Mr Unforgettable, by Karina Bliss

4 Feb

Mr UnforgettableSometimes I wonder how my brain works.

I have read several books by Ms Bliss, and each time she manages to make me cry at least once, in the very best way.

And yet, the last book of hers that I read was Mr Imperfect–almost two full years ago!

Why???

I have no idea.

The other day, however, I saw her name somewhere, and some part of my brain woke up and said, “hey, you wanted to get the other two in the Lost Boys trilogy, right?” and off to amazon I went and…

Here we are.

Mr Unforgettable, by Karina Bliss

I’m usually very adamant about reading linked books in order, but because I got both this and Mr Irresistible on my kindle, I managed to fumble and read them out of order.¹ The great news is that it doesn’t really matter, because Mr Unforgettable stands alone just perfectly well, and while the two other Lost Boys do show up, their presence complements the story, it doesn’t detract from it.

This book is so good, just so delicious in every way!³

Oh and, by the way, may I say how much I love that Ms Bliss’ stories are set in New Zealand? Hell, yeah!

Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:

Luke Carter can never forget that he’d been abandoned as a child. And that’s why the millionaire and former Olympian is driven to build his camp for underprivileged kids in Beacon Bay. If only the rural New Zealand community trusted his motives.

And if only the beautiful widow mayor, Liz Light, would stop grieving long enough to prove where her loyalties lie–with Luke or her late husband–and show him once and for all which man is truly unforgettable.

Christian, Jordan and Luke have been friends since university. In the last fifteen years, and through a combination of skills, hard work and luck, they have made a fortune in the corporate world.

None of them, however, have forgotten just how hard it is to grow up without money or family, or security. So after their proposal to build a hotel near Beacon Bay gets shot down, they decide to put the land to good use by building a camp for disadvantaged kids from inner city Auckland.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so charitably minded, and petty politicians exercise their puny power by making the process drag as much as they legally can. The camp’s only ally, if icy neutrality can be considered as such, is the current mayor, Liz Light.

Basically, Liz got elected when her husband Harry, the town’s favorite mayor ever, died in a car crash two years earlier. In her grief, when several people in town government asked her to put her name down in the emergency election after his death, she accepted, as another way to cope with the loss while keeping his legacy alive.

Since then, most of what Liz has accomplished as mayor have been things Harry wanted to do–up to and including supporting Camp Chance. If it had been up to her, she wouldn’t have championed it at all. I confess that this is the one thing about Liz that bugged me, but I’ll get into this a bit later.

We learn pretty early on that, for all that they loved each other deeply and were very happy together, Liz was much younger than Harry. In fact, Liz is only nine years older than Kirby, her stepdaughter. And during the entire nine years of the marriage, Kirby hated Liz, only becoming family to each other after Harry’s death.

As the novel starts, Luke is jumping through yet another hoop contrived by the local council to delay construction of the camp. Even though both Jordan and Christian are willing to put in time in Beacon Bay, they have personal lives elsewhere, while Luke is happy to withdraw from Auckland, corporate bickering and the media’s interest as he waits for his divorce to become final.²

For her part, Liz comes to realize that many of the people she’s worked closely with, and relied on, since becoming mayor, were basically bidding their time. Now that mayoral elections draw near once again, Harry’s former colleagues start showing their true colors.

Therefore, if she wants to be re-elected, Liz must both mind her step (i.e., continue being the perfect widow), and campaign in earnest. The only problem is, Liz has many secrets, some of which not even Harry knew. And one of these leads to her making a deal with the devil–Luke.

Because, despite having staunchly supported late Harry’s Swimming Safe initiative…Liz doesn’t know how to swim. And one of the campaign ops Kirby arranges for her (without asking, mind you) is to swim  a 100 yards ‘race’ in the Bay. Who better to teach a person scared of the water to swim, than an Olympic swimming champion, yes?

Luke agrees to teach Liz to swim and, because he’s a decent human being, he never tries to leverage knowing her big secret into help with the camp. Instead, he teases her into playing chess with him–one game per swimming lesson. Inevitably, they become friends. Friends who do their utmost to ignore the growing attraction between them.

Of course, all sorts of delicious shenaningans ensue.

For example, Luke’s friends are worried about him–they know better than he does just how deeply the divorce hit him. Therefore, in well honored tradition, they have spent months trying to set him up with friends, and friends of friends, and so on and so forth. Which of course doesn’t go over well with Luke.

So when Jordan’s wedding approaches, and to forestall any more matchmaking attempts during that weekend, Luke tells them he’s seeing someone, Fredericka (Fred, for short). It just so who happens that Fred is Liz, who goes to the wedding incognito.

The wedding itself is fantastic–and that is all I can say about it without spoiling it. Going into it cold makes the experience a thousand times better, trust me on this.

Of course, no romance reader is surprised that it is during this short getaway that Luke and Liz–finally!!!–become lovers, or that Liz is determined to keep their relationship a secret. Not only is the mayoral race at stake, and for many in town Luke is not just an outsider but the enemy, but Liz fears Kirby’s reaction. On the plus side, since neither of them is looking for a relationship, having a weekend fling that becomes an affair with someone they like and care for is the best of both worlds.

Or so they think.

There are so many things going on in this story that for a moment there I didn’t think Ms Bliss would be able to pull them all together satisfactorily within the relatively short length. Yes, Superromances are long for category, but they are still shorter than regular length novels. I shouldn’t have doubted her though, for once again, she did it.

