Series: The Three Musketeers, Book 2
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 212 Pages
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Loveswept publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Vive le Musketeers!
Dara Colbourne grew up chasing after her twin brother and his two best friends, always the fierce little firecracker, d'Artagnan to their Three Musketeers. But that was fifteen years ago, and she's no longer the fearless and feisty girl she once was. She's just lost too much, suffered too deeply because of high-risk jobs and thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies. Now she focuses all her passions on the job and calling she loves, working tirelessly to grant as many wishes as she can for sick and terminally ill children through the Dream A Little Dream Foundation.
As the foundation is funded entirely on private donations, Dara can't turn down the generous...if unfortunately specific...donation made by one of her brother's best friends. She doesn't have time to get Jarrett to change his mind about those specifics, either, even if she had access to him while he's on his honeymoon. That's why the bane of her childhood existence is in her office, spilling coffee all over her and generally sucking up all the air with his extreme hotness.
Zach Brogan, thrill seeker extraordinaire, owns and runs Great Escape, an outfitter that caters to the wildest and most dangerous challenges of man against nature - and against himself. If she had a choice, Dara wouldn't go anywhere near him or his outfitter business. Problem is, she doesn't have a choice. What she has is a deeply disturbing reaction to the one man she needs to avoid at all costs, and a fear that in granting the wishes of the children, she'll end up risking far more than she's willing to lose...again.
This second installment of Kauffman's The Three Musketeers series is a cute, sexy romance that's held up well in the years since its original release. Kauffman certainly creates interesting, diverse characters with highly individual personalities. It was a strength in the previous book and it's as significant a benefit here. Dara and Zach are original, solid, three-dimensional characters with great chemistry.
The plot of this classic romance doesn't pack much in the way of surprises, and it has a lighter, more traditional style and substance than its predecessor, but on the surface that's not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, it was a detriment to me, but only because I was so pleasantly surprised with the unique elements in the first book. Kauffman set the bar there and I don't think this one quite matched it, even though the conclusion to this story felt much less abrupt and campy than in its predecessor.
The emotional baggage Dara lugged around from the loss of her father and fiance, and the ramifications from those losses, were realistically portrayed. In fact, I preferred her character to Zach, who struck me as a bit too much of a Peter Pan for me to fully embrace as a romantic lead. Maybe that says more about my own issues with thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies, but I have to admit, I was more sympathetic of Dara's reasons for not getting involved with Zach than I was impressed with Zach's assertions that he was careful with the risk-to-danger ratio in his lifestyle and occupation.
It's not that I disliked Zach; I don't mean to give that impression. He had several sterling qualities, and I enjoyed him quite a lot during his more serious, intense moments. He was an absolute doll with the children from the wish foundation. He's just not the sort of character that translates well to the long-haul, Happily Ever After guy in my mind, but again, that's probably more about my issues than in any way a criticism of the story.
Regardless of those thoughts and impressions, I have to admit I was most tickled by Zach's nickname for Dara. It's silly, I know, and I'm not even sure why it had such appeal, but I grinned every time he called her Dart (short for d'Artagnan). I'd love to take the high road, say the appeal was in the exemplary way it helped define Dara's personality and backstory with an economy of words, as the nickname in general and the manner in which Zach used it in particular said a lot about who she was before her losses and it set a framework around her childhood relationship with Zach. Truth is, I just liked the sound of it. It was peppy.
Hey, I said it was silly.
Had I read this book first, I may have felt more favorably towards the reading experience, because without a doubt, Kauffman creates a cute, fun, touching, and sizzling romance that holds its own in the modern world. In light of the first book, though, this one was just slightly less entertaining and had fewer perks and unique gems to make it stand out. That one was memorable for those facets. This one probably won't stick with me for long, but still kept me mostly entertained while reading it.
The Three Musketeers Series: