EVERYONE LOVES JACK HOLLAND, BUT EMMALINE NEAL NEEDS HIM.
Her ex-fiancé is getting married in Malibu and, obviously, she can't go to the wedding alone. In Manningsport, New York, tall, blond and gorgeous Jack Holland is practically a cottage industry when it comes to rescuing desperate women. He knows the drill, Em figures, so he won't get the wrong idea.
What Jack needs is an excuse to leave town. Ever since rescuing four teenagers from a car wreck, he's been hailed as a hero and the attention is making him itchy, especially since his too-pretty ex-wife is back, angling for a reunion. He's always liked Emmaline. She needs a weekend date? No problem.
So when they wind up in bed together, Em chalks it up to red wine and chocolate cake, just one impulsive night not to be repeated. But Jack's pushing for more, and if she lets down her guard, either she'll get her heart crushed again, or discover that Jack's worth more than just dreaming about.
Fantastic book, emotional and fun. Emmaline is a deputy in the Manningsport police department, where she moved after being dumped by her fiancé. Now that fiancé is getting married and Em has been invited. Going alone is definitely not an option, so she asks Jack to be her "plus one". Jack is a nice guy who loves women and helping them out, so he's happy to assist. It will also give him the chance to get away for awhile.
Jack is fantastic, but he's got some things going on in his life that are wearing him down. A long time ago his mother died in a car crash and Jack has always felt bad that he wasn't there to help his sister who had been trapped in the car. So he has prided himself on being prepared for any emergency. A couple months earlier he witnessed a carload of teenagers drive off the road into the lake. He pulled all four out, but the fourth one is in a coma and Jack feels guilty for not being fast enough to save him too. The rest of the town is treating him as a hero and he hates it. Added to that, his beautiful but cheating ex-wife is back in town and it's obvious she wants him back. Em gives him the perfect excuse to get away.
I loved Em. She's overcome a lot to get where she is. She had a terrible stutter when she was younger, making her a target for bullies. Both her parents are psychologists who talk a great game, but were never really there for her. The only friend she had in school was an overweight boy who was bullied also. When he was sent away to a boarding school, she talked her parents into letting her go live with her grandmother in New York. While she was there, her parents adopted another child, one who seemed perfect in every way. After school was done, Em moved back to California where she reconnected with her friend and they fell in love. Only, not long after they got engaged, he got on a fitness kick with a rabid trainer and suddenly Em was no longer what he wanted. Now she's back in New York and happy with her career and the friends she's made. Yes, she'd like to find that special someone, but she's going to be more careful this time. She certainly doesn't expect anything from gorgeous Jack except for a fun time at the wedding.
I loved the romance between them. It started out as friendship, as is common in a small town like Manningsport. Jack likes Em a lot. They play on local sports teams together, she's got a sense of humor that he likes, and she hasn't been treating him weird like others have been. Em's had a bit of a crush on Jack, but just about every woman in town does. But she knows that she's nothing like the type of woman he should have (just look at his ex) so she has to be careful not to let herself get caught up in a fantasy. I loved seeing them at the wedding together. Jack is determined to make things easier on Em, especially after he sees the way she's treated by Kevin and his fiancée. The pool scene was terrific. He finds her really easy to be with. Em has really appreciated Jack's support throughout the wedding weekend. It just adds to the attraction she feels for him and is trying to fight. She also sees that the rescue of those boys is still haunting him, and is supportive without being weird about it. When a late encounter pushes them into bed together, Em figures it's a one time thing and tries to brush it off, but Jack wants more.
Once they get back home, Jack keeps pursuing Em, but she's not making it easy on him. She's afraid to risk her heart again, feeling that losing Jack would crush her even more than her previous heartbreak. She also has the problem that every time they attempt to spend time together, something interferes, most often it's his ex-wife. There's a great scene that really shows the difficulties. He's finally talked her into going out, and her friends help her get ready. Em is a pretty down to earth type of gal, and they've talked her into fancy underwear. Her mental conversation with herself about that thong and what it's doing to her is hilarious. Then the ex shows up at the restaurant and is suddenly in hysterics over her cat, throwing herself at Jack and generally making a scene. And Jack is too nice a guy to tell her to leave him alone. He knows he's being manipulated, but he caves anyway. Em, of course, sees what's going on but isn't going to create a fuss, so she just walks away.
There were so many times I wanted to shake Jack and tell him that he has to stand up to Hadley if he hopes to have anything with Em, but he has to see it himself. Em needed a bit of a kick herself, as she just can't seem to see what a terrific person she is. Jack tries to show her, but her insecurities run pretty deep. Things come to a head when Jack blames Em for something that wouldn't have been a big deal any other time. He says some things he shouldn't and has to deal with the fallout. Especially when Em lays some truth in front of him, including her feelings and why she feels they would never work. I wanted stand up and cheer for her. I loved the ending and seeing how everything finally came together for them.
The secondary characters were fantastic. Of course, I loved seeing the couples from the previous books and how they're doing. It was fun to see the sisters and their relationships with Jack. I liked how he gave credit to them for how well he gets along with women. Em's ex-fiancé Kevin was a real trip. He started out nice, but once he met Naomi he turned into a total ass, and Naomi was worse. I felt like he redeemed himself a little bit at the end, but I'm pretty sure he can still be obnoxious. I loved Em's sister Angela. In spite of their beginning, they have a really good relationship. There was a really neat twist involving Angela that I thought was pretty funny considering what their parents thought about Em. Em's parents really bugged me with their psycho-babble but complete inability or unwillingness to act like parents. There's a little insight into her mother at the end that is actually pretty sweet, and funny too.
The storyline with the fourth boy from the car was heartbreaking. It also showed that the boy wasn't the only victim of the crash. I felt so bad for Jack because of what he was going through. I liked seeing how it was shown that it isn't just military who can suffer from PTSD, and how hard it was as he tried to deal with it on his own. There was also a bit with the boy's girlfriend that also involved Em and her sensitivity to other people's feelings.