The short review is that this is a sprightly, funny opposites-attract romance with appealing characters in flighty, free-spirit Kari and gruff, protective Marc. The conflict is light but realistic. The character nuances and interactions are especially good, the sex scenes are hot, and the ending has real emotional heft. I had no problems with the book. In fact, I truly enjoyed it. I think it would be a good addition to your summer reading list. Though it is listed as book 2 in the Rainbow Valley series, it works fine as a stand-alone novel. And here is my detailed reaction.
The book opens in Houston, Texas with twenty-eight-year-old Kari escaping her expensive wedding to a corporate drone Greg picked out by her wealthy father. Trapped in her wedding dress with countless tiny buttons all down the back, Kari bundles up her train and veil and drives for hours through central Texas until she wrecks near the small town of Rainbow Valley and must seek help at the doorstep of gruff vineyard owner Marc.
Marc is only thirty-five, but has never had a moment of fun since he became a single dad at the age of seventeen. Not only did he have to raise his daughter Angela, but he also had to take care of younger siblings Daniel and Nina and the family vineyard when his folks passed away. But now that he has dropped off Angela at the dorms for her first year of college, he can hit the road on his motorcycle for a three-year journey of self-discovery. He has been planning this forever and has even lined up Daniel to run the vineyard while he decides whether he wants to return to Rainbow Valley. To celebrate his first night of freedom, he settles down with a beer to watch a Dallas Cowboys game, but then he hears a knock on the door. It turns out to be the latest helpless creature needing his protection – and her name is Kari.
My favorite part of this well-written contemporary romance is the characterization. Marc is all man – gruff, straightforward, protective, often inarticulate, and more inclined to action than introspection. And Kari could have been an insufferably gorgeous but needy little princess – especially since she must start off almost helpless to achieve her eventual coming-of-age. But she is neither a snob nor a whiner. She takes a major step of independence by fighting for a grueling waitressing job in a diner. Despite a few wobbly about-to-quit moments, she learns to outdo her mean, trashy coworker in the daily competition for tips by being her natural goofy, spontaneous, kid-friendly self.
Meanwhile, Marc may have grudgingly let her stay in his guest cottage (a plot element that could have undercut her growing self-sufficiency), but he cuts her no slack whatsoever during their initial acquaintanceship. He provides harsh, bracing advice without lifting a finger to do anything for her – until she starts handling things herself. And then he’s right there to support her with aspirin, bandages, and sensible shoes.
The smooth, tight writing is a treat. I highlighted several passages that I enjoyed. For example, when Marc first meets Kari and lets her into his house the night of her highway wreck in the rainstorm, he notices, “She trudged along behind him, the train of her dress making a wide muddy streak across the tiled floor. It looked as if a giant slug had slithered through his house.” Ewwwwwww!
And here is Kari’s insight into the differences between fiancé Greg, whom her father chose for her, and Marc, who tends to the blisters on her feet after her first day on the job: “And Kari just sat there, staring at him with disbelief. She remembered how she’d once asked Greg to rub her sore neck, and he gave it a halfhearted effort with one hand while he checked stock prices on his iPhone with the other.” Smart girl to realize that actions speak louder than words.
Overall, the pace is light, pleasant, and fast and the conflict, while realistic, is limited to small things such as the uncertainties of initial courtship. But the ending, which involves Kari’s definitive coming of age and the whole town acknowledging their regard of Marc, has real emotional power. Put BABY, IT’S YOU on your summer reading list. You’ll be glad you did.
Type of Romance: Male-Female Romance
Title: Baby, It’s You – A Rainbow Valley Novel
Author: Jane Graves
Publisher: Hachette Book Group/ Grand Central Publishing, imprint Forever.
Subgenre: Contemporary Romance
Setting: “Rainbow Valley” a small town in south central Texas
Sex scenes: some mild to medium explicit scenes
Viewpoint: alternating third person (Kari, Marc) by scene/chapter
Note: A free review copy of this novel was provided to me in exchange for a honest review. I received no compensation for this review from author or publisher. Look on Amazon.com for Baby, It's You: A Rainbow Valley Novel