Lin Su Simmons has had a rough life. Adopted by a wealthy family when she was just a tiny girl, she lived a life of privilege when it came to material things, but always felt like an outsider in their world. After getting pregnant as a teenager, they all but disowned her, leaving her to fend for herself and raise her baby. She pulled herself up by her bootstraps and got an education, while struggling to pay the rent and care for her son, Charlie, who was a sickly child. They still live in a dumpy trailer park, but at least, Lin Su has a good job working as Winnie Banks's private nurse. She thinks that perhaps in time, she'll be able to afford something better, but before that day comes, Charlie is chased by neighborhood hoodlums looking for drug money, sending him to the ER with a severe asthma attack, and the next day, the same thieves break into her home, stealing her few treasures.
World-class triathlete, Blake Smiley, knows he won't be racing forever, so he's been looking for a place to put down some roots. Thunder Point draws him more than any other place he's been, so he buys the house next-door to Winnie. Soon, he befriends young Charlie, who is eager for a little independence from his mother's overprotectiveness. When Blake tries to help Charlie become more active, Lin Su resents his interference, but when he comes to their rescue after the break-in, she starts to see him in a new light. When the town doctor prescribes exercise for Charlie, Lin Su asks Blake for help. As he works with her son, Blake develops an attraction to Lin Su, but she's a very private person who doesn't seem to want to let him in even though they share some commonalities in their backgrounds. Eventually, she gives in to Blake's charm, but when she discovers that he knows about and approves of Charlie's search for their family, something she's forbidden him to do, she may not be able to forgive Blake for not telling her about it.
Wildest Dreams is the ninth and latest installment in Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series. As with the previous book of the series, I thought it had some weaknesses, so I didn't find it to be one of Ms. Carr's best. The heroine irritated me at times and the romance, IMHO, was somewhat weak, but as I said in my last review, the strength of these books lie in their atmosphere and sense of place. I've become rather enamored of this little beach-front community, and I've been caught up in the lives of the residents of the town in much the same way I would a favorite soap opera. It's always nice to visit and catch up on all the gossip, so to speak. I enjoyed finding out what was going on around town and in many of the other characters' lives. I also liked the sense of family, even when some of the family members aren't related by blood, so in the end, I couldn't mark it down more than one star despite my misgivings about certain parts of the story.
Blake is a champion triathlete, who competes for the Iron Man title during the course of the story. I've never been a huge fan of sports romance, but anyone who is, is certain to be a fan of Blake if only for his rippling muscles and trim gorgeous physique.:-) Even though the Iron Man competition is pretty crazy, I have a certain degree of respect for anyone who is disciplined enough to be a serious triathlete. I admired Blake for that reason alone, but even more so because he pulled himself up out of an impoverished childhood to become what he is today. He couldn't have done it without the help of coaches and mentors along the way, something that he fully acknowledges, so now he's using his celebrity to give back to the community, starting programs to help other kids like himself. He offers his knowledge and expertise, free of charge, to help Charlie build up his body and overcome his asthma and health problems. He also becomes a great friend to his new neighbors in Thunder Point, quickly earning their trust and admiration. I liked how Blake went after the thugs to get back Lin Su's box of treasures, even though to anyone but her it would seem like a bunch of junk. It proved him to be a gallant protector, who cared about her feelings. I also liked that Blake was more of a relationship kind of guy and that when he was with his trainer, Gretchen, he wasn't playing it fast and loose like she was. He actually wanted them to be something more than casual friends with benefits, but she didn't until now. It was great that he immediately put her in her place when she said she was ready to be exclusive and let her know in no uncertain terms that she'd missed that boat, because he was now interested in Lin Su. Blake had a lot of patience in dealing with Lin Su. He not only waited a long time for her to warm up to the idea a romantic relationship with him, but he also showed a lot of tolerance for her difficult, stubborn personality.
Because of her being so difficult and stubborn, I had a hard time warming up to Lin Su. I fully understood how hard her life had been as a single mother. After being adopted as a toddler, she had a pretty privileged upbringing with a well-to-do family, who then turned their backs on her when she got pregnant out of wedlock and the father deserted her. For a long time, she lived hand to mouth just trying to make enough money to feed Charlie and keep a roof over their heads, however meager that roof might have been. When the story opens, they're still living in a dumpy trailer park in a dangerous area of town. Despite my sympathy for Lin Su's situation and understanding that it's not easy to accept handouts, there are times when I felt like she was proud almost to the point of being foolhardy. Even though Blake was offering her a safe place to stay, she initially refuses to leave their trailer even after it was broken into and Charlie was chased through the neighborhood by thugs trying to rob him, which led to an overnight stay in the hospital for a severe asthma attack. If the same thing had happened to me, I think I'd have graciously accepted Blake's offer. I also understood how worried she was about Charlie's medical problems, but she's controlling to the point of almost smothering the poor kid. She eventually lets go enough to allow him to work out under Blake's careful monitoring, but then we see her telling her son lies about his background, which I didn't fully understand. Lin Su was such a closed-off character, it was difficult for me to get where she was coming from. I understood that she was deeply hurt by Charlie's father, but he was just a kid at the time too and that was fourteen years ago. It seemed like it was way past time for her to let go of the past and move on. I also understood that she'd been focused on taking care of her ailing son and providing for him, but Blake was right there, available and extremely interested, yet she wouldn't even entertain the idea of dating him for a very long time. Then she goes and breaks up with him just because he didn't tell her that Charlie was secretly searching for their family, which seemed like a complete overreaction. Overall, Lin Su was an admirable mother for providing for Charlie like she has and she's a great nurse to Winnie, but she has major issues with control and keeps herself at arms length from nearly everyone in the story, including Blake.
