First Come Twins, by Helen Brenna

>> Thursday, November 26, 2009

TITLE: First Come Twins
AUTHOR: Helen Brenna

PAGES: 256
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Superromance

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Category romance
SERIES: Starts a trilogy set in Mirabelle Island

REASON FOR READING: I was in the mood for category romance, and I'd heard good things about Brenna

He couldn’t stay. She couldn’t leave.

Noah Bennett swore he’d never return to Mirabelle Island. Facing the love of his life after she married his older brother would’ve been too much to bear. But when Noah’s injured as a photojournalist imbedded with the military, the only safe place to go is home.

Although a few surprises await Noah on his return, one constant remains. Sophie Rousseau, now a widow with teenage twins, is as entrenched in island life as ever, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get Noah off her island. Before the only man she’s ever loved breaks her heart all over again.
Sophie Rousseau and Noah Bennett were childhood sweethearts, growing up in isolated Mirabelle Island. Noah always hated Mirabelle and intended to leave as soon as possible and Sophie, who quite liked Mirabelle but never had much of a personality (aha, the criticism starts!), was content to follow him. However, right before they were supposed to leave for university, Sophie's father (or it might have been her mother, I can't quite remember) got sick and died. Rousseaus have run the inn in Mirabelle for generations, and Sophie felt obliged to stay and help out, and when her other parent also died, this turned into her life's work.

Very, very soon after Noah left, Sophie married his brother and had two children (the twins in the title). Hearing this, Noah stayed away for almost fifteen years, becoming a photojournalist and spending his life travelling from warzone to warzone. His final assignment was Iraq, where his vehicle was caught by a bomb, killing everyone else and blowing up Noah's foot. Having trouble adapting to this and at risk of developing full blown PTSD, Noah ends up in quiet, peaceful Mirabelle island for the first time in years, where he and Sophie soon meet again.

What I liked: The main good thing about this book was the way the author avoided cliché. A lot of the description above will probably bring to mind many other category romances, but a) Mirabelle isn't portrayed as perfect and its inhabitants more virtuous than sinful city people. It's a much more even-handed portrayal, with the author being very clear about what could be problematic about living in a place so isolated, especially during the long winters, but also recognising the good points. And it's the same with the characters: there's nice and not-so-nice people here, and when the islanders are being unfair to Noah, it's not portrayed as being ok. b) What could have been a run-of-the-mill secret baby plot (you saw that coming, right?) was a lot more complicated than that. I liked what Brenna did here.

What I disliked: Sophie, basically. She was spineless, too easily influenced by other people. The clincher came when (trying to avoid spoilers here) Noah questions why she didn't take steps to find something out, and she bleats (paraphrasing) "I wanted to, but so-and-so convinced me not to!". Oh, not your fault then, honey. This was something big, too. Idiot. Sophie was also incredibly conservative, and I don't mean politically, but in terms of being petrified of change, any sort of change. For Sophie, "but it's always been like this" is more than reason enough not to even consider change. In fact, she's the one making the argument. This makes her both narrow-minded and short-sighted in the story. There's a subplot about her brother trying to make some changes to save Mirabelle from the decline int he tourist industry, and this showcased Sophie's worst flaws.

What I thought was just ok: Noah and his story were all right, but didn't captivate me. Same for the romance... meh.

MY GRADE: Some good, some bad, some merely ok and a book that took me a bit too long to finish. That's a perfect C.


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