Mike Dalton's schizophrenic ex-wife killed his mother and took their young daughter, Heather, hostage, nearly murdering her as well. Mike barely arrived in time to save Heather, but now he's dealing with the fall-out from that traumatic event. Heather claims that she can see and communicate with both animals and people who've passed on, including the mysterious nurse who Mike discovers is the dead mother of one of his friends. Although all of his friends seem to believe in Nurse K, Mike thinks they're all a little loony. For this seasoned veteran of both the military and the FBI, ghosts just simply don't exist. But when he moves to Colorado to be nearer his friends, his skepticism is put to the test, especially when he is reunited with the one-night stand that got away.
Karin Cross Jacobs has been searching all her life for the family she lost. She was adopted by her parents as a baby, but a part of her has always wondered about the sister she believes is out there but whom she was never able to find until a serendipitous meeting in Las Vegas leads her to the exact person she's been looking for all these years. She and her sister, Molly, bond almost immediately, so when Karin and her boyfriend break up, leaving her with no place to go, Molly invites Karin to move in with her and her husband. The only problem is that Mike lives with them, too. Karin and Mike shared an incredible one-night stand in Vegas that neither has forgotten, but living in such close proximity, they soon find out that they mix about as well as oil and water. Still, their chemistry is off the charts and the matchmaking Nurse K seems to be on their side, even though Karin isn't sure she's a believer in the ghost either. Can these two find enough common ground and build enough trust in one another to finally create a happy ending?
K Is for Karin is the final book in my author friend, Jossilynn's Book Convention Romance series. It was a satisfying denouement in that it wrapped up all the loose ends from the previous books, but I felt that the romance itself in this one simply wasn't as strong as the other couples' stories were. Not to mention, I had very mixed feelings about the epilogue. In the time that I've been friends with Jossilynn and have read this series, I've discovered that she doesn't really tell her stories in a traditional romance format. Past series' characters get their own POV scenes, while she also occasionally does things that most romance authors wouldn't dare to do. Depending on your perspective, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I like to give authors credit sometimes for creativity and writing outside the box, but at the same time, these things might not resonate with many seasoned romance readers like myself in the same way that more traditionally written romances do. Such was the case with this particular book. So while I enjoyed visiting with these characters who've become a close-knit family of friends, I found myself wishing that the romanticism of this book had been stronger to really make this series go out with a bang instead of what IMHO was more of a whimper.
The other thing I've discovered through my friendship with Jossilynn is that she and I have very different tastes in men. Despite that being the case, I've still liked all the heroes of the series and had no major issues with any of them - until now. Mine and the author's disparate opinions on the opposite gender came to light when she read one of my books and my hero completely rubbed her the wrong way. Well, now I can say the same of one of her heroes, so we're even. LOL!;-)
To call Mike the hero of this story would be overly generous, I think. He's, without a doubt, one of the biggest jerk heroes I've ever read in a romance novel. He's a total man whore, which under other circumstances I might have been able to live with, except that, when it comes to sex, he acts more like a college freshman than a mature thirty-something father who's been married before and is dealing with the aftermath of his crazy ex-wife murdering his mother and trying to kill their daughter, too. Far from seeming to be grieving, the guy has a different woman in his bed every week, and even the heroine of the story doesn't seem to be able to entirely tame him. I was having a very hard time believing that he was even capable of having a monogamous relationship, especially since the sex with his wife was apparently terrible the entire time they were married. This also called into question his ability to be with one woman (the heroine) at all in the future, even if their sex was off the charts. I also might not have been bothered by his behavior if he was only acting this way before Karin came along, but one thing I can't abide in a romance is the hero sleeping with someone else after meeting - or at the very least after becoming more seriously involved with - the heroine. Right at the point where Mike appears to be ready to make some kind of commitment to Karin, he suddenly gets upset about her saying she doesn't want kids, but instead of communicating and clarifying what she meant like a mature adult, he simply broke it off instantaneously. However, the real last straw for me with Mike is when he almost immediately brings a new woman home, sleeps with her in the next room (he and Karin live in the same house), and then without Karin knowing he'd done that, he tries to have sex with her without protection, mere minutes later. I'm like "Eww, please tell me he did not just do that!" I wasn't convinced by his later explanation for why he did this, either. Not to mention, the "other woman" is someone that all of his friends can't stand because she's proven herself in the past to be a lying skank. This made me very dubious of Mike's judgment, as well as his maturity level.
I thought that Mike's one saving grace was him being a devoted father, and admittedly for the most part he was, but when he brought the "other woman" into the house around his daughter and seriously upset Heather by trying to force her to let the "other woman" take her to school when Karin was already scheduled to do it, I was just done with him. In the end, after a traumatic event, Mike finally realizes he's been a jerk, but it was too little, too late for me. Regardless of whether Mike and Karin were supposedly soul mates brought together by the ghostly matchmaking Nurse K or not, Mike would have had to do a whole lot more groveling than what he did to get back in my good graces if he ever could've after being such an ass.
