Whitney Tate's former boss, a secretive man with government ties, comes to her office to call in an old favor. He needs someone to go on a mission for him, and he believes Whitney has the right qualifications. She is sent to a small town in the Southwestern desert of Arizona to seek out a man who had previously fallen off the grid, a man who may hold the key to a case of great importance. Whitney isn't eager to be going. She left her old job for a reason, one that bears an eerie similarity to the mission she's been sent on now, but she feels she has no choice in the matter. When she finally meets the man she was sent to find, Whitney falls for him hard and fast, leaving her even more reluctant to do what she came to accomplish.
After spending six months in captivity, Jake Hill's life changed dramatically. He was once a successful businessman, but now he can't bear to stay in one place long enough to put down roots. He has become a drifter traveling from town to town on the back of his motorcycle, looking for work where he can find it. No matter where Jake goes though, the nightmares follow him. Life has barely been worth living until Whitney shows up. Her pushiness irritates him, but at the same time, he's drawn to her gentleness and kindness. Soon, Jake finds himself opening up to her about things he's never told anyone else. But when he discovers Whitney's real reason for being there will he still be able to trust her or will it mean the end for their blossoming love?
Jake's Touch has a slightly different flavor for a Silhouette romance. From the very beginning, it contains an air of mystery surrounding what's happening in the story. The author did a great job with building this sense of intrigue, so that I was eager to find out what was going on. I thought it even had a slightly Gothic air to it, as much is made of a mystical Native American burial ground outside of town. When the hero and heroine visit there, some odd, though not necessarily frightening, things occur, and some of the locals believe one can commune with the spirits and they will give you what you need. Overall, I'd say the story had a rather dark feel to it that made it somewhat unusual for the contemporary romance genre.
When the novel opens, we don't really know for sure what Whitney does. We do find out that she somewhat recently switched jobs which her old boss apparently helped facilitate at her request. The boss, who obviously works for some secret government agency, shows up in her office one day calling in the favor by asking her to take one last case. She is sent to a small town in southern Arizona and tasked with seeking out a man who may be harboring information that could help them and getting him to talk. Something terrible happened when she previously worked for this government agency which precipitated her leaving, so she doesn't really want this job but feels she has no choice. Especially after she meets Jake, Whitney hates having to push him to remember the past, and more than once, she fears history may repeat itself, which is something she doesn't think she could live with. Even though I know she was only doing her job and was being pressured by her boss because time was of the essence, Whitney initially comes off as something of a pushy busy body, which irritates Jake to no end. Eventually though, her efforts are rewarded when he gradually begins to open up to her. At this point, she settles into a more gentle, nurturing role acting more like a therapist even though that wasn't in her formal training. When she started falling for her assignment, I believed that her attraction was genuine, but knowing that Jake would likely feel differently when he found out the truth of why she was there put a bit of a damper on their budding romance for me.
Jake is a man who is deeply tortured. Because there's such an air of mystery regarding who Jake is and how he can help, I don't want to give too much away, so all I'll say is that he was held in captivity for an extended period of time. Events that occurred during that time have left him with a very severe case of PTSD. He can barely stand to be touched by anyone. He is also acutely claustrophobic and can't even bear to be in a closed room. He has to leave doors open, and when he sleeps, it's on the floor near the open door. Sleep often eludes him though, and when he does succumb, Jake usually experiences terrible nightmares. Sometimes they turn into waking nightmares or flashbacks caused by a sight or sound that throws him back into that fight for life and which can cause him to harm other people. Prior to the captivity, he lived a completely different life. Now, he can't stand to be tied down to one place and has basically become a drifter, moving from one town to the next, seeking work where he can get it. I think the author did a great job with making Jake's affliction very believable. It was a textbook case of PTSD, and I was so happy to see him finally get help to begin overcoming it by the end of the story.
Another thing Ms. Wilson was amazingly talented with is setting a scene. I could clearly see the fictional small town of Bliss in my mind's eye. It was not unlike many other small Arizona towns I've visited or passed through, barely a blip on the map and a place where everyone knows everyone else. The surrounding desert areas were equally identifiable to me. The story takes place at the height of summer over the Fourth of July, and I could practically feel the oppressive Arizona heat emanating off the pages. The characters celebrate the Fourth with an old-fashioned rodeo and carnival which was easy to envision as well.
Overall, Jake's Touch was a very good story that I enjoyed reading, but there were times, especially early on, when it felt like it moved a tad too slow. Admittedly, the author does drop breadcrumbs throughout which kept me interested, and to reveal things much more quickly probably would have been unrealistic for the story she was trying to tell. Still, I found my mind wandering several times, which usually means I'm not fully engaged. Also, the hero and heroine falling in love within only a week's time was probably stretching the bounds of credibility a bit, but since I could sense their building attraction, it wasn't a major deal breaker. These are the main reasons I dropped a star, but for patient readers who tolerate a slower pace and don't mind a love at first sight kind of romance, this is definitely a book worth reading. It should appeal quite well to fans of tortured heroes too. Jake's Touch is a stand alone book and was my first read by this writer, but it has certainly put Mary Anne Wilson on my author watch list.
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