Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits (Harlequin, 2012)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
I thought I had figured out the structure of romance novels back when I went on a romance-novel jag in high school, but romance novelists seem to have twisted the tale these days. It used to be that, while you knew from the outset that the heroine was going to end up with the frustrating, gorgeous guy who looks suspiciously like Fabio, it wasn’t going to happen until the last page. The last few romances I’ve read, though, the two main characters find their way to romance by halfway through the book, and invariably I end up wondering “okay, what are they going to do for the next hundred-odd pages?” There’s usually a compelling answer to that question, but rarely is the answer more compelling than it is in Pushing the Limits.
Plot: Echo Emerson used to be one of her high school’s popular girls, until the night something happened that left her with horrific scars on her arms. Since then she has withdrawn into herself, is never in public without arm-length gloves or long sleeves, and still interacts with only her staunchest friends from back in the day. Enter Noah Hutchins, one of the school’s bad boys, but one with promise, a guy who needs some tutoring help. Their mutual guidance counselor puts them together, and… sparks fly, though neither one is willing to admit it. But, this being a romance novel…
However, the romance often takes a backseat to the more pressing concerns in Echo’s life—her desire to overcome her mental block and find out what really happened that traumatic night, her obsession with fixing up her late brother’s car, etc. This is, of course, not a bad thing, even in a romance novel; there’s plot aplenty to go around. There are also really well-drawn, defined characters, which of course helps the reader to empathize with whatever character s/he feels most drawn to, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
An excellent piece of work, this, and one which deserves a wide audience. Even if you’re not a romance reader, give this one a look—it’s a stunner. ****