Grace Dillon used to be a champion figure skater. Five years ago, after winning every major competition, including the Olympics, she decided she'd had enough of the intensive training and jealous rivalries. At the peak of her career, she walked away from it all and hasn't looked back, which caused a major rift in her already strained relationship with her mother. Now Grace has carved out a new and fulfilling life for herself in the small town of Thunder Point, running her own flower shop and living in the little apartment above it. No one in town knows she's a former celebrity, and she likes it that way. Grace's best friend introduced her to high school teacher, Troy, and they hit it off. The pair discover that they are quite compatible and have many things in common, which leads to a budding friendship and eventually a mutually satisfying friends with benefits arrangement. But when Grace finds herself falling for Troy, she isn't sure if he wants something more lasting than mere friendship.
Troy Headly used to date Grace's best friend, Iris, but when Iris got married to her high school crush, he was forced to face facts - she didn't want him anymore. Not one to mope, he starts hanging out with Grace, and when he finds out that she's often alone, he appoints himself as her fun coach. Together they share some enjoyable outings, which soon lead to a whole lot more. When a simple Google search leads Troy to discover Grace's private past, he's stunned, but patiently waits, giving her the space she needs to fully trust him with her secrets. Upon the arrival of a note identical to ones that a stalker used to send her, Grace has little choice but to open up, and Troy does everything he can to make her feel protected. Then her mother resurfaces, stirring up troubled emotions in Grace. Through all the stresses with which Grace is faced, Troy willingly stands by her side, but when he accompanies her on a trip to San Francisco to visit her mom, he's faced with the reality of just how wealthy Grace actually is. Losing sight of the simple girl he's fallen in love with, he begins to feel inadequate to provide anything for her that she doesn't already have or can easily buy. Can he come to terms with his doubts about their suitability for one another before it's too late?
One Wish wasn't a absolutely perfect read for me, but IMHO, it was better than all three of the Thunder Point books that were released last year. A large part of my enjoyment of this story had to do with me actually feeling the connection between Troy and Grace more palpably than any of last year's couples. Even though their relationship begins as a friends with benefits arrangement, it was easy to sense that their feelings ran much deeper, even if they hadn't acknowledged them yet. I could simply tell that they were good for one another and they were both down-to-earth people who took pleasure in each other's company. For this reason, I have to give Robyn Carr a few extra points, because oftentimes, I don't care much for romances that begin as sex only agreements. I also related to the hero and heroine better than the previous three couples, which only added to my satisfaction with the story. With that being the case, One Wish became the only book of the series since the first two that has earned keeper status from me.
Grace is a former champion figure skater, who won every major competition, including the Olympics, but then she walked away from it all at the height of her career. As a huge fan of figure skating, I loved this aspect of her character, but at the same time, I could totally understand her giving up the intensive training and constant competing in favor of living a more normal life. She's built a totally new life for herself in Thunder Point as the little town's only florist, but she's earned a reputation that brings in business from neighboring towns too. She loves her boutique and the little apartment above it, and she isn't afraid of hard work, even though she grew up in almost incomprehensible wealth. Grace's mother was the typical stage parent, who was trying to live out her dream through Grace. Grace certainly had the natural talent of her own to make it as far as she did, but her mother pushed her very hard, leading to a lot of friction between the two. Her father, who was also her first coach, died when she was only a teenager, and she's basically been estranged from her mother ever since she announced her retirement from figure skating. I really liked and related to Grace on a number of different levels, not just her former occupation. I felt like I had a lot in common with her. We're both essentially only children, with our only half-siblings being much older. There was a considerable age difference between our parents. We were both loners growing up, who felt like no one really knew or appreciated us for who we were inside. We both had contentious relationships with our mothers, although for somewhat different reasons, and we both had to deal with those mothers experiencing major terminal illnesses. Oddly enough though, I think the commonality that struck me the most was our shared love of romance novels and our plethora of book boyfriends.;-) Grace even reads some of the exact same books I do, and I loved the author's shout-out to the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Grace is just a sweet, lovable, innocent young woman, who is still a virgin at twenty-eight. I absolutely adored everything about her, which is something I'm not often able to say about Robyn Carr's heroines, not because I don't like them on some level, but because I don't usually relate to them as well as I did to Grace.
