Exposure by Susan Andersen
Emma Sands runs away from her New Orleans home with her baby Grace (Gracie) to escape her former guardian, Grant, whom she has just discovered has been spying on her and her family and possibly killed her brother and husband. She finds herself in the tiny Washington State island of Port Flannerty where she quickly draws the attention of the local sheriff, Elvis Donnelly. Emma is described as a tall busty blond and Elvis is a six-and-a-half foot monster with a jagged scar on one cheek and a prosthesis for one hand courtesy from an explosion when he was a big city cop. Not surprisingly the two are immediately attracted to each other and are increasingly thrown in each other's path. Emma ingratiates herself with the local townspeople by offering an alternative to the local cheating car mechanic, her cute little girl, and her overall good cheer and good will. However, the townspeople are not so fond of Elvis as his scars frighten many.
Her run to Port Flannerty has not put Emma a safe distance away from her enemies however and Gracie goes missing prompting a 4- hour emergency where a conspiracy to make Emma and her friends seem unstable and to make Emma aware that she will never be safe emerges. Elvis appoints himself Emma's guardian and refuses to let her follow her first instinct to flee. Instead he keeps a close eye on her, including some nice hot between the sheets action ensues(although not necessarily between the sheets). It eventually comes to light that Emma has enemies both on and off the island and protecting her becomes more and more difficult as the islanders rally around Emma and their sheriff. Finally Grant plays his hand and it is up to Emma's new friends and the sheriff to save the day. We get a nice satisfying happy ending complete with precocious kid and wedding plans.
This was my first romantic suspense and it was to lead me on a disappointing chase as few romantic suspense novels are as well-written, as fun, and as all around great as this one. Both characters are awesome and so well written. Emma's accept is dead on and Elvis' angst over his "deformities" is clear and comes across as genuine and not just typical hero angst over angry fathers. Both characters have a well developed past that fully explains who they've become to be. I loved the heat between these two- compustible. While there weren't too many steamy scenes the lead up was certainly well done and what little there was was amazing. There wasn't too much angst going on, jsut some anger at each other when he thinks she's running away and when he stops her from escaping from what she perceives as threats.
There is also a fun little side plot with two other islanders, Sam and Claire, a married couple who has had tremendous trouble maintaining their marriage after their son Evan ran off a cliff and died. Brief little scenes follow the couple as they slowly work their way back to some semblance of normalcy. The only annoying thing about this book is Gracie Sands. She's cute, and sometimes so much fun to read about- especially when she's angry at Elvis for taking her mom away from her or using his guilt over it to get stuff from him. However, she speaks like no just-turned 3 year-old I've ever known in my entire life. I worked at a preschool and most of the four-year olds didn't have sentences this coherent. To disguise these grown-up words coming out of such a young mouth the author throws in about 4 different lisps; everything from th,s, f, r, l, and w's. It was a little too cutsey poo for me.
Rating: Loved the book, not necessarily the kid, and I've returned to it over and over - over the past six years. Of course it's a five.