Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 336 Pages
Formats: Hardcover, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Charmed by the Characters
Surgical resident Ellie Sullivan went for a jog in the park near her hospital to unwind from a harrowing day, her thoughts on her future now that her fellowship was almost over. The sound of gunshots snaps her out of her musings and focuses her attention on a man and a woman hurrying out of the woods. While Ellie watches, the man turns and fires off a shot at a pursuing FBI agent before the pair make it to their car and get away.
Jumping into action, Ellie races over to assist the downed agent and comes face-to-yummy-pectorals with FBI agent Max Daniels. As a witness, Ellie is marginal, the man and women were wearing disguises and she knew she couldn't identify them, but as a surgeon she's the best. Max watches with a critical eye, then follows the surgeon and potential witness to the hospital. When it becomes clear that Ellie's identity has been compromised and the Landrys have put a hit out on her, a harmless attraction to a beautiful doctor turns into a burning need to protect and Max follows Ellie to her hometown where she'd gone to visit her family preceding her sister's wedding.
With a hitman out to kill her and a childhood stalker still terrorizing her, the woman needs a keeper, and Max is determined to fill that role until he can guarantee her safety. While he protects her, though, and she grudgingly accepts his protection, neither one is prepared for the greatest threat of all...the threat to their hearts.
Garwood has tossed a little bit of everything into her new romantic suspense. There are enough plot points to fill about three books in two different genres. As if the Landrys weren't enough, Ellie's past is brutal and complex, she's a brilliant child prodigy who finished college when most her age were finishing high school, has been terrorized by a stalker from the age of 11, almost killed before she was 12, hidden from the psychopath most of her life since, and has an ex-fiance who became her ex-fiance the night she brought him home to meet her family and he hopped into bed with her younger sister. And the lovely couple is not only still together, but they're now getting married, which is why Ellie is visiting her home town.
And that's just Ellie's backstory. Max's isn't quite as chock full of angst, but it's no waltz through the tulips, either.
In part because there's so much going on in Ellie's life, and in part because the Landrys and her stalker are such divergent threads, much about the suspense aspects of this book didn't quite work for me. It felt a little messy and all over the place. What did work for me though were the main characters and their evolving relationship.
I totally fell for Ellie and Max. Ellie is a survivor and a woman who, despite everything and after living a life of fear, still manages to be a strong, independent woman who refuses to put her family at risk and is determined not to let fear stop her. Nor does she shy away from a virile, handsome man like Max. She accepts her attraction to him, accepts the consequences, and acts on it, even though she knows the potential dangers. And Max was just a gruff, protective steamroller with moments of tenderness and acute understanding that were very appealing.
I loved them together, loved how it started and was highly amused by how it ended. The sparks flew hot and heavy between them and there were moments of humor and passion that were thoroughly entertaining.
I could have done without Ellie's sister Annie's ancillary storyline. Again, it felt like just one more plot thread to toss onto an already huge pile, and I ended up perplexed as to what need it filled in the big picture when such a large part of the last chapter or two was given over to tying it up instead of focusing on Ellie and Max. I would also have preferred a slightly larger portion of crow served to Ava, who was about as irredeemable a character as I've ever read. Seeing her squished like a bug would have been more appealing.
The Ideal Man seemed more heavily focused on the lighter aspects of the developed plot than it did on the suspense, with all the pre-wedding family/sister conflict to go along with the romantic threads. There was precious little in the way of actual investigative or police procedural scenes. My personal reading preferences lie in a better balance between the two in the romantic suspense genre. Despite that, I couldn't help but thoroughly enjoy the main characters, both individually and together as a couple. Ellie and Max completely won me over early into the book, and as the story progressed I was continually charmed and entertained by their antics. I ended up liking the book because of it...and them.