This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on April 1, 2014
Certain things just grab my attention when I’m shopping for a potential new read and this book offered up a few of them. I love romances that are surrounded by a greater story involving family and friends. My attention can always be grabbed by a military hero. And then toss in some little old ladies full of larceny and set on a bit of matchmaking? Bam! You got me.
Mike Stark has a month of leave coming to him and he had some really hot plans involving a Caribbean island beach and a willing blond in a bikini. All that is derailed when his ex contacts him and tells him he needs to take his girls so she can sort some stuff out. Mike’s connection to his little girls could truthfully be described as no connection at all. He sent money for their welfare, but that was it. Father of the year he was not. And now the three of them are stuck together for thirty days. Eight year old Jenny treats him to an attitude from her too adult looking expression and calls him ‘dude’ and three year old Ellie explodes into tantrums in the store aisle when she wants a new toy. He has no idea what to do. If these were new recruits at his Coast Guard station in Kodiak, he’d know exactly how to handle it. Into the mix steps the one person bound to make his day worse.
Diana Tuttle can’t believe her eyes. It’s Mike Stark, the man she had a whirlwind affair with and thought was The One until she whispered ‘I love you’ in the heat of passion and he dashed out her door leaving only a cold note stating they had had no expectations and he had to get back to post. Just the sight of him cuts her with pain and anger. He has his hands full with his two girls. She has some sympathy for him. After all, she’s the mom of a morose fifteen year old boy. She feels the pull toward Mike Stark, but knows the danger that lies in that direction besides she has enough on her plate right now with her ex filing for custody out of the blue and she’s trying to break through to her son. The struggle not to succumb and grab for the bottle on her shelf gets stronger the more Mike pushes to get something going again.
Greta, Esther and Pauline have grown a bit bored with life at the retirement home, but a chance to do a bit of meddling in someone’s love life perks things up a bit. Greta is pretty sure the letter they just got from their advice column comes from the sister of her grandson’s fiancée. She got Olivia and Luke together. Now it’s time to work on Olivia’s sister Diana and that handsome Mike Stark, Luke’s friend. And if nothing else, it will help Greta shake that whacked out Harold who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when he declares his interest in her.
Mike keeps telling himself that he doesn’t do relationships and he’s not fatherhood material and yet he finds himself making excuses to be near Diana like fixing up things around the animal shelter she and her sister run, taking an interest in her son and taking her advice about the girls all the while stealing kisses and touching her. They take turns pulling away. As Mike grows closer to his girls and he spends time with Diana, he experiences a paradigm shift that shows him a clear view of himself and his issues. He has a choice. He can keep going as he is or take a leap of faith and make some radical changes. By seeing himself clearly, he sees Diana clearly too and finally gives her strong honest words that will either help her heal or send her running from him forever.
When I started this one, I did not like Mike at all. He ducked out in the middle of the night and left an awful note to Diana, he was an absent dad to his kids, and he avoided contact with his mom. Plus, he had full intentions of chucking his kids again once the month was over. It was to the point where the switch to the old ladies was a relief. Greta totally had me rolling with her zinging remarks and snarkiness with Harold and her friends.
Greta on Shakespeare at the Breakfast Table:
[quote]”It is not cute,” Greta said. “It is humiliating. The man can’t take a hint.”
Pauline scoffed. “Those aren’t hints, Greta. They’re head blows.”
Greta shrugged. She preferred to call them suggestive taps, as in ‘Take the suggestion and quit trying to lean in and kiss me’. The bruising on Harold’s skull wasn’t her fault. Clearly, Harold had a weak circulatory system. “Whatever it takes. The man is a leech.”
“I don’t know,” Esther said, giving Harold a two-finger wave. “I think the lady doth protest too much.”
“Will you quit quoting Shakespeare at the breakfast table, Esther? It is too damned early in the morning for big words.” Loc. 236 Greta, Pauline and Esther from The Sweetheart Rules[/quote]
But I gave it time. I got to know him and the other characters. Man! Both of them and their kids were a mess and my heart just went out to them all. It was a long slow process for these two messed up people to get their lives sorted and in the process get their families sorted. I loved getting the story from Mike, Diana and even Jackson’s angle a few times. The scenes at the end with the kids, the animals and everyone together were the best. I can’t help it; I’m a sap and I love a good blended family scene.
The romance in this one wasn’t easy and the characters were flawed and made mistakes, but I would still call it a heartwarming read.
[quote]”I’m afraid, Mike. Afraid of…failing again.”
“Aren’t we all? The last thing in the world I want to do is screw up my kids, or let them down. Or screw up a relationship with the most amazing woman I ever met. I don’t love you because you are perfect, Diana. I love you because you are flawed. Because you don’t always say the right thing or do the right thing, and because”- he touched her bottom lip again and smiled-“you bite your lip when you’re nervous and you put your heart into everything you do and you have this laugh that comes from somewhere deep inside you. It’s contagious. And so are you.” Loc. 3529 Mike and Diana from The Sweetheart Rules[/quote]
In the end, I’m glad I stuck with the story and gave Mike a chance to win me over. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy humorous and touching Contemporary Romance where the romance is tucked inside a couple of families that need a bit of help from a few old ladies and a few adorable dogs.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Netgalley for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for an honest review.
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