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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Once Upon A Groom by Karen Rose Smith

Once Upon A Groom by Karen Rose Smith
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (244 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

"Will you marry me?"

Those were the words Jenny Farber had always longed to hear Zack Decker say. But marrying him would have meant leaving the only home she'd ever really known. So instead of following her high school sweetheart to L.A., she stayed on at his family's ranch, training the horses she adored. Zack never knew about the secret she carried…or how much she still loved him. Until a near-tragedy brought him home again….

Fifteen years ago, Jenny broke Zack's heart. Seeing her again rekindles all the sweet passion they once shared. But Zack came home to Miners Bluff only to deal with a family crisis—then he's pulling up stakes again. So why is Jenny making him dream of settling down in the one place he'd vowed to leave forever?

Two kids from dysfunctional families grow up and discover that their families don’t define nor predict what they themselves will become. The road that leads them to that truth and the love they find along the way is what this story is all about.

Parents aren’t perfect and sometimes the choices they make concerning themselves have lasting impact on their children. Kids only see it from their limited perspective but the hurt is just as potent, damaging and long lasting when the influences are negative and/or bitter.

Jenny and Zack are the products of such situations. In Once Upon A Groom, Ms. Smith brings to life the tale of two young lovers who were hurt by their immaturity at dealing with an adult situation. The author makes a reader understand that the love between the two when they were young was real but what tore them a part was just as viable. Through heartfelt dialogue and a potentially tragic course of events, Jenny and Zack reconnect.

Zack’s character is more like the walking wounded. Sure, he’s successful with his chosen career. He worked hard at it and through sheer guts and grit, made it. Inside, the hero is like a puppy curled up, protecting its tender belly. His soft, sentimental and tender feelings he might have for home, the ranch and Jenny are all bundled and woven into a ball of denial so tight, it seemed they would never unravel. He’s a tortured hero, all right, and it’s his fear and anger that acts as his shield through most of the story.

Jenny has found a different way to cope and she’s the lucky one. Whereas Zack’s family life scarred him emotionally, those same people, his mom and dad, took in Jenny and gave her what was missing in her own life. Jenny is a quasi-orphan. Her mom died and her dad coped by running away repeatedly, leaving the heroine at the mercy of disinterested parties. Feelings of abandonment abound and yet Jenny showed a core of steel in refusing to bow under its weight and live her life in a state of self-pity. There’s a lot to admire about the heroine. She’s a survivor. However, the cost of that survival means she’s refused to face some hard truths of her own.

It all comes to a head when Jenny and Zack have to deal with each other for days on end. The revelations arrive in the story like layers on an onion. Every time the author peeled back another level of pain, it revealed a new truth and I got to see the ripple effect on the main characters. As something new gets learned, the author lets a reader deeper and deeper into the anguish that keeps the two lovers apart. The tale is told from both Jenny and Zack’s point of view. By doing that, Ms. Smith allows a reader to see how each step allows for the growth of a matured love, one based on understanding, truth and forgiveness. It’s the catharsis of letting go of old beliefs to face and embrace a true reality that finally breaks the dam that held both Jenny and Zack back.

Once Upon a Groom is a well told story inasmuch as it touches the heart as the two lovers stumble their way back to true love. I wasn’t too keen on the length of time Zack spent with the chip on his shoulder during the course of the book. I got the impression he was stubborn and after reading about his family life, I know where that came from. I just wished it didn’t come across like a broken record for me. As for Jenny’s dad, he’s an idiot. I don’t care how hurt he was when Jenny’s mother died. His neglect doesn’t deserve the level of tolerance and forgiveness that the heroine allowed him. Why didn’t she ever get angry? Why did she wait until the point in the book where she finally, sort of, expressed her feelings? As far as I’m concerned, the author didn’t have her character go far enough. Yes, I understand that the focus is on Jenny and Zack and an author doesn’t want to dilute the story or the romance, which I can appreciate. I’m just really huffy about how no one took that man to task for his inaction.

Once Upon a Groom is an engrossing romance filled with heart, meaty emotional drama and tender touches, sure to keep a reader entertained. It has a good build-up and delivery with effective dialogue between the main and secondary characters to create a sense of community. The author painstakingly created a tale that will touch the nurturer inside that craves to heal. The wonder of how it all will come about keeps the pages turning at a good clip. It’s time well spent and the happily ever after is satisfying.