Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237227-7
Contemporary Romance, 2016
One Lucky Hero has a military guy as the hero, but this is a down to earth romance without any explosions or terrorist stuff. It’s strictly a story of an action man stepping in to clean up the heroine’s 1,001 emotional messes.
Sgt Dean Sparks is currently assigned to manage the Alpha Dog Training Program, which trains problematic dogs to become well-behaved police and guard dogs with the assistance of non-violent juvenile delinquents. He wants to go back to shooting people overseas, however, and he is just waiting for them to find that he is psychologically fit to go back out there. He is, as he will tell you. Okay, sometimes he hears screams and sounds of battle when things are too quiet around here, but that’s only because he isn’t, you know, busy out there doing bang-bang-bang stuff.
Then we have our heroine Violet Douglas. She’s 24, in college working her way to a psychology degree, and she is the legal guardian of her siblings ever since their drug-addicted father tried to kill her brother and she threatened him with a gun. So now, she has trust issues, she doesn’t want to commit to any relationship. As the story progresses, her sister has a violent stalker, her brother is doing that “Ooh, I’m so edgy and rebellious!” thing, her father wants them to be a family again and threatens to sic a custody suit on Violet if she insists on him staying the hell away from them… did I miss something? Oh, and she also insists on being a volunteer at the local help line, so she’s inundated with calls from depressed and suicidal people. As you can imagine, this only makes her own victim complex blow up to cringe-inducing proportions.
Violet and Dean embark on an affair, both sides having reasons to want to keep things clean of that messy love thing that would only complicate their lives at that moment. Now, this is what I have to give the author credit: the relationship aspect of this story is well done. There is a discernible chemistry between those two, and it is easy to believe that, if given another plot, these two would have been a couple to remember. The author has a modern, fresh verve to her narrative style, and I only cringe a little when Violet professes a great love for Meghan Trainor.
But things become increasingly forgettable as the author goes down the route of turning this story into another story where either the bloke saves the day or things just fall into place for Violet without any effort on her part. The heroine spends a lot of time whining that she has issues, but doing little to overcome them. She either takes it lying down, all the while acting like life is forever bleak and depressing for her, or she overreacts to a situation and tries to start some kind of action only to just lie down eventually and whimper that life is forever bleak and depressing. Dean ends up actively intervening, despite him having his own baggage, or things turn out okay in the end because Violet was just overreacting initially. The dreadful irony here is that this book ends with a message from the author telling people who are suicidal or depressed to proactively seek help. Well, Violet may not be suicidal or depressed, but she’s not exactly without bats in her belfry, and she’s not setting a good example here, is she? Worse, the take home message of this story is that all our issues can be solved if we could just find a reliable bloke to step in and clean up our mess.
And, of course, Violet repays Dean by acting like a stereotypical neurotic female. How dare he be so nice to her? Doesn’t he know that he’s just supposed to stick his pee-pee inside her and nothing more? What, he’s being nice because he tells her that he wants to be her friend? How dare he wants only friendship from her, even if that she was the one who started the whole “no emotional stuff” thing between them – IS THAT ALL SHE IS TO HIM, A FRIEND? HOW DARE HE. Insert whiny horse-faced pouting emoji here.
The sad thing about One Lucky Hero – the title is inaccurate; the whiny, passive bleating heroine is the lucky one here to have her life fall into place despite her best efforts not to do anything to help herself – is that it would have been a far more interesting story if the author had focused more on Dean overcoming his own PTSD, instead of shoving that to the background and making Dean play both the knight in shining armor and shrink to Violet. Violet is the psychology student, so the author already has the plausible foundation in the story for the heroine help the hero in finding a better place for himself. But no, instead we have Dean unconvincingly turning out to be the better psychologist instead as he advises Violet on how to overcome her issues. We already have so many stories of men helping useless, whiny heroines cross the street to find a better life, so why do we need another one?
Anyway, the chemistry and the author’s engaging writing style save this one. One Lucky Hero is at its most disingenuous when it tries to be a trauma porn with the guy saving the day, and unfortunately, that’s what it is for the most part.