Peyton Lacoumette is a physician's assistant who made the mistake of falling for her boss. The man was a brilliant cardiac surgeon, but he had no concept of managing his family and personal life outside of work. As a result, Peyton became little more than a glorified housekeeper and babysitter to his three bratty kids. When she realized he was cheating on her too, it was the last straw. Now she's doing a bit of soul-searching and taking her time figuring out what to do next in her life, while trying to heal her battered heart. Her lazy meanderings take her to the small Oregon beach town of Thunder Point, where she discovers the one and only local doctor happens to be looking for a PA.
Scott Grant is a widower with two small children. He moved his family to Thunder Point to get away from his children's well-meaning but overbearing grandmothers and because it seemed like a sleepy little town that would be a perfect place to raise his kids. After years of grieving his dead wife, he's finally ready to get back into the dating pool, so when the lovely Peyton agrees to a three month contract as his PA, he can't help falling for her. The only problem is she's not too keen on getting involved with another guy who has kids after her last debacle of a relationship. Not to mention, her ex seems to be having trouble letting go.
The Promise was a little better than The Chance, the previous book of the Thunder Point series, for me, but I still didn't feel like it was quite up to the caliber that I know Robyn Carr is capable of. The plot and characterizations were also a little too similar to The Chance. A heroine who is soul-searching after a major upheaval in her life...check. She's just passing through town and decides it might be a nice place to sojourn until she gets things worked out in her head...check. A hard-working hero with a heart of gold who almost instantly falls in love with her...check. A heroine who is reluctant to commit, because she'd be giving up a lucrative and fulfilling career...check. A heroine who leaves town for a while when unexpected things occur, leaving the hero to wonder if she really loves him and is coming back...check. It was like Ms. Carr was telling the same tired story all over again, only with different characters and slightly different situations. The only thing that really saved The Promise for me and made it a little better than The Chance is that I generally found the heroine to be a bit more relatable.
Peyton is a physician's assistant who fell for the doctor she worked with. He was a brilliant surgeon and a charismatic man who was easy to like in the workplace, but when she agreed to move in with him, all hell broke loose. His kids were completely out of control, and he left her to take care of them and clean up the mess while he was hardly ever at home. Needless to say, things went south between them pretty fast, and now that she's left him, Peyton is doing some soul-searching while looking for her next job. She wanders into Thunder Point to discover that the one and only doctor in town is looking for a PA. He can't offer her much salary wise, but realizing it's a place where she can find some peace and quiet to recover from her chaotic relationship debacle, she agrees to a three month commitment. After that, all bets are off. Peyton is from a traditional Basque family and was raised on the family farm with her seven siblings. They didn't have a lot, but they were brought up well and the family is very close, so ill-behaved kids like her ex's are a foreign concept to her. I really enjoy learning about new cultures, but sometimes the way Ms. Carr presented Peyton's Basque background seemed like a bit of an info dump. It was like she was trying to cram everything she learned about the Basque culture from her research into the story, without really taking the time and care to truly craft it into her characterizations. Sometimes, like when Peyton visits the family farm, we get to see that culture in action; other times, it was more like she was rattling off a bunch of facts. Peyton is a talented PA who cares very much about her patients and people in general. Despite her bad experience with a man who already had kids, she warms up fairly quickly to Scott's youngsters, although she still has a few misgivings about becoming more deeply involved with him. Overall, I think that Peyton was a likable and admirable heroine, but it seemed like her POV dominated the story a little too much. It got to the point that I was starting to notice Ms. Carr repeating things we already knew about Peyton or belaboring certain issues in her life.
