Review: Cassidy McClare is a Texas girl through-and-through. And she is done with men. Fool her once, shame on you, fool her twice… well, she isn’t about to let that happen after her heart was stomped on by the charming Mark Chancellor. Now to heal her broken heart, she is leaving behind the home she holds dear to stay the summer with her aunt Cait and cousins, Blake, Ally, Meg and Maddie. Only trouble is, escaping her past may not be so easy when she comes face-to-face with Jamie McKenna. He may have a different face but he is exactly the same as Mark and Cassie refuses to be drawn into his charm – or his gorgeous eyes. What Cassie doesn’t know is Jamie is looking for a wealthy bride to win and what Jamie doesn’t know is that the spunky Texas heiress isn’t what she seems.
Coming back to a novel written by Julie Lessman feels somehow like a piece of wistful delight. After a six-book stretch involving the O’Conner’s of Boston in two separate but intricately connected series (“Daughters of Boston,” “Winds of Change”), likely any reader would be curious as to how a new set of characters would go over in their reading preferences – and if it were possible for her to win over our hearts with new faces. For me, I was barely into the book when already I was entertained by Julie’s new story and her fun characters. There is rarely a trace left over of her prior books, a missing component I found helpful, and a sign of a talented writer. Shifting the story from the East Coast to the West played a role as does a different time period. Similarities are present in her “unique” type of story-telling as well as the presence of a large family whose bonds go beyond that of a family prone to gather on holidays. Equally interesting is the setting which Julie weaves authentic details of the time and it occasionally even put me in mind of an old movie I once saw. Most of the book is kept “light-hearted” and happy, then there are portions that use its background to its advantage, compelling us to feel gratitude that we haven’t known some of the sorrows that the McClare’s wish to change.
Then there are the characters, and oh, what fun they are! Heroine, Cassidy McClare is as loveable and charming as any of Julie’s prior heroines. She is spunky and full of gumption despite her distrust of men. And I adored her as well as her interaction with her sweet cousins, whom if I had to hazard a guess will feature prominently in their own story at some point. Ally in particular was a doll and put me in mind of my own relationship with cousins. Cassie is one of the best heroine’s I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in 2013’s fiction line-up. She is sassy if not easily swayed and I loved her fragile nature. Then there is Jamie. A rogue with a quick-wit and twinkle in his eye, I liked meeting this young man very much; his devotion and love for his sister was precious. I only wish I could say the same for his actions around Cassie…
Although I have loved each of Julie’s leading men, I think too much of their personas are written far too “physical” where time should be spent growing them into stronger men of God who aren’t swayed – constantly, by a pretty face. I grew weary of each of the men (even the most devout, Bram) being flirts at the least, womanizers at their worst and all prone to having a drink now and again at a bar. Jamie is far too “forward” and loose with Cassie than he should be. He should have been a man we could applaud (this is not possible, especially considering there is an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and too much sensual chemistry bubbling) and not be berating for the way he steals kisses from Cassie – and by “steal,” I don’t mean “sweet” pecks. And this is where the problem is.
There is a fine line between flirtations with a “twinkle” and flirtations that almost endanger one’s morality. Stealing a kiss is one thing, and can be quite “cute” if written properly, it’s the way the scene is written that makes it more “awkward” and questionable than what a first kiss should be – sweeping and sweet. Here instead, what we get is one that feels “forced” and that is a big no-no. Never should a reader even pick up on a hint of that. Especially in a genre that is meant to look at love and life much differently than secular fiction – it should challenge what we accept in our everyday life and make us think that perhaps there is something different than what society says.
Under Julie’s skillful, careful pen, we are always assured a delightful, charismatic story and this, the start of a brand-new series is no different. Just when we think everything is about to be tied up in one of Cassie’s ropes by way of a grand gesture that is not unlike how many stories close, there is a “twist” that changes the dynamics, making for a page-turning last few pages. Between the characters (rich with familial ties) and a new setting rip with historical aplomb, Love at Any Cost is a must-read for any of Julie’s fans!
Coming Next: Synopsis N/A, book titled Dare to Love
Synopsis: Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him. Hoping a summer visit with her wealthy cousins in San Francisco will help her forget her heartache, Cassidy travels west. But no sooner is she settled in beautiful California than Jamie McKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well, captures her heart. When Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than he is, Cassidy finds herself bucked by love a second time. Will Jamie discover that money can’t buy love after all? And can Cassidy ever learn to fully trust her heart to a man?
With thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes
Available April 15, 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.