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Mend Your Heart by Tracey Alvarez

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Sports 20th September 2017
Mend Your Heart by Tracey AlvarezMend Your Heart by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Bounty Bay #4
Published by Tracey Alvarez on September 15th 2017
Pages: 247
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five-stars

An idiot’s guide to falling for your best friend’s widow…

Former rugby star Isaac Ngata was New Zealand’s golden boy until five years ago when a tragic accident took the life of his friend and team mate. Now he’s a pariah with a screwed up knee and a burden of guilt toward his friend’s wife and daughter. Best thing for him to do is sink into the anonymous safety of his hometown. An even better thing to do would be to stop picturing Natalie in his arms.

For someone who doesn’t know a dummy pass from a drop kick, Natalie Fisher just wants to keep her late husband’s passion for sport in the past. But their teenage daughter’s rugby team is in desperate need of a coach and the man she can’t stand to be around has volunteered. A long buried attraction flares to life between Natalie and Isaac, one they can’t run far or fast enough to avoid. Soon rugby fever isn’t the only thing heating up Bounty Bay. Crossing the line never had such high stakes…

I’ve somehow always hesitated to jump into Tracey Alvarez’s Far North/Bounty Bay series, but this is probably because I’m so attached to her Down South crew that I’m probably as possessive of them as Alvarez is. But ‘Mend Your Heart’s blurb sounded heartbreaking from the start and I knew immediately that I wanted Isaac Ngata’s story desperately as much as I wanted my next Down South fix.

The family-like bonds in every series is probably Tracey Alvarez’s forte, as secondary characters float in and out of the whole book while propping the whole narrative as well as the protagonists up with a sly yet subtle kind of humour I’d be hard-pressed to find outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alvarez’s writing is definitely no slouch either, though it can take some getting used to her style, as well as the references to a sport that can be rather obscure for those who live on the other side of of the Pacific ocean. But rugby is everything in Kiwi-land and I love Alvarez’s deliberate spotlight on the All Blacks who aren’t, despite popular opinion, the only famous thing about this place.

But I digress.

Back to the plot as we know it: Isaac’s professional career and reputation went up in flames 5 years ago in an incident that destroyed any kind of relationship between his (now dead) best mate’s wife and daughter, and that’s just the beginning of what we know. It unravels slowly from here onwards, with bits and pieces that come along with the truth that you know is contrary to what Isaac (and popular opinion) has claimed. Natalie and Olivia are in essence, too close and yet too far for this guy to find his HEA, though it’s clear that it’s high time for him to.

Isaac himself jumped out from the pages and became an immediate hero-to-die-for when it became clear what he did to protect people he owed nothing to. The grumpy facade, that shell he’d retreated into and the emotions he didn’t quite try to hide and run away from like almost every alpha book hero I know, made him a shining beacon among the thorny arses in romantic fiction. I loved every moment of his interaction with Natalie, Olivia as well as the all-girls school rugby team, just as much as I cheered for their HEA with their nosy but well-meaning mates in the background. For a few hours, I’d been happily part of their whanau and needless to say, I’d gladly leap back in when Vee’s and Sam’s story comes out of the works.

five-stars

Saying I Do by Tracey Alvarez

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 7th May 2017
Saying I Do by Tracey AlvarezSaying I Do by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Due South #8
Published by Tracey Alvarez on May 19th 2017
Pages: 235
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four-stars

Marriage and happily-ever-after are for suckers…
Joe Whelan was fooled once on the way to the altar, and the Irish doctor isn’t about to be an eejit over a woman again. Especially not one who witnessed his broken-hearted humiliation years ago. He won’t be swayed by the sparks that fly whenever his eyes meet MacKenna’s or distracted by her sweet kisses. The only thing Joe cares about is preventing his sister from making the biggest marital mistake of her life.
MacKenna Jones loves a good wedding—so long as she’s sewing the bride’s gown, not walking down the aisle herself. Falling for Joe Whelan’s sexy bedside manner wasn’t on the cards, neither was a seven-day road trip with him to Las Vegas, the Marriage Capital of the World. When the stakes are so high, will these two gun-shy cynics ever say I Do?

I’ve always been fond of the Due South cast (some couples more than others, admittedly) and every new book in this series is like revisiting the motley crew who live in Stewart Island, so far from the rest of the world yet so happy in their windswept, isolated community with a record number of HEAs minted there.

Dr. Joe Whelan’s turn finally arrives in this book and it’s fate, or rather, Alvarez, who chooses to pair him up with Mackenna Jones, a gun-shy wedding-dress maker who flees when it comes to making a hard and fast commitment. But Joe isn’t all that jaded despite his past and even after attraction turns into something more, his ability to look forward might be the only thing that will see him across the finish line especially when Mac herself falters and stumbles.

I think the only part of the book that was difficult was the ‘final conflict’ so to speak where I found it unforgivable of Mac for what she did in the end to Joe (hitting him where it hurts the most) though, and was incredulous for Joe’s seeming acceptance and easy forgiveness of it. I did love Joe from the beginning and that did play a part in my own judgement of Mac not really deserving him at the very moment he needed her to step out for the both of them. Maybe it’s me being cynical and petty, but I did expect better of her despite her own reservations and her cowardly inability to decide what she really wanted. She did treat him unfairly, first running, then leaving a note that barely explained a thing—and her actions didn’t seem congruous of the love she proclaimed to have for him—especially when seen in contrast to Joe’s steadfast loyalty. But I’d be the first to admit that I prefer my heroines who dare to put themselves out there with a bit more pluck, particularly when their other halves show themselves as determined and unmovable.

The best part about ‘Saying I Do’ however, is that nothing is all that it seems. There’s no straight case of one-upping each other or a straight road where the jilted protagonist comes around to the idea of marriage, but multiple layers of (self?)deception, denial and desire that overlap like a finely-made pastry that’s a mouthwatering feast. It’s also characteristic of Tracey Alvarez’s quirky but stylish writing, but I loved the additional and rather authentic use of Irishisms here (or rather, the typical vocab used in the British Isles) that gave the story its strong flavour. Already, I want more of the gossipy Due South crew, in all their smugness, laughter and love.

four-stars
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