I received this book for free from NetGalley, the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Long Tall Texans
Published by HQN on June 28, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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The man who shattered her trust is back to protect her… New York Times bestselling author Diana Palmer delivers a breathtaking story of second-chance love.
When Paul Fiore disappeared from Isabel Grayling’s life, he told himself it was for all the right reasons. She was young and innocent, and he was her millionaire father’s lowly employee. Three years on, Paul is the FBI agent assigned to Isabel’s case. Too late, he realizes what life in her Texas mansion was really like back then—and how much damage he did when he left.
Once love-struck and sheltered, Isabel has become an assistant district attorney committed to serving the law, no matter how risky it gets. But right now, the man she can’t forgive is the one thing standing between her and a deadly stalker. She knows Paul won’t hesitate to protect her life with his own. But if she can’t trust herself to resist him, how can she trust him not to break her heart all over again?
When you’ve read an author’s books for a couple of decades, you start to see patterns in their work, in their stories and language. Often it’s like each new book is an old friend. Unfortunately for me, reading Diana Palmer’s Defender, which releases tomorrow with HQN Books, was a bit like showing up to a friend’s house when that friend has woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I didn’t actively dislike the book, but I’ll have to confess to a mild disappointment.
At first glance, the characters were standard DP fare; Isabel “Sari” Grayling is a sheltered, shy girl living with an abusive father and she has a crush on bodyguard Paul Fiore, who feels he’s not only too old and too working class for her, but that his blood-washed history makes him a poor bet for any relationship. Lots of innocent love on her part, lots of self-discipline and self-recrimination on his part. To put distance between them, Paul tells Sari’s father a lie that has terrible repercussions for her, unbeknownst to him. Innocent love turns to betrayed antagonism that rages on years later, when Paul is pulled in to protect Sari. He, by the way, is still hung up on his age, past, and financial status.
If I think about it, because the whole sniping-turns-to-smooching thing is par for the course as far as Palmer’s novels are concerned, I would normally rate this book 3 stars. But what pushed it down for me was Paul’s character. Yes, Palmer’s heroes tend to be a little overblown on the pride and machismo factor, but Paul just takes the cake. Case in point: in one scene, he’s actually happy that the girl he supposedly loves is going to be poorer than expected because there’s a problem with the inheritance she’s supposed to get from the father who abused her since childhood. And he never really redeems himself on this point; the compromise at the end felt shallow and only served to annoy me further.
Truth be told, I’m not sure I can even list a positive swoon factor on this story, simply because this hero’s appalling machismo overwhelmed any swoon-worthy traits he otherwise might have had. I’m hoping the next Palmer book will prove a much more satisfying read.
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