Although my personality is very different from Karin's, making it a little difficult to relate to some of her choices, I did mostly like her. She's the long-lost sister of Molly (K Is for Kismet). The two women are reunited in this book and fall into a sisters relationship fairly easily. After losing her adopted mom and later finding out her boyfriend was gay, Karin has been feeling pretty alone and like she doesn't fit in well anywhere. So finally finding Molly after so many years of unsuccessfully searching is like a dream come true. Molly, her husband, Kade, and their large group of close-knit friends give Karin the place to belong that she's always wanted. When she discovers that Mike, a guy she had a one-night stand with in Vegas, is a part of this group of friends, it's a little awkward at first. The sex had been off-the-charts hot that night and she soon finds out it still is, but she barely even likes the guy and with good reason if you ask me.:-) (Having crazy hot sex with someone you don't even like has always been pretty antithetical to me, but that's just my opinion.) The one person Karin does like, once she gets to know her, is Mike's daughter, Heather. Karin is somewhat uncomfortable being alone with Heather, because a child she was babysitting as a teenager drowned in the family pool on her watch. It was nothing more than a tragic accident that no one ever blamed her for, but Karin can't stop blaming herself. However, that doesn't stop her from treating Heather kindly, which is why I never understood Mike getting all bent out of shape and jumping to false conclusions over Karin's comment about not wanting to have kids.
The romantic relationship (if you can even call it that, since there are no real romantic interludes) between Mike and Karin didn't really do much for me. They start off with what was supposed to be nothing but a one-night stand, but Mike enjoyed it enough to leave Karin a note asking her to meet him again the next day. He got called home on the emergency involving his crazy ex, so Karin thought he'd stood her up, and that was that. Even after they find out that they have friends and relatives in common and they start things up again, it's still just sex with no emotional connection and no commitment at all. In this instance, it's not just me saying this subjectively, because the characters themselves admit as much. They argue all the time. Some of their banter could be mildly amusing, but even that wore thin after a while. They refuse to even say they like, much less love, one another, and it's months before Mike kind of makes his quickly rescinded offer of a deeper commitment. During that time, they engaged in unprotected sex at least once or twice, which made me very uncomfortable, especially considering what a womanizer Mike is. He could have been carrying all kinds of diseases but miraculously isn't, not to mention the pregnancy risk since Karin isn't on the pill. Eventually, after STD tests and her getting birth control, they agree to a monogamous sexual relationship, only because Mike still wants to do it unprotected and she rightly won't allow it otherwise. But then he has his lame-brained moment. The sex wasn't even all that sexy to me this time, either. Sure they shared some fun, kinky times, and if that's what floats your boat, then you'll probably enjoy these scenes more than I did, but there's little to no foreplay or post-coital bliss involved. They pretty much always just get down to business (even anal without lube - ouch!), and then when it's over, that's it, aside from sleeping next to one another. They don't even kiss until about 2/3 of the way into the story, and even then I think I could count on one hand the number of times they kissed total. Normally having a paranormal element like the whole Nurse K/soul mates thing would have helped my disbelief a lot, but this time, even that couldn't overcome the lack of romance and a strong emotional connection for me.
What I did like about the story and why I was able to give it three stars is the secondary characters. As has been the case with all the previous books, we get to revisit the hero and heroine of the last book. In this case, it was Molly and Kade getting several of their own POV scenes. They're moving into a new house and awaiting the birth of their first child. They helped bring a little bit of romance into the story, because they exhibit the love connection that the main hero/heroine pairing lacked. We also get treated to Randy and Oscar's wedding, which was nice, too. In fact, all the past heroes and heroines were present, supporting one another through the difficulties that life has handed them. Heather was a breath of fresh air as well. She breathes life into every scene she's in, and I love that she acts like a pretty normal five-year-old, except for the fact that she can see dead people and animals. I was a little surprised, though, that she made it through the death of her mother and grandmother, as well as nearly being killed herself, relatively unscathed from an emotional standpoint. There is also one other supporting character who's been there throughout the series and who was involved in that epilogue I mentioned that left me with mixed feelings. What Jossilynn did with him was kind of romantic in a way, but if she was going to write it that way, I wish she hadn't previously paired him romantically with another secondary character. If not for that, I probably would have been OK with it, but because of that, the ending was very bittersweet for me.
I've liked all of the characters in this series, with the exception of Mike, so the opportunity to visit with them more in K Is for Karin definitely made it worth the read. The author tied up all the lose ends involving the past characters, so that I could easily see the whole group living their HEAs together. In the past books, Nurse K was a minor enough part of the story that I was still comfortable classifying them all as contemporary, but I felt the paranormal element in this one was much more prevalent. As I mentioned, Heather sees dead people and animals all the time and can communicate with them. Not to mention, we've now had several characters, both human and animal, who've been reincarnated, so I feel like I need to categorize this one as paranormal as well. Aside from some repetition (the characters do way too much smirking, shrugging, and eye rolling:-)), the writing itself is solid, so it was an easy read. If only Mike had been a more likable person and his relationship with Karin had been an actual romance instead of just sex, I know I would have liked this one just as much as the others in the series. As is, it's still a decent wrap-up, just not one that I would likely revisit again.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including anal sex, light bondage, use of sex toys, and public sex acts, which some readers may find offensive.
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