Because the story was so heavily weighted toward Peyton and her problems, I felt like Scott really didn't get much of a foothold in the story. Many of Ms. Carr's heroes have been among some of my favorites, and I think Scott could have been too, if his characterization had gone a little deeper. We already knew from previous books of the series that Scott was a grieving widower with two young children, although by the time this story opens, he seems to be mostly past the pain of losing his wife and finally ready to have a serious relationship again. He's a very caring doctor who works hard to keep his practice afloat, while still finding time to be a devoted father. Overall, he's a great guy, but I didn't feel like we got to know him very well, at least not beyond the obvious surface stuff. He has a few insecurities that rise up when Peyton's ex comes to town in his fancy car, but I didn't feel like Scott's feelings were given the weight they deserved. Instead, they're essentially brushed off as him being silly and acting like an idiot (ie he's the one in the wrong), rather than using them as an opportunity to further define him.
Much like with The Chance, I felt like the romance between Scott and Peyton was on the weak side. There wasn't much build-up in their relationship (ie not much in the way of truly romantic interludes) before they start dating a few times and fall into bed together. At this point, I felt like their emotions and attraction for one another was being told to me more than shown. While I suppose there's something to be said for two people communicating openly and honestly, having Scott and Peyton talk so frankly about having sex right before they do took some of the mystery and romanticism out of it for me. This was another area in which The Promise was identical to The Chance. It just felt like they were treating their sexual relationship in a matter of fact way, not really caring what the future held but instead living in the moment, which doesn't usually work well for me. I need a couple to either have casual sex that then builds into something much deeper or have a true relationship that includes sex as well as certain expectations for the future, rather than this odd amalgamation of the two that Ms. Carr seems to be leaning toward in many of her more recent books. I'm also not much of a fan of the commitment-phobe heroine. Scott declares his love for Peyton very early in their relationship, but she waits until the end, still thinking that she might leave town when her three months are up. She wasn't quite as bad as Laine in the previous book, but I still think Scott deserved more. I'll admit that there were a few moments when I felt the connection between Scott and Peyton, but I know that the author is capable of writing much better romanticism than she did in this book.
Throughout these two most recent books in the Thunder Point series, Robyn Carr seems to be getting away from the multiple POVs that have become her trademark. I'm not sure what or who is responsible for this change, whether Ms. Carr decided to pare them down herself or if it was an editorial decision or something else. I know some readers didn't care for the secondary storylines drawing the focus away from the "main" hero and heroine, but I've actually gotten used to them and kind of miss them. There were still a few of these scenes present, but most of them were over in the blink of an eye and didn't add a great deal to the character whose perspective was being presented. Spencer and Devon (The Hero) finally tie the knot, but I would have liked if the wedding had been written out in a little more detail. Cooper and Sarah (The Wanderer) experience a blessed event, again with few details. Carrie is injured, leading to a newly developing friendship with Rawley, which looks like it may become romantic down the line. And Mac is up for a promotion that will take him away from Thunder Point to a neighboring community for work. No worries though, because he's going to commute, leaving him, Gina, and the kids likely to remain background characters. There were no new characters introduced in this book, although Mac and Gina do discuss his replacement as the new sheriff's deputy, a guy named Seth. He's apparently a former resident of Thunder Point who's finally coming home as the hero of the next book, The Homecoming, due for release in August (2014).
Unfortunately, The Promise seemed to end a tad too abruptly. I would have liked for Peyton to have at least said "yes" to Scott's proposal. Instead, we're left hanging with the assumption that she accepted because of the things she said prior. Still, having that final pat answer would have been nice. Besides that and the other weaknesses I've mentioned, it was a decent story that I mostly enjoyed. I just wish that Robyn Carr would build up her heroes a little more so that we, as the readers, can truly fall in love with them like I almost always did with the Virgin River heroes. These last few heroes in the Thunder Point series have been great guys, but IMHO, they've been rather weak compared to the scrumptious heroes of Virgin River. I'm not sure if it's because Robyn Carr released a women's fiction novel earlier this year and has been so immersed in the female POV that she had difficulty getting away from it to write these last couple of Thunder Point books with a more balanced male/female perspective or what. In any case, it looks like Seth may have an intriguing story to tell, and since we don't know much anything about him yet, I'll keep my fingers crossed that he gets more page time in his upcoming book than the last couple of heroes have had.
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publicist in exchange for an honest review.
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