FBI agent, Laine Carrington was shot in the line of duty while trying to save the women and children from a cult commune where she'd been working undercover for six months. One of the women she helped rescue lives in the nearby town of Thunder Point, and some of the residents of the little community had saved her life during the operation. Not quite fully healed and needing some time for soul-searching, Laine requests a leave of absence from the bureau and takes up residence in the peaceful seaside town where she meets a man who stirs her desires in a way no one else ever has.
Eric Gentry is an ex-con, but since being released from prison, he's totally turned his life around. Now a successful businessman, he recently discovered a teenage daughter he'd never known about, and she lives in Thunder Point with her mom. After selling his business, Eric relocated to the little town where he's just started brand new. When Laine shows up, Eric is intrigued. Their attraction is magnetic and their sexual chemistry is off the charts, but neither thinks they're looking for a long-term relationship. Soon they're moving in together and finding out how comfortable it is to share living space. Just when Eric thinks they might have something special, a health crisis for Laine's estranged father takes her back to Boston and far away from Eric, leaving him wondering if she'll be able to find her way back to him.
Robyn Carr has been a favorite author of mine for a while. I'm a big fan of her Virgin River series and up to this point, the Thunder Point series has been good too. That's why it pains me to have to give The Chance less than four stars, but in all honesty, I didn't feel it was up to her normally high standards. For starters, the vast majority of the first 2/3 to ¾ of the story was told in dialog. I'll be the first to admit that rich dialog that advances the plot and character development is a must in any book, and to some extent it accomplishes that goal here. However, there were many times that the dialog would drag along, then be briefly punctuated by a tidbit of narrative, only to slip right back into another lengthy conversation. This is a classic extroverted style of writing that simply doesn't work well for an introvert like me. With so little narrative, it was difficult to get a feel for the setting and plot, which seemed to meander anyway, and with so little introspection, it was nearly impossible to connect with the characters in a meaningful way. The author has never been the best writer when it comes to blocking during dialog (ie. interspersing bits of narrative that show where the characters are and what they're doing or thinking while talking), but in the early parts of this book, this deficiency became painfully obvious. Normally, Ms. Carr does a better job with integrating the narrative and dialog together, but in The Chance, the story was very top-heavy in favor of dialog.
I liked Laine in The Hero for her heroic efforts in saving the women and children from a cult commune, but I'm sorry to say that I never fully warmed up to her in The Chance. It's not that I disliked her either. Her personality is just so different from my own that I had a hard time relating to her. She's a woman who enjoys the domestic side of life such as cooking, organizing and painting her house, and while she's willing to share those talents with Eric, she has no intention of becoming a mere housewife. She's a daredevil, who even as a little girl, liked to live on the edge, which is why the FBI appealed to her so much. After getting shot though, she's ready to relax a little and do some soul-searching. Laine is a very bold, take charge kind of woman, a little too much so for my taste. I guess it was kind of cute that she asked Eric out first when she felt like he was taking too long, but overall, I prefer a more traditional heroine. I also think there could have been more introspection to explain why he was waiting and why she was feeling impatient. Laine is basically the alpha female, taking the bull by the horns in their relationship. She's the first to ask for sex (on their first date, no less) and invites Eric to move in with her mere weeks later. Luckily for her, he's a very laid back kind of guy who isn't bothered by this and just takes it all in stride. Overall, Laine seemed to think more like a man, which was hard for me to understand. She does have some daddy issues, since her father never supported any of her choices in life and constantly downplays her accomplishments. This helped to make her a bit more sympathetic, and in the end, she showed what a devoted daughter she was anyway despite not having a very good relationship with him. These things made her a little more relatable, but she was simply never a stand-out heroine for me.
For an ex-con who walked out on his possibly pregnant girlfriend seventeen years ago, Eric turned out to be a pretty likable guy. As it turns out, the event that got him thrown in prison for five years in his wild youth ended up not entirely being his fault, but the judge threw the book at him anyway. Even though he got a rather harsh sentence for what he did, Eric isn't bitter about it, which is something I admired about him. He's also done a great job of turning his life around since getting out. He built a very profitable body shop, which he then sold for a very good price to move to Thunder Point, where he's starting fresh with a new service station. He works long hours, but always tries to find time for Ashley, the daughter he just recently found out about. Then Laine comes into the picture, and he's totally smitten. I liked that Eric was a gentleman on their first date, even turning Laine down on her initial offer of sex, although that resolve only lasted a day. He's also a bit on the old-fashioned side and very protective toward Laine when he finds out the truth of what she does for a living, although he backed off on his concern after she "proved" she could take care of herself. Although Eric might not make it to the top of my favorite heroes list, he had grown into a pretty admirable and laid-back guy, who was willing take whatever Laine offered and never pressured her for more.
