Review: Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra

Review: Carolina Man by Virginia KantraCarolina Man by Virginia Kantra

Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Berkley, Sensation on March 4, 2014
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars  

This was an absolute sigh-worthy book.  I fell in love with the cover before I even read the blurb and chose it for a read.  Then when I cracked open the book and began reading…I fell even harder.  You put a military man, a crusading heroine, a cute girl who needs her daddy surrounded by a great family in a small town and I will adore your story.  Bestill my romance-loving heart!

Okay, now that my emotional theatrics are over, here’s my summary.  Luke Fletcher is a career marine like his father.  He loves his family back home at the inn on Dare Island, but he is fulfilled by doing his duty and keeping the marines in his charge safe.  Then he gets the letter that rocks his world on its foundations.

Family Lawyer Kate Dolan isn’t sure what she expected when she informed the marine that a girl he knew in high school had his baby, raised the little girl on her own without a word to him and now she is dead and left ten year old Taylor in his care.  But it wasn’t him taking a 30 hour non-stop flight to get home to sort things out personally and meet his daughter and care for her needs.  She thought that he’d happily sign Taylor over to her maternal grandparents where she was staying now with just a few quick phone calls and signed papers.  She’d even pushed him to do so.  What would a career marine know about taking care of a little girl who is still grieving the loss of her mother and now faces having her life upended again?  He only had a little time, but he took the time to settle Taylor into the heart of his family with grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousin before returning to duty.  He never even knew he had a child all these years and still managed to do better by her than Kate’s dad ever did.  She can’t help, but make comparisons and wonders what the marine will do when he comes home from duty.  Maybe she needs to cut him some slack and not hold her horrible experiences with a marine father against Luke.  Strangely she can’t get Luke off of her mind and she struggles to keep the distance and emotional walls up that she keeps with everyone else.  This doesn’t explain why she is headed out to Dare Island to deliver some unsettling news personally.

Taylor is happy to be settled with her dad’s family.  She misses her Grandpa and Grandma Simpson, but at least she is safe from the bad stuff happening.  Her dad has just returned home and it worries her that he might not like her and will send her back.  He doesn’t hug her, but finally she sees him smile and he touches the hat he gave her before he left- the one she wears all the time and even sleeps with.  He even promises that they will stay in one of the cottages and he’ll try to find Snowball her cat that was lost.  Now everyone is tense because a social worker is coming out to interview everyone.  They all know it’s her Simpson grandparents still trying to get her back.  Miss Kate told her she needs to be honest about what she wants and feels just like with the judge.  Well, she won’t ever go back there.  That’s honest enough.

Luke is well aware that working his way into Kate’s life requires him to proceed with caution.  She has a past and its patently obvious that it has shaped her.  She runs from emotions, involvement or commitment, but he still wants to be with her.  He admires her for her care, her courage to help the families, and even how she lets him coax her into just relaxing and having fun.  She has been his rock as he navigated all the stuff with Taylor and he wants more.  He knows he has a decision to make about his future soon- a decision that will affect his relationship with the two ladies in his life.

This is a gently moving plot that is relationship-driven.  It’s told from Luke, Kate and Taylor’s points of view.  Luke’s life is a crossroads of decisions now.  For Kate, its a bit more complicated.  She came from an abusive home and was never loved by either parent.  It left her emotionally stunted even into adulthood.  She hides behind her work and now Luke is challenging her to step out to feel and trust him with her heart.  It’s all baby steps, but it does happen.

I tensed up when I got the lay of the story and saw all Kate’s issues.  I worried about too much angst and flip-flopping.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the thoughts and emotions were balanced.  Kate is a mess of sorts and has her hang-ups, but she is also fair too.  She sees and alters her behavior when she realizes how she wronged Luke.  I loved watching her slowly open up to the possibilities.

Kate had always imagined that if she let her guard down with a man, that she would do it with clear eyes and a cool head after a considerable period of time and testing.

She wasn’t prepared for a man like Luke.

She hadn’t counted on love that wasn’t a careful, deliberate step, but a hard, fast fall.  pp.218-219  Kate from Carolina Man

This was a tender romance that wasn’t in isolation.  I loved that Luke’s family is there around them of course, but I refer to Luke and Taylor and Kate.  Luke has to learn to be a dad, but must also get to know his daughter and she, him.  I loved that the author didn’t rush this and it was just as slow developing as what he had with Kate.  Luke won my heart the way he worked at it hard with both his girls.  I felt so bad for him when he learned the secret behind the fearful burden Taylor had been carrying around.  He was his daughter’s knight in shining armor and his tender care along with Kate’s openness won over Taylor.

“Having bad things happen to you doesn’t make you a bad person.  It doesn’t change who you are.  You are a wonderful kid.  You are a warrior.  You are a survivor.  Like your daddy.”  Kate looked at Taylor’s dad.  “And me.”

Taylor sighed.  That sounded pretty good.  “Kindred Spirits.”  Like in that book Kate had given her.

Kate’s eyes were really bright like they might cry, but she smiled instead.  “And bosom friends.”

Taylor smiled in satisfaction.  That was in the book too.

Dad looked confused.  “Right.”

He kissed her head again and then he kissed Kate.  Right on the mouth.  And it wasn’t so embarrassing. It felt right.  Like they were all in this together, like they were a team.  His girls.   p. 258 Taylor, Kate and Luke from Carolina Man

All in all, this was a wonderful story that I recommend to those who love gentle, passionate contemporary romance.  It can be read as a standalone or out of order even though its the third book in the series.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I’m glad she was fair and was able to not stick her past onto Luke. what a wonderful story this one sounds like, thanks for sharing it 🙂

    • You’re welcome!
      I was pleasantly surprised when she realized she was comparing Luke to her dad and decided to not criticize, but help. It was great. I’ve read this writer’s PNR series about the selkies and liked it so I wanted to try her contemporary. Very good! 😉

  • Woot! She’s one of my NC authors Sophia! I loved book one. I so didn’t realize it was book 3 already. Gah I’m behind! I’ll have to hunt down book 2 soon. So glad to hear it was utterly sigh worthy 🙂

    • And I’m working from the opposite direction because I didn’t realize I had book three so now I need to go back for his brother’s and sister’s stories before I move on to the next one.

      It’s even more fun to review when we can support local authors or at least that’s how I feel. Support the locals, right?

      • LOL We seem to do that a lot 🙂 And definitely fun to support your locals. I love seeing them pop up on other peoples blogs too 🙂