up for it.

My Rating: B-



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