I really felt like the romance between Blake and Lin Su was pretty weak. Other than them sharing a mutual physical attraction, which isn't even that strong, and Blake coming to Lin Su's rescue following the break-in, not much of a romantic nature occurs for a very long time. They feel more like just friends and not necessarily close friends either. Therefore, his brotherly kiss on the forehead and gentle touch of her arm, which is the only physical contact they share until 2/3 of the way into the book, kind of felt like it came from out of nowhere. They don't kiss or hug or even share much anything of a personal nature about themselves with one another, which would have made me believe in their budding romance, until over 240 pages into the book. Part of the problem for me is that despite being told that they're attracted to one another, there's precious little description of the other's attributes that they find attractive. Lin Su considers Blake's sexy physique once or twice, but I don't recall him thinking much of anything about her except that she kind of irritated him a little and that she was overprotective of Charlie. By contrast, when his trainer, Gretchen, comes to town, he immediately describes her sexy body in his introspections, even though it later becomes clear that he's no longer interested in her as a lover anymore. This really bothered me, because up to that point I don't recall him ever thinking about Lin Su in that way, so at least for a brief time, it felt like he was more attracted to Gretchen than Lin Su. Another part of the problem was that on the rare occasions Blake and Lin Su actually do think about each other, it's only when the other one isn't around rather than in the moment, when it would've had greater impact on building the romantic connection. They don't really long for each other much when the other one isn't around either. I really hate to say it about a seasoned author like Robyn Carr, but Blake and Lin Su's attraction was definitely a case of telling not showing. For most of the story, they simply felt like friends who kind of liked each other. When they started getting a little closer, it was better, but when Lin Su broke up with Blake over something that was such an overreaction, I couldn't help feeling like they didn't have much to start with. Then she does a one-eighty a few days later. All of this took place in the last few pages of the book and none of it contained the depth of insight needed for me to understand it. So ultimately, I'm glad Blake and Lin Su got their happy ending, but I just wasn't really feeling the connection between them for most of the story.
Where I felt Wildest Dreams excelled was in it's secondary character relationships. I loved Charlie. He's very smart and mature for his age, and I think he handled his mom's freak-outs quite well. He's obviously the type of kid for whom a little encouragement goes a long way. He just needed a little more freedom to explore his own interests and the things that were meaningful to him outside of his mom's influence. We get some more of Winnie and her family. She's a character who has slowly grown on me. In this book, her disease progresses a little more and she has to come to terms with additional limitations, but not before she insists on making a trip to Hawaii with Mikhail, Lin Su, and Charlie to see first-hand Blake's performance in the Iron Man triathlon. The three pregnant friends, Grace, Iris, and Payton, all give birth. Seth's parents, Norm and Gwen, finally reach a breaking point in their forty+ year marriage that stirs up a bit of trouble for Iris and Seth. Troy is there in the background, looking out for Grace and Winnie and helping with Charlie's training. And Grace hires a new assistant for her flower shop. As is typical for Robyn Carr's books, there's a lot going on in between the main couple's scenes that helps to build the town as a whole.
Even though Wildest Dreams didn't make it to my Robyn Carr favorites list, it was a generally enjoyable comfort read. I don't know if this is it for Thunder Point or not. In some ways, it felt like this was a wrap-up book. The author tied up a lot of loose ends and didn't really leave anything this time that made me think, Oh, I can't wait to find out more of what happens with this character or situation. In fact, there were no new characters introduced who seemed to be viable candidates for hero or heroine in future books of the series, so I'm not sure where things will go from here. I also saw in Ms. Carr's last email letter that she has an upcoming new series. If this is the end of Thunder Point, then I suppose I can live with that. The way things wrapped up, I can see the residents of this little beach-side town continuing on with their lives there indefinitely, and like I said before, there wasn't really anything left hanging. However, if Ms. Carr chooses to write more, I'll certainly be there to read them.
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.
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