Here Comes The Groom, by Karina Bliss

>> Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TITLE: Here Comes The Groom
AUTHOR: Karina Bliss

COPYRIGHT: 2011
PAGES: 288
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Superromance

SETTING: Contemporary New Zealand
TYPE: Category Romance
SERIES: Starts a series

If Jocelyn Swann weren't so furious, she'd probably laugh. Her best friend, Dan Jansen, has launched a campaign worthy of his Special Forces training to arrange their wedding, from music and minister to flowers and food. What part of no does he not understand?

Their marriage "agreement" was a tipsy scrawl on the back of a coaster…three years ago! It's not a question of love. Of course she loves Dan. She's loved him all her life. If only she could get him to slow down a minute and listen—to be the friend she needs right now—she could convince him that marriage would ruin everything.
Karina Bliss landed herself a spot on my autobuy list with just one book, and a category romance, no less. Her What The Librarian Did was so fantastic that I've collected all her backlist and when I saw this new one coming out, I pre-bought it. It didn't disappoint.

Jocelyn Swann and Dan Jansen have been best friends forever. They haven't seen much of each other the last few months, though, as Dan was stationed in Afghanistan, and Jocelyn was dealing with some issues of her own.

So Jo is understandably surprised when Dan shows up out of the blue one day and announces they are getting married. It turns out a few years earlier, as a bit of a joke, the two made a "contract" that if they were unmarried by the time they reached the ripe old age of 33, they would marry each other. Well, they are 33 now, and so Dan is going ahead with the wedding arrangements (church, dress, party, the works!) however much Jo insists the wedding is not going forward.

So here we have a hero who's decided he and the heroine are going to get married and proceeds with the arrangements (including telling everyone) without seemingly caring a whit that the heroine tells him again and again (and again) that she doesn't want to marry him. Surely I thought he was a major arsehole and an arrogant bastard to boot? Well, I didn't. For some reason, it was ok with me. Maybe because much as he blithely keeps going, Dan knows and Jo knows that it's up to Jo whether she shows up and he's not actually browbeating her about that.

I also understood where Dan was coming from. He's just faced a devastating situation where his comrades were attacked while he was off-duty. This has also meant that he's newly conscious of his own mortality, and made him realise what's important to him and what he wants out of life. Also, he feels guilty for not being there when his friends were attacked and thus surviving unscathed, and this guilt makes him feel like he needs to live well for his friends.

Not only did Bliss make me actually like a hero who was behaving in such a way, she simultaneously made me completely understand Jo's continued refusal to even consider the wedding plans. There's just so much going on with her. The one you see from the start is the situation with her grandmother, whose dementia is getting worse and worse, and whose care is wearing Jo down more than she can stand. This is really heartbreaking, especially the contrast between Jo's memories of when her gran was well and the situation now. But there's also something else going on with Jo, something we only find out later and that I don't think I should reveal. This is even more reason for her to feel there's no way she'll go through with the wedding.

And there's quite a lot else in this deceptively short book. Dan's taking over his dad's ranch, and his father is having trouble dealing with not having his work to do every day, and his wife's about to leave him, because she's been waiting for years for the day when they can actually enjoy life, and that day doesn't ever seem to come. There's also quite a bit of sequelbaiting, which I didn't mind in the least. There are going to be stories about Dan's teammates in the SAS in Afghanistan, who've all survived a horrible attack, and almost all the future characters show up here. I'm very intrigued to know what's next.

Unfortunately, the ending is what keeps this book from an A grade. Things slipped a bit in the resolution. Jo does something right at the end that I just didn't get. I'm not going to say what it is, but I didn't understand why she felt Dan needed this, or why Dan agreed in the end. It made no sense to me.

Still, this was a fantastic read, and I'm looking forward to more from Bliss.

MY GRADE: A B+.

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