Brightwater #3 (can be read as a stand-alone)
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sometimes the worst mistakes turn out to be the best…
Smoke jumper Wilder Kane once reveled in the rush from putting out dangerous wildfires. But after a tragic accident, he’s cut himself off from the world, refusing to leave his isolated cabin. When a headstrong beauty bursts in, Wilder finds himself craving the fire she ignites in him, but letting anyone near his darkness would be a mistake.
After her Hollywood life went up in smoke, Quinn Higsby decided to leave Tinseltown behind and return to Brightwater to care for her ailing father. She spends her days in a small bookstore, until her peaceful existence is up-ended by a fascinating but damaged man. Quinn is determined not to be scared off by Wilder, not once she’s experienced the heat of his passions.
But when an arsonist targets the community and Wilder is accused, he must confront the ghosts of his past. Will his desire for Quinn burn him up or will he be able to tame the wildness inside and rekindle a hope for their future?
Best Worst Mistake has the type of romantic setup sure to make us avid romance readers swoon and fall immediately in love: a damaged, lonely hero who finds a second chance at living in the arms of an utterly adorable woman. Ms. Riley leaves us with little choice but to become swept up in the free-flowing honesty, endearing awkwardness and heated moments between Wilder and Quinn, and we find ourselves with a dopey grin on our faces more often than not throughout.
Wilder has complete ownership of our hearts from page one as we bear witness to the tragic accident that robs him of his leg and leaves him with an extremely surly (but also charming) disposition. He understandably feel like less of a man in the aftermath, the physical loss combining with a lifelong emotional loss to turn him into a recluse with little other than sharp words to offer people. His initial interactions with Quinn are as cute as can be though, characterized by both the blurting of possibly the worst compliments ever and a series of weighted silences that Quinn feels a compulsion to fill. Quinn, for her part, is as thoroughly enjoyable as Wilder, taking his grumpiness in stride and returning nervous ramblings the likes of which he's never seen before. The two of them together are light and fun despite the seriousness of their life situations (Wilder's guilt over his role in his parents deaths and the possibility of Quinn developing early onset Alzheimer's like her father), and spending several hours with them is time more than well spent.
The only minor complaint with this contemporary romance is that it starts much stronger than it finishes, the hilarious interactions between a crabby Wilder and determinedly positive Quinn turning a bit sappy as their romance progresses in intensity. It's not enough to detract from the overall success of them as a couple, but their tendency to continuously compliment one another and share their ever-deepening feelings again and again does serve as a reminder that we're reading a romance novel. Overall however, Best Worst Mistake is a quick, feel-good read sure to bring a little warmth in preparation for cold winter months ahead.