I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: New Adult. Yes thank goodness due to the two protagonists being between the ages of 18-30 that this book counts towards that square.
Eh. That's all I really have to say about this newest edition to the Escape to New Zealand book. This book missed for me due to lack of chemistry and dialogue between the two leads (Chloe and Kevin). James does a good job with the initial set-up, but then the book just flounders right before it runs into a straight out of Melrose Place plot-line. There were some bits here and there that are classic James that I liked. But I think due to the just okay leads and the terrible ass parents and ex (Chloe's ex) I just wanted this book to be over as soon as possible. Also there was a sub-plot involving Kevin's twin sisters and just no. No a thousand times. It messed up the whole rhythm of the book and I felt like they both were being set up to be the focus of future books.
The book starts off with Chloe Davidson standing by to watch her best friend Josie (Just Not Mine, Escape to New Zealand #6) getting married. I think this initially is what caused some of my confusion. This is book #10 in the series, and I honestly haven't thought too much about Josie and Hugh since then. So to get thrown back to that book and trying to remember who Chloe is and her connection to Josie didn't quite work. And from there we have Chloe going into another flashback involving what should have been her wedding day. Now here James does sing. I get Chloe's heartbreak and rightful anger at being dumped (while pregnant) at the altar. From that moment on, Chloe decides she will do whatever it takes to keep her son Zavy safe. That means that Chloe gives up on her dreams to go back to dancing ballet. Instead she opens a ballet school.
Kevin McNicholl plays for the New Zealand All Blacks. A big, strong, red-headed man, his primary focus is rugby, his teammate, and his family. His mind has been on Chloe though since he first saw her more than a year ago when she was having lunch with his teammate. Then again when he saw her at Josie and Hugh's wedding. Now he decides he is going to do whatever it takes to get Chloe to "take him on." Blech. Look, Kevin does grow on me. But the way he is introduced is kind of a mess. He's Chloe's new landlord, and shows up at her school and kicks her out. But also wants to go on a date.
Who does that? Seriously. That was one of the main reasons why I initially not feeling this book. It doesn't help though that James expects readers to remember that somehow these two saw each other 4 books ago either. Both characters recall seeing the other one and feeling something and it doesn't feel organic at all. I honestly didn't get their pull or attraction throughout the entire book. At least the romance scenes were great and I did enjoy seeing how Chloe's son Zavy was incorporated.
Secondary characters don't really work in this one. Chloe's parents pretty much sucked. Her mother being overbearing and deciding she would sneak Chloe's son off to see his real father was pretty awful. I did like we get to see Chloe growing up and standing up to her parents about her needs though. But seriously, she's 30, that should have been a conversation way before now. If she was younger I could see how this dynamic worked a bit better. It just didn't feel real to me since I can't see how anyone at the age of 30 would be getting bossed by their parents so much.
Chloe's ex rich was superficially developed. We needed a bad guy, so here is one. Towards the end with the final great Rich is a really terrible person act I just couldn't buy it.
Kevin's family was pretty bland for the most part. Due to his twin sisters (Noelle and Holly) living with him though we see them up close and personal. I really wish that James had not included them. I don't even understand what the hell was going on for the most part between the two of them. And Chloe at times seems cold since she doesn't want to deal with their brat like behavior towards each other either.
The plot was really about these two people falling in love. The sub-plots dealing with Chloe and her terrible ex, and the twins shake-up among each other were just okay. Maybe if the twins sub-plot were left out things would have worked better. At least the flow improved when it was just Chloe, Kevin, and Zavy. The other stuff thrown in just made the whole book jumbled. James usually does a better job than this with this series so I was surprised. The writing was good. I am used to the Kiwi words/sayings that James uses in her books. Can I say though that I am not a fan of the chapter headings and the heart doodle that accompanied the headings either. I maybe mumbled some bad swear words after a while.
I miss the love of New Zealand that usually comes shining through in these books too. It didn't feel like the action moved much beyond Kevin and Chloe's places and Chloe's school. I fell in love with this series a couple of years ago. Most of the latter books have been hit or miss with me. So this one I am going to count as a miss too.