Strawberry Wine by E. Jamie
Publisher: Sugar and Spice Press
Available: January 10, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Book received from: Author
Laura and Caleb were teenage sweethearts. Then Laura disappeared, leaving nothing behind but a simple note. Now she’s back, a street smart cop on the trail of an underground child sex slave operation right in the heart of New York City and she’s been sent to Caleb’s division to help bring down one of the most reprehensible men in the country. When the old lovers are partnered up, can they put their old hurts aside to do their jobs and save the children?
When an 18 year old Laura disappears, leaving only a note, her fiancé Caleb is devastated. Angry and hurt, he spends the next ten years trying to forget Laura and has convinced himself that he hates her. But Laura didn’t just get cold feet and run. She had some serious self esteem issues and a devastating secret. She felt that Caleb would never forgive her so she left him without even saying goodbye. 10 years later both have careers in law enforcement and while they have been apart for years, Laura has maintained ties to Caleb’s family both romantically and professionally.
Strawberry Wine is a book that when I step back and think about the story overall I can definitely say I enjoyed it. It’s a highly emotional drama between two lovers who must find a way to overcome very serious emotional wounds in order work together professionally and eventually repair and heal the great love they once shared. However, when I begin to examine the story and characters more carefully, I find a few issues that are difficult for overcome in a romance novel.
First we have Caleb, the jilted lover. The early part of his love affair with Laura was passionate and emotionally charged. Convinced they would be together forever he is understandably devastated when the love of his life leaves him with no real explanation and his hurt eventually turns to hate. He has even more reason to harbor anger for Laura when she becomes romantically involved with his brother years later. Now Laura is back in his life and he has to work side by side with her to bring down a despicable criminal involved in child trafficking. There are plenty of reasons to sympathize with his situation and be angry right along with him. When he is face to face with Laura again though, he cannot deny he is still attracted to her and his feelings become extremely conflicted. Then he commits the romance novel no-no. Caleb and Laura have a confrontation that ends with him pinning her up against a wall and kissing the breath out of her. Their hearts are racing, they are both confused, the tension is high. And then…Caleb calls Laura a whore. Splash of cold water in the face and instant dislike for the hero. I don’t like it when a hero cannot control his physical impulses and then takes out his disgust with himself on the object of his desire by calling her a whore, in essence blaming her for his bad behavior. This just doesn’t work for me at all.
That brings me to Laura and her reaction to Caleb’s behavior. I can’t figure out why a woman in her right mind would tolerate having a man grind against her, kiss her like he’s starving for her, then break off and call her a whore. I like a strong heroine and taking this kind of abuse just doesn’t say strong, self respecting woman to me. Now, admittedly, Laura has some serious guilt issues over leaving Caleb in the first place and the reasons she did so, but I still have a hard time getting behind a heroine that would put up with this. For me, this kind of thing is a deal breaker and I can’t understand why Laura would continue to stay in the situation. She was strong enough to walk away years ago when she thought she should, so why not now. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I often say I like my my heroes and heroines flawed but redeemable. I like them layered and textured and I may even want to dislike them a bit and then learn to love them again. But, for me there is a line that I don’t like my characters to cross and Caleb and Laura flirted very close to that line. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book though. I found myself quite eager to see what happened next, and I was certainly drawn into the this emotionally charged drama. In spite of my issues with Caleb and Laura, I held out hope for their happily ever after and truly believed that they were meant to be together.
All in all, I enjoyed Strawberry Wine and while there were a few road blocks along the way, this book kept me eagerly reading until the very last page.
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