Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery

I went to the Romantic Times Convention this year with a couple of friends. As we perused the schedule of events, one of them was thrilled to see that there were several sessions with Susan Mallery and focused on her small town romances set in Fool's Gold, California. The other two of us had never read any of the books but we were happy enough to tag along and listen. As I'd been looking for a few more contemporary romances to balance out my not so secret historical Regency obsession, I decided that I'd give these romances by the funny and charming Ms. Mallery a try. And of course, true to form, I had to start at the beginning of the ever increasing series with the first book, Chasing Perfect.

Charity Jones is new to Fool's Gold. She's just been hired as the new city planner for the small town and she's been tasked with bringing new business to the area, especially businesses run by men. Because Fool's Gold has a serious lack of young, single men and a preponderance of single women. But somehow, Charity manages to interest the two bachelors that the town does have, Robert, the town treasurer, and local retired cycling celebrity Josh Golden. The former is a solid guy but he just doesn't make sparks fly for Charity the way that Josh does. However, Charity is reluctant to get involved with Josh because he's too famous, too perfect. She has a deep desire for the family she's been missing her whole life, having lived with just her mother, moving from pillar to post as she grew up, never setting down roots so a boyfriend who chases fame around the world is not ideal for her.

Josh might be a famous cyclist and the town's golden child but he has his own issues. He gave up cycling after an accident left a young rider, to whom he was a mentor, dead. He hasn't spoken to his best friend Ethan in years even though he desperately misses him. And he harbors abandonment issues stemming from his mother leaving him in Fool's Gold when he was just a young child. Rather than admit his fears and face his demons, he rides his bike only at night and prefers to let the town think that he's a playboy. He never counted on the complication that is Charity, his lightning hot attraction to her, and his growing feelings for the lovely new town planner. The fact that she is very much behind a push to hold a bike race in town to elevate Fool's Gold's profile doesn't help matters at all either.

As Charity and Josh get to know each other and end up hot and heavy, there is a lot more going on in the town as well. A hospital is considering building a branch in the town, a massive amount of money given to the town by the state has gone missing and must be tracked down, and Charity discovers that her expertise is not the only reason that she was considered for her job. The chemistry between Charity and Josh is immediate and steamy. Fool's Gold as a location is charming; it's the ideal small town, welcoming and friendly. As this is the first in a long running series, there are lots of unfinished plot lines left to tease out in future books but none of them are left in a frustrating or unsatisfying way. The fact that Charity is unable to see Josh's point of view when he presents it but accepts it almost immediately when Mayor Marsha lays it out at the end of the book is a bit too convenient in resolving their difference of opinion but aside from that hiccup, this is a warm and satisfying story.

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