Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Caught Up in Love #1
Published by Collins-Young Publishing LLC on April 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
“Don’t judge a book by its cover model”
Forty-two and widowed, romance writer Jillian Grant believes hospitals equal death. Plagued by loss and convinced more is imminent when her aunt ends up in critical condition after heart surgery; she has come to equate the absence of pain with happiness. When she spots a hot, young landscaper working on the hospital grounds with an eerie resemblance to the male lead in her next novel, she convinces him to pose as her cover model.
Working multiple jobs to put himself through college, twenty-four-year-old Raine MacDonald is no stranger to loss. Behind his handsome face and rockin’ body lies family tragedy and agonizing secrets. When circumstances put him back in the path of his abusive father, fate delivers Jillian as his unwitting savior. Thing is, when he thinks of her, his thoughts are far from platonic.
Despite their age difference, Jillian and Raine discover they’re more alike than they could ever imagine. But torn between facing her own fears and grasping a chance at happiness, Jillian makes a soul-shattering decision that threatens to blow their world apart.
I picked up Caught Up in Raine because I’m an absolute sucker for a well-done older woman/younger man romance, for reasons that I’ll get into later. But that isn’t all there is to this story. There’s a bit of an unusual second chance at romance thrown in, as well as a heaping helping of Romancing the Stone. Not in the sense of near-death adventures in the jungle, but the part of that story where a romance writer meets the real-life version of her hero, and finds herself living one of her own stories.
Jillian Grant is a romance writer in her early 40s. She’s also a widow. And the love of her life died in an automobile accident when they were both 18 and just ready to embark on their happy ever after. In spite of the contentment she found in her marriage, her late husband just wasn’t the person she felt she had been meant to be with. She settled. Or perhaps she punished herself for having been the driver in that long ago accident when her car was t-boned by a woman in the middle of having a stroke while behind the wheel.
Jillian’s current life takes a sharp left turn into the unknown when she meets Raine. He is the spitting image of her long-dead love, Drew. Which also makes him the perfect model for the cover of her next book – because Jillian is trying to expiate her ghosts by writing them into her fiction, and a slightly altered Drew is the hero of the romantic suspense novel she is in the middle of writing.
When she asks Raine to model for her, she is studiously ignoring her attraction to him, especially since there is an element of uncertainty. Is it Raine she’s attracted to, or just his uncanny resemblance to Drew? And their 18 year age gap keeps her from noticing that Raine is just as attracted to her as she is to him.
Raine and Jillian need each other. Jillian is just the woman that Raine has been searching for. The amount of trauma that Raine has survived, and in some ways is still living through, have made him grow up harder and faster than his years would normally allow. And Jillian needs someone to pull her out of her own head, help her stop clinging to the past, and get her to look towards her own future and her own happiness.
Even though they shouldn’t be, they are a perfect match. And in spite of some disapproval and concern from Jillian’s family, as well as a vicious attack by Raine’s crazy dad, they put together a life that is filled with love and joy.
Until a seeming miracle occurs, and the realities of their situation, that Jillian is hitting mid-life while Raine is still chronologically relatively young, hit them sideways. Jillian decides that it is better for her to cut Raine loose now, before he tears her heart out later. When she tears his out instead, it looks like a happy ever after for these lovers is not meant to be.
But it is.
Escape Rating A-: I said that I have a soft spot for a well-done older woman/younger man romance. I’m also in a position to judge just how well it’s done, because I’ve been living one myself for the last 15 years. Been there, still doing that, got a whole closet full of the t-shirts.
Like some of my favorites in the genre, Dating a Cougar by Donna McDonald, Fallen from Grace by Laura Leone, Knight in Black Leather by Gail Dayton, and On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves, Caught Up In Raine is one where the relationship is done right. All of the doubts about even the possibility of this relationship that go through Jillian’s head are so very real. And while Raine is a bit too good to be true in some respects – not only is he gorgeous but he’s also a gourmet chef and a personal trainer! – the experiences that he has lived through make it feel right that he is looking for someone with more maturity instead of what one might usually expect, a pretty girl a couple/few years younger than he is. He’s experienced too many of life’s hard knocks much too young for what society sees as standard to work for him. He needs someone who has also been through enough to understand where he is coming from.
At the same time, they aren’t going to be going through the same things at the same time. Jillian’s expectations of the rest of her life are different because she’s at a different place in her life than Raine is in his. They can get past that, but it is a very real issue that has to be dealt with for the relationship to work. (That’s also true with an older man/younger woman relationship, but the situation is generally glossed over because that pattern is more expected.)
The tragedies that they have each separately experienced bind them together – the joys that they face together almost drive them apart. But this isn’t a misunderstandammit, the situation feels very real.
And the storybook ending is sweet, intense and totally earned.