Where things kind of fell apart for me was in their romance, which was pretty mundane for a Robyn Carr book. When they first met and then started seeing each other around town, there was some underlying interest on both their parts, but no strong spark of attraction, not even one of them thinking "Wow, he/she is gorgeous!" With that being the case, I wasn't entirely sure why they liked each other and wanted to go out in the first place. This is where I felt that more body language and introspection would have helped build these two characters and their emotional connection better. On their first date, I could see more of a connection, but overall, their romance was still pretty bland. They fell into bed on their second date and had explosive sexual chemistry (although for the most part, that's told, not shown, since there is only the one moderately descriptive love scene), but they literally don't have anything at all in common. This makes it difficult to see how a long-term relationship would work. Also, despite them living together, they still keep their relationship relatively casual, saying that they aren't looking for any commitments, especially Laine. Eric is quite aware too that once her leave of absence is up, she very well may return to the bureau and leave Thunder Point (and him) behind. The other thing I thought was weak about the romance is that there's virtually no conflict to speak of. The cover blurb alludes to the primary conflict being the differences that arise from Laine being an FBI agent and Eric being an ex-con, which could have been quite interesting if that was the case, but nothing could have been further from the truth. They get along famously right from the start and never have any arguments or misunderstandings. While there's something to be said for characters not keeping secrets from one another, them getting it all out in the open so early in the story left little else of interest which is probably why their relationship seemed so ordinary to me. Laine does have to go away to Boston to deal with her father toward the very end of the book, leaving at least a little doubt as to whether she would get things worked out and find a way to get back to Eric and Thunder Point, but it was too little too late, in my opinion. Up to that point, I was starting to get bored with them as a couple.
Robyn Carr's signature writing style is usually full of secondary characters who have their own POVs and side plots, but sadly, there weren't very many in The Chance. Most of the characters from the first three books of the series barely show up, and only a couple of new characters, both employees of Eric's, are introduced, who might play roles in future books. First is Al, a middle-aged drifter who has trouble settling down in one place because of past mistakes. Almost immediately upon coming to town, he kindles a romance with real estate agent, Raye Ann. However, we don't really even get into the meat of his storyline until near the end of the book. Once I started learning more about him, he was a pretty interesting guy. His sub-plot intertwines with that of Justin, a seventeen year old young man whose mother is gravely ill and whose father skipped out on the family a long time ago. He's trying to hold things together for the sake of his two younger brothers, both of whom are in danger of winding up in foster care. Again, he was an intriguing character, but things don't really get rolling for him either until near the end. I would have liked to see their stories woven into the narrative earlier and more seamlessly instead of being crammed into the final chapters. The final supporting characters who played important roles were Laine's family. Her twin brother, Pax, is basically her support system and the only one who can really deal with their irritating father, but he's a busy doctor with little time to himself. As with the other sub-plots, Laine's father appears during approx. the last ¼ of the novel, but I have to say his storyline was pretty predictable. I realized almost instantly what was happening with him, and it didn't do much else besides providing a little family drama and giving Laine the opportunity to reconcile with him. Even Eric's daughter, Ashley, was barely seen. We're simply told about her and the other kids from the first three books graduating high school rather than being shown, which would have been nice. The new town doctor, Scott Grant, who becomes the hero of the next book, The Promise, shows up briefly in a few scenes, just enough to give the reader the impression that his story is coming.
While The Chance had some good points, in general, it was the weakest of Robyn Carr's full-length novels I've read to date. At times, it felt like she'd run out of ideas and was just writing stuff to fill in the word count without really taking the time and care to breathe life into her characters, particularly Laine and Eric. With no real commitment until the final pages (even then it was more of an HFN ending since there's no proposal or anything), and the stakes being pretty low for our happy couple, even the romance was lacking. I know for a fact that Ms. Carr is capable of much better. Just about any book in the Virgin River series is proof of this. The final 1/3 or so of The Chance actually reflected more of the writer I've come to know and love. The fact that the ending was considerably better than the first 2/3 of the book is what prevented my rating from being lower, but I still couldn't help feeling like this book was rushed to publication when it could have been more carefully crafted to tell a truly compelling story. One misstep certainly isn't enough to put me off Ms. Carr's writing, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that with The Promise, she'll get back to the engaging storytelling that won me over as a fan and give the sexy doctor a meatier plot.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publicist via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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