Series: Second Shot #3
Published by Avon Impulse on September 13th 2016
Buy on Amazon
After a year spent living in hiding—with no end in sight—Caroline Andrews wants to reclaim her life. But the lingering trauma from her days serving with the marines leaves her afraid to trust the tempting logger who delivers friendship and the promise of something more.
Following an accident that nearly robbed him of his hopes for the future, Josh Summers believes life has given him a second chance. He wants to settle down with the woman who stole his attention and his heart. And he’s willing to wait until she’s ready to be more than “just friends.” When fear of discovery leaves Caroline pretending to be his date, Josh tempts her to try the real thing—a relationship built on trust, not lies.
But then the past threatens and Caroline must risk everything—including her freedom—to bury her demons before she can take a chance on happy-ever-after.
Easily the most outstanding of the series, ‘Mixing Temptation’ deals with trauma and its very difficult aftermath. The hair trigger here is sexual assault and the very frank and brutal tacit admission that justice isn’t fully served even in fiction because of victim-blaming, masochistic attitude that is too rife in the military service – a fact that I can and do appreciate.
Both Josh and Caroline have suffered in different ways but Sara Jane Stone has written both their characters in such a sensitive manner that I can’t help but like both of them immensely in the slow, gradual build-up of their relationship. Josh’s good-natured patience and optimism – the all-round good guy can and does wins – is in fact, a perfect counter to Caroline’s wariness and broken past. I like their honesty with each other from the beginning and Josh’s perfect (almost preternatural) timing probably lifts him way above many heaving, neanderthal alpha romantic leads because in this very rare case, the beta-guy actually gets the girl. The conflict that arises between them has little to do with their developing relationship and more to do with a situation which subsequently forces Caroline to do something about her AWOL status. Seeing Josh’s and the rest of the gang’s unwavering support ultimately turns the story into a feel-good one with a well-deserved ending for the both of them.
I did feel though, that there was an aspect of the story that was left hanging – Helena’s own experience with sexual violence and Ryan’s none-too-brotherly concern for her – towards the end of the story. Ms. Stone doesn’t address this part beyond using it as a catalyst for Caroline to turn herself in and I found myself wondering about what could be another potential pairing that was never explored, all the more so considering this is the final installment of the series.