Still Mine
by Mary Wine, contemporary (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-957-3

Ooh, look at the fierce glare of the beefy guy on the cover. That fellow is supposed to be our hero Paul Benate. He is with the military, a particularly covert part of the military that does all that hushed-up top secret stuff. Six years ago, our hero let his wife Jolene believe that he was killed on duty so that he could do the noble thing and keep her safe. Or keep his job safe, depending on how you look at it, because he doesn't want her to be used as a bait by his enemies.

Alas, all that deception is wasted because when the story opens, Jo is on the radar of his enemies, having barely avoided an attempt on her life. Paul decides to show up and invite himself back into her life. In the six years, however, Jo has transformed from a rather hapless and weepy twenty-year old to a tough kick-ass US Marshal and she's not going to make things easy for Paul.

Now, if Paul is sensible, there will be no story. If Paul gets down on his knees, apologizes prettily, and explains that he had to do what he had to do for the sake of humanity, there will be no story. So here we have Paul in the first hour of reuniting with Jo giving Jo this impression that he married her because she wouldn't put out to him otherwise. Now we have a story, sigh.

Fortunately, what makes Still Mine an actually very readable story is Jo. Her conflicted feelings with regards to Paul ring true and I like how she tries hard to be fair to him. I can understand why at first she is (rightfully, in my opinion) angry with him. Another great thing about Jo is that she is tough. While the author isn't above putting Jo in dangerous situations to get the two characters in close proximity, Jo remains who she is until the end of the story without going out of character. I personally feel that Jo is too good for Paul, who is obsessed with the idea of "claiming" Jo as if she's his favorite porn tape that he left behind or something, but she seems to have a good understanding of who Paul is when she takes him back so that's okay with me. I especially love that scene where she tells Paul to stop trying to control her and instead be her lover. I don't think he gets the message, but I'm sure she'll one day knock some sense into him. Paul isn't malicious or cruel here, just rather on the dim side in his determination to shag his way back into the wife's good graces, which makes him a tolerable hero rather than an annoying one.

The last two stories by this author that I've read didn't exactly impress me, although I did notice that she tends to create interesting heroines that are unfortunately paired with heroes that are on the stereotypical side. Still Mine still follows the tradition of a strong and interesting heroine getting paired with a clichéd hero. However, this one is a pleasant surprise for me because of how well-drawn the heroine is and how well I respond to the story as a result.

Rating: 81

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