The sex is by no means explicit, though it’s there alright (and sometimes less is a lot more, let me tell you). The best part though, is that every single kiss and caress have actual meaning in the story. The sex on the page means something to the characters, it moves their relationship forward or reveals who they are behind the masks they wear with the world, and even sometimes with the people close to them.

I absolutely love how each of our protagonists realized what they truly feel for the other. Considering how deeply wary of vulnerability both of them are, their reactions are priceless–and their struggles feel so real. Sometimes, just like in real life, even frank conversations can’t save the day, because it’s not easy to articulate our deepest feelings, or to be so utterly vulnerable to someone else.

Luke broke my heart. He truly believes he deserved to be dumped–if not *that* publicly–because he ‘probably doesn’t know how to love.’ And yet, in all his actions he shows how much he cares, particularly about Liz. And he truly is such a decent man! No, he is not perfect by any means–I don’t much care for characters who are. I’m here for the journey, after all.

While not as much as Liz, Luke does grow as the story progresses. He still struggles with his perception of intimacy and love, and his abandonment issues undermine his sense of self as someone worthy of love–which comes to play later in the story. All this notwithstanding, he does put his heart on the line, both through actions and words.

Liz grows the most in the story, and keep in mind that she’s not a helpless doormat to begin with. She has plenty of weak spots and hides too much of who she is behind the “Harry Light widow” and “mayor of Beacon Bay” labels, but she is not weak.

During her widowhood, Liz has come into her own as a politician with clear goals and ambitions for the town she serves, and she won’t let herself be pushed around by the good old boys network around her. Her weakest spot is Kirby, and Kirby’s daughter, Harriet. Because Kirby’s and Liz’ relationship is so new, and was built upon mutual grief over the loss of Harry, Liz is afraid to test its strength. Having a relationship, let alone “just a meaningless fling,” with a man so much younger than Harry, would likely not only rock, but capsize the proverbial boat.

Which reminds me: Luke is younger than Liz by two or three years, and this is mentioned exactly ONCE during the entire book. And not even in a “oh my dog, he’s younger!’ way, but in a “I’m 35, how old are you?'” “33” “Oh, I thought you were younger” way. Absolutely zero agonizing about being “too old for him” or some other bullshit.

Back to the story.

There are a couple of scenes in the book that had me crying, because the emotions both characters experience are so honest, so real on the page. You can’t help but suffer with Luke when his divorce becomes final, or grieve with Liz as she finally allows herself to cry, both for the lonely child she once was, and as she accepts the finality of Harry’s death.

To all this relationship and characterization goodness, we must add all the other people and events in the story.

There’s Delores, the town’s busybody, who could have easily become a caricature of the old, dried up and bitter spinster, but who isn’t. Kirby and her too-perceptive husband, Neville, who have such different views of Liz. Snowy, one of Harry’s friends, whom Liz thought of as a mentor and friend, but who is actually just another politician, willing to use any dirt on Liz he can find, and who is definitely not above lying, if it wins him the mayoral seat.

There’s the town itself, with its resistance to change, its reluctance to accept strangers, particularly poor inner city kids, into a mostly middle-class-to-well-to-do population. The children when they finally are allowed to come for the inaugural holiday.

Both Jordan and Christian, and their wives appear on the page, just long enough to be charming and to contribute something to this storyline.

There are two things, and two things only, that truly irked me about this book.

One pertains to Liz secrets. Turns out, she was a foster kid herself. Having Liz oppose the camp, for all that she never lets on publicly, makes her come across as…well, petty. Yes, I get it, she doesn’t want to deal with all the baggage of her childhood. But how can she make this about her, even internally? No one is asking to volunteer at the camp or even interact with the children on any but the most superficial level.

And what the camp offer these children who lack most of the basic things in life–from family to security–can effectively change their young lives, for the better, forever.

So that did bother me, a lot.

The second thing was the syrupy epilogue. Yes, it’s pretty mild for category standards–Liz is not pregnant. Yet. But of course she won the re-election, so lets pretend what happened in the last chapter and a half just didn’t happen. What the hell?

*ahem*

Mr Unforgettable is a really good read, and it gets 8.25 out of 10.

~ * ~

¹ You know, one of those “you had one job” moments

² Two. Years. Wait to finally be divorced? I shudder in horror. Mind you, when I lived in Venezuela, it was the same thing, and if memory serves, in Mexico it’s one year separation. But I gotta tell you, making people who know they loathe each other continue to have to deal with each other for two more years? It’s asking for ugliness. I am glad beyond the telling–particularly when we had to start dealing with parenting in separate households–that we didn’t have to wait.

³ The whole trilogy is very well written, and I’m so glad Harlequin has most of these old books available digitally these days.

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2 Responses to “Mr Unforgettable, by Karina Bliss”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mr Irresistible, by Karina Bliss | Her Hands, My Hands - 02/03/2015

    […] I have mentioned before that I really like Ms Bliss’ writing, despite the inexplicable long time between reading Mr Imperfect and these last two in the trilogy, Mr Irresistible and Mr Unforgettable. […]

  2. One Night of Scandal, by Elle Kennedy | Her Hands, My Hands - 08/05/2015

    […] Karina Bliss’s The Lost Boys was the other one, but at least then I knew what happened. On this one, I simply have no […]

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