Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Melting into You" by Tracey Alvarez

Love small-town romance with an unforgettable cast of characters? The Due South series will transport you to an unspoilt, wild island off the coast of New Zealand. Meet Kezia and Ben...

Big, sexy men who don’t relate well to kids need not apply…

Kezia Murphy plays her widow card well. When you don’t trust people not to let you down, it’s easier to not get involved—and getting involved with a man who makes her skin sizzle just by looking at him would be una pazzia—crazy! Four years ago while Kezia’s daughter, Zoe, battled leukemia, a tragic accident stole her husband’s life. Starting over in the little town of Oban where she’s adopted into the close knit community on Stewart Island, Kezia and her daughter are all the family the other needs. Except Zoe yearns for more.

New Zealand’s worst candidate for instant fatherhood…

Ben doesn't do gooey emotional stuff. He doesn't do cozy home and family. And he sure isn't the big teddy-bear Kezia Murphy, the woman he secretly fantasies about, thinks he is. So when Jade, his surprise eight-year-old daughter arrives on his doorstep, he’s a D-minus student struggling to pass a crash-course in parenting.

They’ll either melt or raze their lives to the ground…

When the sparks of attraction between Kezia and Ben fan into an inferno, Ben doesn't know how much longer the layers of resistance around his heart can resist melting into the gooey mess he fears. The more he fights it the harder it is to make the choice that will destroy the family he now longs to claim.

My review:
After meeting Ben in the first book in the Due South series, In Too Deep, and seeing how the book teased a relationship between Ben and Kezia, I was looking forward to reading Melting Into You.  The book didn't quite start as I expected.  Ben was gruff and onery in Due South, but I really didn't like him at the beginning of Melting Into You.  I've read many stories of instant fatherhood and I was really hating Ben as he was first introduced to Jade.  I felt like he was trying to prove everyone's opinion that he was a bastard with women and no business being with children.  Perhaps that was the author's intention and if so, she nailed it because I REALLY didn't like him.  But, he grew on you.  As he grew into his role as a father, he also grew into his role as a man.  While he may have been the "support system" and "fixer" for the family since his father's death, he hadn't really been emotionally part of his family. In addition to growing as a man and a father over time with Jade, he also demonstrated that he grew as a son and a brother and began to develop a better / deeper relationship with his sisters!
Kezia was definitely hesitant to get involved with someone again.  That was clearly understood.  I really enjoyed watching her struggle with her growing feelings for Ben warring with her desire to protect her heart, and her child.  I loved the little bits of Italian thrown into the story - it made me picture her showing these emotions very clearly in my head.
Another reason I struggled at the beginning of this book is that I felt that the writing and the dialog at the beginning was juvenile.  Ben may have been an emotionally challenged man, but the early parts of the book read like he was barely out of his teens, and we know that isn't true.  As the book progressed, the writing and dialog was definitely more mature and I felt the intimacy scenes were well written.  I loved it when Ben's ears would turn red when he was embarrassed! 
The addition of Jade's dyslexia was a nice addition to the story, but I wish the author would have teased us with that challenge in Ben prior to just springing it on us in a parent/teacher conference.  A few tips about Ben struggling with reading to Jade, or helping her with homework, or working with paperwork, etc, would have been a nice way to lead up to Jade's diagnosis - it would have given a bit of insight into part of why Ben is the way he is, because he "felt" dumb.
Despite Ben's challenges with his ability to emotionally connect with Kezia, in the end, I loved how the author allowed Ben to express his feelings to Kezia.  He didn't talk about the sex or her body - he said that he missed her voice.  He said that he liked to talk to her and he'd missed that - and he'd missed her.  Cue the tears - a very romantic declaration of love.  I also love that he knows enough about himself to warn Kezia about how it will be in their relationship.  About how he'll mess up and say stupid things, but that he'll never stop loving her and she'll never have to be alone again!  It showed that he was fully committed to his love with Kezia and Zoe. 
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