Within hours of her arrival for a much-needed vacation, Leah Smith is stranded on St. Lucia with no way of getting home. Thanks to having all of her money, ID and passport in the purse her limo driver stole at gunpoint, she has no one she can call and no money to get a ride to an embassy. Though it goes against every rule Leah’s made for herself, she has little choice but to accept the help offered by the local hiker who interrupted her mugging and follow him to his bar.
American ex-pat Marshall Jackson isn’t in the rescue business. He moved to St. Lucia to escape the stress and responsibility of his former life as a defense attorney and he wants to keep the quiet, unencumbered life he’s made for himself. When he offers the stranded woman a job cleaning his bar and a room to stay in until she gets her paperwork straightened out, he does it despite himself. The sooner things go back to normal, the better.
My buddy Ros Clarke suggested this one to me on Monday and I bought it right there and then without even reading a sample. If you want me to buy a romance, put someone on a tropical island and leave them in dire straits. Trouble in paradise? Tell me more! This is basically the plot to every 80s romcom or buddy movie, and I’m all about it. It’s damsel-in-distress and close quarters and whirlwind romance all wrapped together with warm weather and a beach. What’s not to love?
When it came to my favorite tropes, Hot Knight in Paradise delivers the goods. The stolen purse lets Leah be both tough and vulnerable, while Marshall gets to be a problem-solver without being an overbearing control freak. The shared living and working space throws together two emotionally-scarred people and forces them to work their shit out by talking to one another. The whirlwind, week-long span condenses the romance and dials the tension and drama way up without dragging the reveals on their secrets past the point of credulity. It may not be from Harlequin, but this book is definitely cut from the category novel cloth. I didn’t want to put it down while I was reading it.
I really enjoyed the slow build of the romance. It takes place in just a little over a week, but they didn’t sprint to the bedroom on day two. They talked first. After Leah was sure he was a man she could trust, she kissed him. When he thought she needed some space, he pulled back. Every day they did a little more, adding intimacy bit by bit. It was a refreshing change of pace from what I’ve been reading. No two love scenes followed the same recipe.
That said, there was a distance in the writing that kept this from being a great book. There’s a lot of telling and internal monologue and it doesn’t always match up with the action on the page. While I was invested in the story, it didn’t engage my emotions as much as I would have liked. I watched Leah get mugged without feeling any second-hand fear and saw them hook up without getting any of the butterfly feeling of anticipation for them. Some scenes were more evocative than others, but on average the book was more of a see the action rather than feel it sort of production.
Additionally, there were some editing errors that threw me a bit. Spelling, grammar and punctuation were generally good, but there was this amusing snafu – “You look like the type to stare diversity in the face and give it the finger.” – as well as the following continuity error, where Marshall says this halfway into the book,
“Sent her and my dad to Paris after I received my first settlement check. It was the honeymoon they never had. More like she was pregnant before they’d married. They couldn’t go, and then that money went to raising me.”
then says this in the last chapter,
“My parents knew each other three weeks before they got hitched.”
None of these were particularly egregious, but fair warning and all.
Final Assessment: This was an enjoyable, category-style read with a tight plot and fun setting. The writing was flat and confusing at times, but not enough to diminish my enjoyment too much. B-