2.5 stars. To say I was disappointed in this book is an understatement.
First, I enjoyed and was very impressed with this writer's freshmen effort [b:Reye's Gold|8910088|Reye's Gold|Ruthie Robinson|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41CdshJ0YgL._SL75_.jpg|13786448]. I have been recommending that book all over the place and still encourage everyone to read it. Once of the things I enjoyed about that book was the writing. I have said in my review that the polish and sophistication of the writing felt like someone who had been writing a long time.
The upside of this book is that the writing level is still very high. Simply put, Ms. Robinson is very accomplished in that area. You know there are times when you are reading a book,espeically from a new author, and you just cringe at word usage, or the data dumps or certain dialogue passages. That just never happens with this author. The writing feels very organic, very natural.
When I began this book, I was stoked because it began very strongly. It was immediately interesting and the set up was great. Katrina Jones has a crush on her neighbor Will Nakane. He, however, has never really paid her any attention. Until the night of a New Year's Eve party where Katrina has a little too much to drink and pretty much throws herself at him. Only to be gently rebuffed. For his part, Will can't reconcile the tipsy siren Katrina in the skimpy red dress with neighbor Katrina -- the woman who always wears baggy jeans, baggy tee-shirts, old baseball caps and works in her garden all the time. He takes her home from the party to make sure she is safe and leaves her there.
So, yeah, this is a great set up. But then the book begins to derail. The biggest problem is length and pacing. The book is 400 pages long. The first 295 pages are given over to Will and Katrina simply working together to win a city wide gardening contest. During those 295 pages, Will and Katrina spend a lot of time together getting to know each other.
While Katrina's crush on Will stays strong throughout, the net result of all that time is to see Will slowly begin to realize how much he likes her. So much of what happens in those pages is Will feeling (but not really telling her about) these lusty thought for Katrina. The two of them have a lot of inner revelations. They have absolutely no romantic relationship in those first 295 pages. I am not kidding. They look at each other a lot, they (silently, to themselves) acknowledge that the other is attracted to him/her. But that is it. They don't do
anything about the attraction.
And to add to the issue, the gardening competition, really smothers the romance in this part of the book. Katrina knows a lot
about gardening so we get a plethora of mini lessons and lectures on it.
The last 100 pages of the book is a full romance novel squished in. In that time the two acknowledge their feelings for each other, sleep together a lot, Katrina has cold feet, they have a few fights and then they end up HEA.
This is the pacing issue. There wasn't enough romantic interaction between the two of them in that first big chunk of the book to sustain real interest in their relationship. They really should have begun a real, acknowledged romantic relationship much earlier than they did so that the tension and the conflict could have been spread throughout the book, rather than in the last 50 or so pages where it felt incredibly rushed.
Normally I wouldn't mind a nice, meaty 400 page romance novel. But I don't feel I got that. I think that the overabundance of the gardening plot just added bloat.
Will was a great character. I liked how she positioned him and his personality. He is all about nature, sustainability, and organic foods. He bikes, kayaks, hikes...all kinds of nature outdoorsy stuff. He was also very laid back and calm. In short he was a very three dimensional beta-hero who worked very well in the context of the story.
Katrina was a bit more problematic for me. Again, I like what the author did with her on a character level. She was an orphan was adopted as an older child by an older couple who instilled their love of gardening in her. Their death left he rudderless. Added to that Katrina had some real self esteem and abandonment issues. Sometimes I felt real sympathy for Katrina because despite the fact that she had a group of loving, close friends, a pair of godfathers and an entire town that really considered her their own, she was incredibly lonely. But then sometimes I felt she was a pity-partying brat. She was definitely a prickly character.
So, yeah, this book didn't really work for me. I do recommend it to people who like gardening or who really like a very long, slow build in a relationship. Otherwise I would probably steer clear.