Lucy Jorik is the beloved, adopted, oldest daughter of the former President of the United States. She has spent her life being a good, steady, and responsible daughter, one worthy of the amazing life she got to lead after being adopted. She never rebelled or caused her family embarrassment. Instead she presented the expected picture, buttoned up, wearing pearls, and giving up her social work job to work as a lobbyist on behalf of more disadvantaged children than case work would effect. And now she's all set to marry the perfect man. Only he's not perfect for her and she realizes that she can't marry him no matter what embarrassment it brings to Ted and his family or to hers. So she runs away, acting out of character by jumping on the back of a perfect stranger's motorcycle and zooming off.
Panda is seemingly a bad boy who initially inexplicably allows Lucy to travel around with him for two weeks after she flees. She is trying on a new persona, one a little more selfish than she has ever allowed herself to be, and he is fighting to keep her at arm's length both because he is attracted to her and because he is in fact not a bad boy but instead a bodyguard hired by her family to ensure her safety during the wedding and now beyond. The last night before he admits to her who he is and takes her to the airport to send her home to her family, they both give in to their mutual attraction and have sex, which makes Lucy's feeling of betrayal at his real identity that much bigger. And when she contemplates flying home to her parents, she just can't make herself yet. So she rents a car and heads north to an island in Lake Michigan where Panda has a home, a fact she discovered surreptitiously. She dons a Goth disguise and moves into his cottage where she meets and befriends several islanders. But of course, Panda shows up at the cottage and their antagonism sparks again.
The burgeoning relationship between Lucy and Panda, complete with the heavy freight of both of their pasts, is not the only plot line though. There's a thread about the young African American boy living next door with his white guardian, Bree, who seems completely frozen emotionally for reasons that are revealed eventually. There's a tension and antagonism between Bree and another islander, Mike, who knew her many summers ago as they each struggle to figure out their futures. And there's a television star who has gained an appalling amount of weight thanks to a relationship she ended. She must lose it before she loses her job as the hard-nosed, shaming fitness expert on a show called Fat Island but she has to stay incognito while she follows her deprivation diet and over the top exercise regimen. None of these characters' stories are as secondary as they perhaps should be, coming across as just too much going on and too scattered as a result.
Lucy and Panda as characters are rather bland and their attraction to each other is pretty flat, the reader only knowing about it because we're told it exists. The fact that Lucy is trying to find herself means that the romance is diluted as well. And as for the finding herself thing, well, she's awfully immature for a thirty-one year old woman; her character would be much more believable ten years younger. Further adding to the number of things going on in the novel are the myriad of social issues that Philips introduces. There are issues of poverty, race, sexuality, fidelity, and women's positioning after divorce to name a few. As is the case with the multiple competing plot lines, there is just too much going on to give the needed depth to all of the issues. And the pre-epilogue ending was not only out of the blue, it wasn't very satisfactory either. Normally I like epilogues to romances because I do want to see the happily ever after in action but in this case it has a completely different tone than the rest of the story and seemed as if it belonged to another tale altogether. This was overall an okay escapist romance but ultimately it missed the mark for me in several ways.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.