Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from netgalley.
I have very little good to say about this book. We'll start with little good there is - it's not badly written. The author does seem to have some reasonably accomplished writing skills and if I had enjoyed the stories/characters more, I can see myself enjoying one of her books.
The problem with this book is that it is both completely unoriginal and I felt utterly disconnected from all of the characters. There was nothing about the book that I found emotionally compelling - it seemed like all of the characters were arms length, and all of the characters were basically caricatures. I can sum each of them up in one word::
The basic story line is so, so, so well-worn that I barely even need to describe it: damaged but beautiful heroine meets hero when he saves her from her abusive boyfriend. She continues to need saving - she loses her job and gets thrown out of her home by her vicious, hateful grandmother - and hero obliges.
The book is a constant see-saw of Lacey gets something good going, the bottom falls out, there is a coincidence or a lucky break that saves her at the last minute, wash, rinse, repeat. It hits all of the NA highpoints: an attempted sexual assault, a completed sexual assault, cyber-bullying, child abuse, an alcoholic parent who is unable to care for her children.
I am certainly glad that I do not live in this fictional town, where all men are capable of sexual assault, all women (except one) are terrible friends or judgmental, mean gossips, and no one ever intervenes in a situation where a child is obviously being subjected to criminal child abuse.
Which brings me to a specific complaint. I don't usually bitch about factual inaccuracies in books but... sometimes I do bitch about factual inaccuracies in books. This is one of those times because there is a gross factual inaccuracy related to the legal system in this book that could have been resolved by the author picking up the phone and reaching out to someone who could assist her in understanding how the child protection system actually works. Or, even, googling it.
It's something called "mandatory report of child abuse" which is pretty much universal these days. In the book, there is a teacher who is quite certain that Lacey's younger brother is being physically abused. Teachers are mandatory reporters under Mississippi law (where this book is set). It took me precisely one google search to find this:
Who may report a suspected case of child abuse?
In accordance with Section 43-21-353 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, "Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, family protection worker, family protection specialist, child caregiver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services, ..." (emphasis mine).
A teacher is a school employee. The teacher who hates Lacey because she believes Lacey is abusing her brother would be required to report the suspected abuse to the authorities. What happens then? Well, of course, it is inconvenient for the plot line of the book, but a child protection worker comes out and there are some specific things that occur to ensure that Lacey's baby brother is safe.
This bugs the crap out of me. If an author is going to use rape, or abuse, or child abuse, or even alcoholism, as a plot element, then it is incumbent upon them to do the research so that their plot element is convincing. So that it rings true.
Anyway, enough of that. There is another inaccuracy, but I'll leave it alone.
Tl/DR version: trite, been there done that, sexual abuse/rape casually used as a angst-generator, and no emotional investment in the characters. But it's not horribly written.