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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Book Review: Only Mine by Susan Mallery

Title: Only Mine
Author: Susan Mallery
Series: Book #4 in the Fool's Gold series
Number of pages: 384 pages 
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: 26 July 2010
Source: eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, , , Book Depository

Grade: 4 stars

Novellus superbus!
Goodreads appetizer: You can’t win if you don’t play…

Her town’s lack of men may make headlines, but it isn’t news to Dakota Hendrix. The beautiful blonde has bigger problems to deal with, such as overseeing the romance reality competition filming in Fool’s Gold. Screening eligible bachelors is a difficult enough task, but Dakota hits an unexpected snag when a sexy stranger comes to town.

Finn Anderssen will do anything to keep his twin brothers—the perfect contestants—off the show. Despite Dakota’s better judgment, she finds herself drawn to the mysterious outsider. Like her, Finn knows about heartbreak and how a family can fall apart, so she doesn’t dare to hope for anything more than a fling. After all, even in the Land of Happy Endings, finding true love is never as easy as it looks on TV.

My Thoughts: Only Mine is Book #4 in Susan Mallery's contemporary romance series which is set in the sunny small town of Fool's Gold in California. Don't let the fact that you haven't read the previous novels in the series scare you away, because the books can be well enjoyed as stand alone novels, and with Only Mine a smaller story arc begins: the story of the Hendrix triplets, so you'll join the party just at the beginning.

Before Only Mine I've only read Finding Perfect (Book #3) and fell in love with Fool's Gold which is an adorable and heart-warming small town. There is a man shortage, so even the jobs usually more masculine (firemen, policemen, mayor, bartender, etc.) are all held by women. Due to the demography of the town (i.e. the men shortage) Fool's Gold got some publicity and now a reality show á la Bachelorette is being filmed there. That is the reason how the hero ends up in Fool's Gold...

You see Sasha and Stephen, the young twin brothers of Finn (the hero) dropped out of college just a semester before graduation to appear in the TV show and Finn as responsible older brother (and sole guardian of the boys after the death of their parents 8 years ago) flies in to try to persuade them to finish their education and not waste their life on such a silly thing.

Just to get an idea of his drive and how seriously he takes the well-being of his brothers:
"To repeat a cliché, if you love something, set it free." He stared into her dark eyes. They were an interesting contrast to her wavy blond hair.
"If it comes back, it was meant to?" He managed a smile. "No, thanks. I fall into the ‘if it doesn’t, hunt it down and shoot it’ category."
"Should I warn your brothers?"
"They already know."

I was immediately under Finn's charm: he is a grumpy yet very funny man with a quick wit and dry humour. His quips uttered in all seriousness made it all the more funny:
"... I have to kill my brother. And Geoff. What the hell. If I’m going to jail for murder, what difference does the second one make? Doesn’t everyone like a two-for-one sale?"

"Go, Finn. You’ve done all you needed to. We’re ready to be on our own."
They weren’t. That’s what killed Finn. They were too young, too determined to screw up. If he wasn’t nearby, how could he keep them safe? He would do anything to protect them. 
As an older sister (I also have two younger ones like Finn), I completely get all his worries, the heavy weight of responsibility and how serious he is about putting his brothers first. It is innate to an older sibling and his determination does him credit. He has an enormous and generous heart and he is incredibly selfless, all due to having been in charge of bringing up his brothers from an early age. And Susan Mallery's portrayal of him is spot on and utterly realistic.

Dakota Hendrix is the heroine of Only Mine. She is one of the Hendrix triplets: Dakota, Montana and Nevada (I found the background story of how they ended up with these names very endearing = they were named by their brothers). She is a serious, down to earth, warm-hearted and genuine young woman. As Finn describes her:
"Let me guess. You’re one of those people who calls rain ‘liquid sunshine.’"

Dakota is a psychologist and though I know it is particular to her trade, her constant (over)analysing of Finn and his brothers and their relationship grated on my nerves a bit, so I can't even imagine how irritating it must have been for Finn.

I would have liked to see more of the sisterly interactions, and found it weird that even though the three sisters are described as being close to each other, Dakota took half a year before confessing her big secret and sharing her sorrow with her sisters, especially since they are triplets and share that special bond. 

I couldn't connect with Dakota as well as with Finn, but I enjoyed that they first started out as friends and their relationship evolved gradually, that both of them took it as a simple, uncomplicated fling while Finn was in town.

Only Mine is a romance novel featuring three couples, and though Dakota and Finn are definitely the main characters, the other couples also get enough spotlight, which I confess I enjoyed a lot and made Only Mine quite unique in this aspect. Stephen and Aurelia's blossoming relationship was sweet and completely unexpected, I would have liked them to get even more "screen time" as their interactions portrayed perfectly the slow and sweet development of a pure and genuine romance, which was moving in its innocence.

My main concern with the novel was Dakota and her children/pregnancy storyline, which I found too predictable and unrealistic. I was surprised that in Only Mine I preferred reading about the secondary heroine and romance than the main one which was a bit too predictable to my taste. (Please bear in mind that my criticism comes from having read Finding Perfect just before Only Mine, which I found utterly charming and refreshing and feel a bit disappointed that Only Mine didn't live up to my expectations elevated by Finding Perfect. I'm sure without my background I would have enjoyed it more.)

Verdict: Fool's Gold is an adorable small town where the people are friendly and are there for each other. Susan Mallery's series is a heart-warming, light, feel-good, sweet and fun contemporary romance series I'm sure all small town romance lovers will enjoy. I look forward to reading the remaining two sisters' story and thankfully I don't have to wait long as will be released on 30 August and on 27 September 2011.

Plot: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Ending: 6/10
Writing: 9/10
Cover: 7/10

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