This is one where I vacillated between rating three and four stars, and where Goodreads' insistence on not allowing half stars really gets my knickers in a twist. Technically, I give Rainshadow Road 3.5 stars, but I've got the warm fuzzy wuzzies again, so I'll round up to 4.0.
Lucy Marinn thinks it's all hugs and love with her live-in boyfriend Kevin. Until the day that Kevin announces that he's in love with Lucy's sister Alice. And worse yet, Lucy needs to find someplace else to live, tout suite
, because Kevin needs to move his new lady love into the house that he and Lucy share. In with the new; out with the old.
Lucy is, understandably, devastated. Little sis, Alice, has taken everything from Lucy for nearly all her life. After a brief bout of meningitis as a child, Alice became Lucy and Alice's mother's favorite, monopolizing all of Mom's time and energy. Alice could do no wrong, while Lucy was consigned to the background, designated the child who was expected to be super responsible and tolerant of her "fragile" sister.
Goes without saying that Lucy is a little f*cked up. As is Alice. Grownup Lucy is an artist who works in fused and stained glass. She's also got a bit of magical ability. Under the right circumstance, she can imbue glass with life, sometimes even turning it into living beings.
Soon after being dumped by Kevin, Lucy meets Sam on a lonely beach. She finds him attractive, but frankly, is still hurting too much to get involved with the first guy she encounters on a wind-swept beach. But...they live on a little island and it's inevitable that they'll meet again.
Sam is a committed bachelor. Having grown up in an alcoholic family, he sees no benefit to a relationship that goes beyond "friends with benefits." He doesn't just not want commitment, he's convinced that he can't commit to anyone. Otherwise, he's an interesting guy. A former "geek" turned farmer, he owns a small vineyard and is busy restoring the old Victorian House that resides on his property.
After Lucy is struck by a car while riding her bike, she finds herself incapacitated and needing help. Her friends, Zoe and Justine "arrange" for Sam to take her to his place and care for her there. I admit, this part felt rather contrived, like something that would pop up in a fan fiction story, but it works okay. Not perfect, but okay.
Lucy knows that Sam is a "don't fence me in" kind of guy, but after he helps her in and out of the shower a few times, her hormones start racing and she decides she's willing to settle for a "just sex" kind of relationship.
Of course...you know that won't work out well....
There's a lot to like in Rainshadow Road. I'm an artist and a geek and a gardener, so I'm instantly simpatico with Lucy and Sam. The touch of magical realism/light paranormal is lovely, and toward the end, there's a bit of absolutely beautiful writing as Sam realizes his "mistake." At one point, I thought the plot was going to go the standard misunderstanding route--which I hate--but instead Sam just tells Lucy the truth about a certain situation, completely eliminating any stupid complication.
Some readers seem to find that Rainshadow Road has too much of a chick lit/women's fiction tone. In my case, I prefer chick lit to romance, so I liked Kleypass's approach to this story. As a feminist, I was worried that Lucy was going to give up a fabulous opportunity for love--UGH!--but the plot didn't take that kind of insipid adolescence tack.
Rainshadow Road, for all its positives, however, didn't quite make it to keeper for two reasons.
The first problem was the hero. I liked Sam, but he lacked a little...uh, somethin' somethin'. Personally, I found him a little too humorless. He wasn't a complete stick-up-his ass, but he just didn't have much sparkle. There are a couple of times when he makes a joke that is supposedly geekish, but it feels forced. His character would have worked better for me if he was genuinely geeky, with lots more references to science, etc. My guess is that since most romance readers don't like beta heroes, the author really couldn't commit to a real geek hero, so the result is half-ass nerd/geek-lite. (I love beta heroes!)
But the thing that kicked Rainshadow Road out of keeper contention was one little line of text, found in the midst of a sex scene (Bolding mine).
"Dimly she heard him murmur that they should stop for a second, they needed to use some kind of protection. She gasped out a few words to make him understand that it wasn't necessary, she was on the pill to regulate her cycle
And...fizzle...the mood was broken. For me anyway. First, the pill doesn't protect you from STDs, so no matter how cute and all-American Sam may look, Lucy shouldn't be doing the naughty sans a rubber yet. Second, Sam is a raging commitment-phobe. Guys like that are smart enough not to fall for "Trust me, I'm on the pill." He'd snap a raincoat on, anyway.
And third, and more important, the phrase "to regulate her cycle" is slut shaming. Yes, some women do take the pill to regulate their cycle, because easier periods are a nice side effect of taking hormonal birth control. But the primary reason most women take the pill is to have sex without getting pregnant. Because we want to do the deed without making babies. It's perfectly okay (and moral) for a women to want sex and to take the pill in anticipation of said sex. Lucy's been in a long-term relationship with another man until quite recently. I really doubt the only reason she's on the pill is for medical purposes. So why point out "to regulate her cycle," except as a self-conscious way of saying, "She's on the pill, but not because she planned on having Teh Sex; because only dirty whores take the pill to have sex." Ugh! That little turn of phrase turned me off so much, that the whole sex scene fell apart at that point. I started skimming.
The next book in this series, unfortunately, will focus on Alex, Sam's alcoholic brother and his romance with Zoe. Given my own childhood growing up with an alcoholic parent, I don't find drunks remotely sympathetic as heroes, so I think I'll give that one a pass.