Caught Up in RAINE
By LG. O'Connor
Publisher: Collins-Young Publishing
Release Date: April 18, 2016
With each person in her life who dies, 42-year-old, photographer and romance writer, Jillian Grant tucks her heart away a little more tightly. Her parents and her husband are all dead and her beloved aunt's days seem to be numbered but it's Drew's death that has affected her the most. He was her high school boyfriend, her first love, and their future seemed bright and limitless...until a car accident took his life. For 25 years, the heartbreak and guilt of that day have remained a solid barrier around Jillian's heart, causing her to hold others at arm's length. When a chance encounter brings 24-year-old Raine MacDonald into her life, she's shocked by his resemblance to Drew and immediately asks him to be the cover model for the romance she's writing as a tribute to her lost love, never guessing the role he will eventually play in her life.
Raine MacDonald once had the perfect life but then his beloved mother died, his abusive father went off the deep end and Raine's promising future shattered. He's now struggling to make ends meet; working two jobs, going to college part-time and forced to rent a room from his father. Of course, he accepts Jillian's job offer. He needs the money she's offering and it doesn't hurt that his hormones go on high alert every time she's near. When an altercation with his father lands him in the hospital, Jillian brings him to her home to keep him safe and the more time they spend together, the more he likes her...and wants her. She's hung up on her age but all he sees is an intelligent, desirable woman he'd like to know better. He knows she's attracted. Will he be able to convince her to look beyond the age difference and give him a chance?
On the surface, readers may look at the 18 years between these two characters and think it will never work. But it does. Granted, there are times in the story when Raine seems impossibly young and vulnerable but it never strays into "ick" territory for me. In fact, it mirrors the early days of my relationship with my late husband quite realistically, with the gender roles reversed. Jillian and Raine have a good balance, a strong physical attraction and an intellectual connection that goes beyond age. She's strong for him when he needs it but he's also strong for her. They both bring emotional baggage into the relationship and even though she's had more life experience, she needs just as much growth on this journey as Raine does. Maybe, even more. The "big black moment" between them is predictable but how they deal with it is not. My heart broke for both of them but especially for Raine. His pain is a living, breathing, thing but the decision he makes is necessary, I think, if they are to have any hope of making it as a couple.
Caught Up in Raine brought me to laughter and to tears. O'Connor's characters are complex, with strengths, fears, insecurities, and a depth of emotion that bring them to vibrant life on the page. Their story is written with a realistic hand, showing their journey both from inside their private relationship as well as through the reflection of how they are viewed by family, friends, and society in general. It's an emotional journey of love, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, and hope. I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing what L.G. O'Connor brings readers next.
* This week only, Caught Up in Raine is available in e-book format at a special launch week price of $2.99.