Source: we received an e-ARC of the book through NetGalley for review purposes.
This book really appealed to me. It looked like a sweet, interesting contemporary romance, set in a small town, with a hot hero and a secondary storyline that was even more enticing than the main one. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver as promised and I was left wondering how a story with so much potential ended up being such a disappointment.
Deborah Kemerton’s birthday is going from bad to worse. The spa appointment she had got cancelled and when she goes back home she finds her boyfriend naked with someone else. When she confronts him, he tells her that he had an itch to scratch and that she shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. Heartbroken and unemployed (the boyfriend was her boss) she goes back to her hometown to put her life back together.
It so happens that her town is celebrating the 700th anniversary of the village church, a place that, according to the legend, is the burial site of a Templar Knight. Part of the celebration includes a reenactment of Samson’s story and Deborah is in charge of casting the main lead. That’s how she meets Josh Lancaster, he’s in town to help some friends with their show and in the process he ends up being cast as Samson and falling for Deborah.
While the town prepares the celebrations, Anne Lindsay gets an email from a history professor telling her that there’s no way a Templar Knight is buried in that church. So of course Anne is determined to prove him wrong but that also means that they must spend time together and so you probably can imagine what happens next.
This is your typical small town story full of endearing and meddler characters. The setting is beautiful and the author does a good job at making you feel like you’re right there with them. I always enjoy novels like this one because of that homey sense. My problem wasn’t the setting or the plot, I actually found amusing how the town was so excited about the celebration and how much work they put into it and I think that if I ever visit a small town in England, this is how it might be. The problem were the characters, the only one I liked was the hero, the rest of them I didn’t like, at all.
The heroine starts fine, she goes through this terrible situation with the guy she loves and she comes home to heal and to find a way to restart her life. She was in her early twenties, was immature and inexperienced -which explains why she fell for that guy in the first place-.
Now, to really understand my issues with her, you need to know that her ex was a jerk. He basically used her as his maid, she cooked for him and cleaned the house, and she did everything he wanted. He was a pretentious bastard. At one point she explains that he made her feel like she was bad in bed and undeserving of his love. And part of the book is supposed to show us how she comes to her senses and realizes that she deserves way better, but we never see it. The worst part is that when the big misunderstanding happens, and she thinks that the hero is leaving, she feels like there’s nothing left for her there (even though earlier in the book she talks about how she feels safe and at home there, unlike in London where she didn’t even have friends) and she actually considers getting back with her ex:
This is Bernard (the cheating ex) talking to Deborah:
“Well, what do you say, Deborah? We could drive back tomorrow, make a fresh start.
A small voice inside her urged her to say yes, to give it another go. After all, what was there here for her?”
The love story wasn’t satisfying either, the hero was such a great guy but I never understood what he saw in her to make him love her. Although to be fair, neither one of them actually thinks or says I love you. And Deborah is confused the entire book, she keeps thinking about Bernard and so I never felt like she loved Josh. I can’t believe in their happily ever after because I’m not sure their relationship will last.
The secondary story was slightly better. Anne and the history professor were interesting and likeable, but they also had a crazy misunderstanding by the end of the book and he basically calls her a whore, but instead of feeling hurt and angry, she kind of agrees with him and feels guilty. I never did get why they were fighting, but the resolution was terrible.
There’s a third storyline, and this one was sad. We get flashbacks to see what really happened with the Templar Knight who might be buried in the church, and his is a depressing love story because he was in love with his sister in law (she loved him back) and he joins the Templars so he won’t betray his brother. This part is a spoiler so skip it if you don’t want to know. She misses him for thirty years and dies waiting for him (even though her husband was loving and caring) and he misses her for longer than that, makes a chastity vow and never gets laid again. Under different circumstances this might have been a bittersweet love story, and a good one at that, but since it came with the other two I just found it pathetic.
I know I’m making it sound really bad, but the book wasn’t a train wreck. It had some redeeming parts, particularly the beginning, the hero and the setting, but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t engaging and I couldn’t see past the unappealing heroine and the lacking love story.
Review by Brie
Finding your boyfriend in the shower with another woman isn't high on Deborah Kemerton's "best birthday presents ever" list. Her life in London shattered, she retreats to her sleepy hometown to heal her broken heart. There, she's quickly swept up in planning a pageant to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the village church. Tasked with casting the perfect Samson, Deborah may have found her man in Josh Lancaster—onstage and off…
Fellow committee member Anne Lindsay is convinced a 12th-century crusader is buried under St. John's. As the story goes, Hugo left for the Holy Land after his true love Maude was given in marriage to his brother. Professor Toby Duggan is equally convinced Anne is wrong, and is determined to prove it. Neither of them counts on their mutual passion for history turning into a passion for each other…
When romantic entanglements and small-town dramatics come to a head, local legend proves to be more than just a story…
Carina Press. October 17, 2011