Summer of Two Wishes / Julia London. 2009.
In what can only be a wild coincidence, 2009 has brought us a second book with a hero who comes back from the dead after his wife has remarried. In Jennifer Haymore's A Hint of Wicked (which was a Phave back in June) we had the story of Sophie who presumably lost her first husband at Waterloo. She remarries years later and shortly after the marriage her first husband returns. In this new book by Julia London we have Macy in a contemporary story of a woman whose husband is presumed killed in Afghanistan when all that is left are his dogtags after an attack on his vehicle. Turns out that Finn was captured by the Taliban and escapes only to find that his wife had remarried just 7 months previous to his escape.
Despite the disparity in time and setting, not to mention the legal situation, both books are eerily similar. They do not tell the romantic journeys of the protagonists in what might be considered traditional romance fashion. Instead they focus on the decision the heroines must make when faced with the fact they they love both the men in their lives, but must choose to be with only one. I was rather reluctant to read SoTW because I knew there would be a "loser" in the Macy stakes. In order to like and sympathize with Macy, I had to assume that both men in her life would be sympathetic characters. And for the most part they were.
Initially I was wary, especially on the heels of AHoW, but I do think London makes it work. In addition, because this book is a contemporary and the legal situation is much different, it necessarily reads very differently than AHoW. I did not spend my time comparing the two books. What I liked about the contemporary setting was London's ability to deal with PTSD as an identified, named disorder that Finn had to deal with. Also, I could appreciate the way Wyatt goes a little off the deep end when he is faced with the fact that he could very well lose the woman he loves because Finn has reappeared. Both men act a little crazy and it was believable. Macy gets pressure from all sides and many people in her life assume that she's going to make a specific choice and are stunned when it doesn't seem as easy to her as it does to them.
There's a wealth of interesting secondary characters here--most of them have very definite opinions about Macy's choice. I read this at the same time there was some discussion going on elsewhere (see here and here) about mothers in romance novels. I didn't actually follow those discussions, but I believe they talked about how often mothers are portrayed as bad or obnoxious. Finn's mother and Macy's mother aren't "evil" mothers, but they do have their moments. Part of Macy's growth in the books is finding the ability to stand up for herself and her choice, and that includes standing up to these two mothers.
I do think this is one of those books that would have benefited from a slightly higher word count. Mostly because I wanted to read more. London created a fine cast of secondary characters. I also wanted to read more about Finn coming to grips with his PTSD and the steps he'd need to take to function normally. That issue is certainly covered, but not with a lot of depth. Because the book does have a full cast of characters and a very compelling conflict, this was an easy, rapid read. I have to admit it was everything I could do to keep from looking in the back to find out who Macy chooses. When I found myself with about 75 pages to go and a meeting to attend, I caved and peeked. It was well worth it so I could go to my meeting and not fret about the time. And so if you'd like to read something a little different, do give this one a try. I recommend it.