Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery
Series: Fool's Gold #2
Also in this series: Chasing Perfect, Finding Perfect
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: June 15th 2012
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Back in high school, Liz Sutton was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Then she'd stolen the heart of the most popular boy in town, and their secret romance helped her through the worst of times. Until Ethan Hendrix betrayed her and everything they'd ever meant to each other. Devastated and pregnant, Liz left Fool's Gold, California—forever, she thought….
Now Liz must return to town and face the man who doesn't know of their son's existence. And this time she won't have the option of making a quick getaway. Ethan and Liz can't deny their passionate attraction, even after all these years. But will their desire be enough to spark a second chance at love?
I really enjoyed the first book in Mallory’s Fool’s Gold trilogy and was anxious to start this one. Especially since Ethan really intrigued me in the last book.
The secret baby plot is a tricky one. When done well, it’s one of my favorite plot devices. But it just isn’t done well very often. The important thing is for the reason behind the child being kept a secret to be a legit one. One the reader can sympathize with and understand. I think Mallory gave us that here.
In high school Liz Sutton was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Her abusive alcoholic mother was the town prostitute, and that carried over to her daughter. It didn’t matter that Liz was totally different than her mother, the girls – and boys – she went to high school with assumed she was a slut, too.
Until Ethan Hendrix, that is. He saw the real Liz, the one no one else would look for. He said he loved her, and Liz believed him. Right up until the day she overheard him telling his friends she was nothing to him, nothing more than a good lay. Heartbroken, she fled town. Only to return three weeks later when she found out she was pregnant. She went to tell Ethan, but he was in bed with another girl. Pride and anger pushing her, she fled town again.
She stayed gone for 6 years. Then she had an attack of conscience and decided she needed to tell Ethan the truth. But due to a misunderstanding she thought Ethan didn’t want anything to do with her or her son. It’s been 5 years since and now she’s a successful mystery author. Liz has gladly put Fool’s Gold, and Ethan Hendrix, behind her. But when an email comes through her fan site from a girl claiming to be Liz’s 14 year old niece saying she and her younger sister are alone, Liz knows she has to back to Fool’s Gold and assess the situation. She just hopes she can get in and get out quick, before she runs into Ethan.
Ethan is happy to see Liz back in town. Though he knows he was a jerk to her back in high school, he’s always wished her well and looks forward to seeing her again. But when he finds out that Liz had his son, and kept it to herself for 11 years, he completely flips out. He’s always tried to do what was right, to be the kind of man his father expected him to be, and Liz robbed him of 11 years with his son. He doesn’t believe that she tried to tell him, even though she says she has proof that he rejected them both. He wants the time back she stole from him, and he’s determined to get it..anyway he has to.
Liz is what makes this book. She’s strong, mature, levelheaded and willing to do anything for her son and her nieces. She wasn’t a martyr or a woman filled with self-pity. She was very refreshing.When she receives the email from her niece, she immediately makes plans to go check out the situation. I really liked how she handled that. She just..handled it. There was no waffling or worrying about herself – her only thought was for the two young girls who’d been on their own.
Similarly, she was great about the situation with Ethan. Even though she had good reason to believe Ethan wanted nothing to do with his son, she wants them to have a relationship. She did her best to make herself and Tyler available so that Ethan could get to know him. She was also fair and careful to nurture Tyler’s feelings about Ethan.
Ethan was justifiably angry over Liz keeping Tyler from him. He missed out on 11 years with his child. 11 years is a long time, and he knows he’ll never get that time back. While I understood why he was angry – and was even angry on his behalf quite a bit – I think he spent too much of the book dwelling on the negative. He undermined Liz with Tyler, turned half the town against her, and refused to accept any of the responsibility for his part in their past. In his mind, nothing he’d done was as bad as Liz not telling him about his son. While I agree that Liz was wrong, Ethan played a large part in what kept Liz from telling him initially. Plus, Liz truly believed he knew about Tyler and wanted nothing to do with either of them. When presented with the proof of her claims, he softens a bit, but not enough.
That isn’t to say Liz was perfect and totally blameless. She was young – only 18 – when she found out she was pregnant, so fear, anger and pride kept her from trying to tell Ethan about Tyler for 6 years. I can’t fault her for the 5 years after that, but the first 6 years are fully on her. She should have set aside her hurt feelings and done what was right. I also think she was just as guilty as Ethan when it came to clinging to her anger over the past. Yes, Ethan rejected her in a cruel way, then added insult to injury by being in bed with another woman not 3 weeks after she took off. But she spent a large part of the book harping on Ethan about how he needed to let go of his anger or he’d never be able to move on, yet didn’t practice what she preached.
In the end I was able to forgive Liz easier than Ethan, however, because she was able to admit she was wrong. She took full responsibility for not trying harder to tell him about Tyler and she realized she was holding on to her anger and did her best to let it go. Not that Ethan made it easy.
Still, I believed in them and wanted to see them make it work. Both characters were very real. Mallery really did an excellent job of bringing them to life. They both made mistakes, but at their core they both wanted what was best for their child.
While parts of it frustrated me, overall I found it to be a lovely romance. Mallery really showcased the characters and gave us a well developed story. From the anger and frustration Liz and Ethan feel, down to the fear of abandonment her nieces suffer with, each character was real and emotionally compelling.The town of Fool’s Gold became real to me once again, and I wasn’t quite ready to leave it when the story was done.
4.25 out of 5