Troy is a wonderful hero, who's pretty much Ms. Carr's go-to archetype for her male characters. Like so many of her heroes, he's a former Marine. I didn't realize until reading this book that he was first introduced in Bring Me Home for Christmas, one of her Virgin River novels. He was one of Denny's buddies who went to Virgin River to visit him over the holidays to do some hunting. With Troy and Becca both being teachers, he had a fairly extensive conversation with her in the truck while they were out duck-hunting, which make Denny rather jealous. He seemed like a pretty great guy then, and the fact that he had a little more prominent secondary role made me wonder if he might star in his own book someday... and he did. He just had to transplant to Thunder Point in order to get it.:-) We don't really see a whole lot of Troy in action as a teacher in this book, but with what little is there, along with his supporting role in the previous book, I can tell he's very good at his job and truly dedicated to it. The one thing about Troy that I didn't relate to very well was that he's essentially a dare-devil adrenaline junkie who loves extreme sports and taking risks. That being the case, there were times when he was a little too high energy for my taste, but he won me over with his sweetness and charm. I loved that he didn't push Grace to open up about her secretive past faster than she was willing. Even though his curiosity got the better of him and he went online to check her out, he didn't tell her that he'd done it until it was relevant to events that were taking place at the time. He just patiently waited for her to trust him enough to tell him. Troy was also a tender lover, taking his time with Grace in the bedroom and treating her like a precious jewel. I liked that he cared enough about Grace to try to smooth things over between her and her mom, when her mother suddenly reappeared in her life. He also stands by her side as she deals with her mother's manipulations and the revelation of her illness, and he treats her mom quite gently and chivalrously. The only thing that throws Troy for a loop is the realization of how extensive Grace's wealth actually is. He goes through some doubts about his ability to offer her anything special, when she already has so much, but I thought that was pretty understandable. Overall, Troy was perhaps a little too much like several of Robyn Carr's other heroes to truly stand out in my mind for the long haul, but he was a very sweet, lovable guy who I thought was perfect for Grace.
As has been the case with most of Ms. Carr's more recent books, there aren't as many side plots and POVs, but there are still a few. In this book, we get a pretty good dose of local real estate agent, Ray Anne, and get to see how her relationship with Al is going, as well as a quick update on his three foster sons. We also get to see her interacting a bit with her gal pals, Carrie, Lou, and Gina (The Newcomer). Mainly though, the reader is introduced to Ray Anne's niece, Ginger, who has always been like the daughter she never had. Ginger is deeply in mourning for a failed marriage and the loss of her baby to crib death, but Ray Anne is determined to do whatever it takes to bring her out of her grief and depression. With a little help from Grace and her best friend, Iris (The Homecoming), she's already making significant headway in this endeavor by the end of the story, which is a good thing, because Ginger becomes the heroine of the next book, A New Hope. We also get to see just a little of Iris with Seth, and another little bit of Scott and Peyton (The Promise) as they prepare for their huge traditional Basque nuptials, along with updates on these relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, One Wish wasn't a perfect read. As frequently seems to be the case in Robyn Carr's writing, the dialog can get a tad long-winded at times, and I really feel like she needs to intersperse a bit more narrative within her dialog, particularly that which shows what the characters are doing. A few more tender looks or touches in these moments definitely wouldn't have gone amiss. Also, as someone who has been watching figure skating since the 1980's, I couldn't help feeling that the figure skating terms the author uses are a little off. There were a number of them I'd never heard of and I even Googled some of them to be sure. Eg. I couldn't find a move called a leaning tower spiral. In fact, the top search results for that term were excerpts from this book. Also there's not really such a thing as a straddle split jump. It's known as a straddle jump in gymnastics, and merely a split jump in figure skating. Additionally, the author has Grace performing figure eights and axels as part of a warm-up routine. Figure eights are really more of a compulsory exercise, which was taken out of competition in 1990, and with axels being the most difficult jumps, a skater who hasn't been skating regularly for years, would probably be more likely to try something a little easier, like a toe loop, flip, or Salchow, before bringing out the big guns like axels. Overall though, these are relatively minor quibbles in an otherwise enjoyable story. I really liked the characters and the storylines, and best of all, I could actually feel the connection between Troy and Grace, which is an all-important must in any romance. Since I liked Ginger in this book, I'm now looking forward to reading A New Hope to see what's in store for her future. After the tragedies in her life, she really deserves an HEA.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.
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