Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-244127-0
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Sergeant Blake Kline had always though his wife Jenny would always be his one and only. They were childhood sweethearts, later husband and wife, and then… two years ago, she left to buy some stuff as they were running low on food to entertain his buddies at his place, and oops, dead. Since then, Blake buries himself in the running of Alpha Dog, the center that takes in troubled kids and get these kids to help train dogs. He has never been in a relationship or slept with any other woman, so the idea of dating again makes him feeling a little sick inside. Well, until he meets Hannah York, a waitress-cum-substitute teacher. He is attracted to her, but oh, his heart, his heart.
That’s basically the plot of Holding Out for a Hero. This could have been a heartwarming kind of catharsis, as Blake is in many ways the kind of the hero that makes a reader go, “Aww!” However, this one suffers from pacing problems, with Blake constantly going back and forth between wanting Hannah and then retreating – all the way to nearly the end! – that I get this feeling that he isn’t ready to be in a relationship again, much less get married, even by the time the happy epilogue rolls in. Blake has all the makings of a dreamy hero, especially with a baggage designed to make tender-hearted readers alternate between wanting to comfort him and do… naughty things to ease his pain, so it’s a shame that the story seems content to just make him stay in a rut for too long.
Hannah is a boring heroine. Basically, she just waits for Blake to call for the most part. She isn’t a character here as much as she is just a prop to bring out the angst in Blake. This is Blake’s story, so it’s even more of a shame that his issues soon become repetitive and circular.
Also, the author doesn’t seem to trust Blake to resolve his issues on his own, so she throws in several unnecessary plot twists. From men with guns to “Oops! Pregnant!” and what not, the author has external forces conspiring to force poor Blake to settle for a relationship even if he doesn’t seem ready for one. Even late in the story, for example, the thought of his wife still sends him into some “Oh no! The pain! The pain!” kind of melodramatic retreat, so I really don’t buy the whole happy ending. The honeypots of shy bookworm heroines aren’t that powerful an antidepressant, oh please.
Not that this is a bad read, mind you. It’s perfectly fine. I have no issues reading it – it’s easy to read and digest, so from a technical standpoint, this one is solid. It’s just that I don’t buy the romance at all, and the emotions in this one ring false, especially when coupled to contrived extraneous developments that force Blake to settle down with Hannah come what may. Maybe if the author had removed some of the unnecessary external drama and pace the story better, so that the hero spends a few chapters leading up to the epilogue in an emotional state of mind that suggests he’s ready to love again, this one would have been a far better read.
All things considered, this one is alright with me but I’m still holding out for a better story.