Series: Men of Marietta #4
Published by Tule Publishing on January 1st 1970
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When Todd Harris makes the move from the mean streets of Chicago to the sleepy roads of Marietta, Montana, it’s not just his career that’s changing… it’s his entire life. Going from police officer to forest ranger isn’t too much of a stretch, but getting used to how things work in a small town is. As he settles in, Todd realizes he loves the slower pace of the countryside, but then… an Olympic gold medalist comes to town and shatters his hard fought peace.
But the town’s new forest ranger doesn’t like attention and he sure as hell isn’t looking for any kind of relationship with someone who does. When Molly Cordero gets lost in the woods though and Todd is the one who saves her, the spark he’s been trying to ignore smolders and ignites. It's then that he realizes there’s a lot more to Molly than ambition and public adulation.
When Todd signs up for the Men of Marietta calendar shoot to raise money for Harry's House, a place for children to commemorate a fallen firefighter, Molly realizes the kind of man he is. With the shoot wrapping up, she faces a painful decision–return to her old life, or give her new life with Todd a fighting chance.
The Men of Marietta series has been good so far and it was without hesitation that I dove into Todd’s story. Todd’s a peripheral character who has been popping up from time to time and is now in need of his own HEA, and unfortunately finding it with disgraced ex-Olympic athlete Molly Cordero who has fallen so far from public adulation that she can’t see past that ruined reputation.
But the truth is I strangely felt let down with this installment and found it beyond difficult to get into a pairing where my intense dislike for the heroine made the book a struggle to get through despite the lovely clarity of Kaylie Newell’s writing.
Molly was petulant, combative—and somewhat defiant about her narcissistic tailspin into destruction—and immensely annoying as she forces her way into Todd’s life when her advances were not entirely wanted. That she tried pushing Todd into posing for the calendar then tried to pry into his life just so she could find out where his personal boundaries lay reeked of hypocrisy when she herself never wanted the wrong sort of attention on her. In fact, I couldn’t help but think of her as a bitter has-been who is trying to reclaim the glory days and euphoric moments of her former life, when it would have been easier to cheer for her if she could have been more earnest and low-key about building herself back up. Her holier-than-thou attitude in contrast, then not hunkering down but running away, certainly played a large part and it was hard to think she was redeemable in any way because she came across as so unlikeable that I’d actually hoped she was simply just passing through Marietta.
Molly/Todd is an unlikely pair nonetheless and their relationship tumbled down the rabbit-hole so quickly that it looked like skin-deep attraction for most of the book. There’re early hostile scenes, a rescue-a-damsel-in-distress moment and then suddenly they’re making out without the build up and chemistry that I expected to see. The conflict between them seemed to stem from Todd’s desire to settle into small-town life and Molly not ready to give up being in the public eye, exacerbated by the nosy neighbour-vibes all around that put more pressure than needed on the both of them. The rather abrupt conclusion reinforces the realistic HFN ending, but I guess it’s probably the most believable one for this particular couple.