Very emotional story of a teenage girl struggling to overcome grief after her boyfriend is gunned down in front of her eyes. The author so skilfully described what Scarlett was going through that I could fully empathise with Scarlett and felt her pain as if it were my own. This strong characterisation is a great strength to have in an author.
In terms of plot, I didn't like the way people kept dropping out of the story, like Annie and Jake. Perhaps it's understandable that some people don't know how to respond to another's deep grief but I would have liked to see the friendships getting patched up once Scarlett starts to make a new life without Levi, especially since Annie and Jake have long histories with Scarlett. I didn't like the way that they dropped out of the story and were never heard of again, suggesting that the rift was never healed. Similarly, we are never told how Scarlett's family situation worked out, whether it was resolved. This is a thread that was left hanging and it made the story feel unfinished.
Too many unanswered questions. Why is it so important to Kayla to buy a house RIGHT NOW that she is willing to take the risk of answering an unorthodox ad in order to get the money? Why is it so important for James to deceive his family, to the point of being willing to pay $4,500 to hire someone to pose as his girlfriend? So what if they've been bugging him to get married--he's 32, isn't he man enough to stand up to them? Besides, why doesn't he want to spend Christmas with his family?
I suppose these questions might be answered later as there are 2 more installments to go in this trilogy, but the lack of answers made the characters seem flat. Because we're not given any good reasons for the motivations behind their individual actions, I wasn't able to identify with them or understand why they made the decisions they did. There's no emotional punch.
Furthermore, despite both Kayla and James avowing that they absolutely do not want a relationship at this point in time, they don't seem to be fighting their attraction to each other very strongly. There's no inner conflict, no "What am I doing?", no "Oh no, how could this be happening?", no "Should I continue with this?". No, they just seem happy to go wih the flow, and it doesn't jive. Again, the author wasted an opportunity to inject some real emotion into the story and pull the reader into her characters' feelings.
As a result, I wasn't emotionally invested in the characters and didn't feel a need to root for them to get their happily-ever-after. Everything is going so smoothly that it's clear they're already happy together, and I don't see a need to read the rest of the trilogy to get the answer. I'm pleased though that the book didn't end on a cliffhanger, because that would've annoyed me a lot, but the author could have injected a little more conflict--either internal conflict or conflict between the characters--to liven up the story. As it is, the story is sweet, but that's all it is. Sweet.
Two more things that bugged me: Who in this day and age would receive a form through email, fill it up and fax it back? I would have filled it up and sent it back through email. I don't know if the typical American has a fax machine in the house but most of the rest of the world doesn't, unless you are operating a business from home. And a reply fax saying, "Check your email"? Really? At first I thought this story might have been written in the 90s, which might account for the use of the fax, but then I realised the next installment in the trilogy is coming out in Oct 2012.
Finally, are you telling me James is a LAWYER and he hires someone to pose as his girlfriend without checking out her background? Like, sure, he sends her a detailed questionnaire, but doesn't he for one moment take into account the possibility that she might be lying through her teeth? What kind of lawyer takes peoples' answers at face value, especially when $4,500 is at stake? And he doesn't think through the scheme from every angle before implementing it, so it never even occurs to him that there must be some signs of physical affection between him and Kayla in order to successfully fool his family into believing that she's his girlfriend? The success of his legal firm must be down to sheer luck, it seems to me!
The plot was a very tried-and-true formula: Sexy billionaire suddenly finds himself in charge of small child. Sexy billionaire hires nanny to care for small child. Nanny and child develop special bond, while sexy billionnaire and nanny develop the hots for each other. All ends as you might expect it to end.
Despite it being such a predictable plot, in the hands of a good writer it could be something fresh and special. This author writes well in terms of language, but character development and pacing is slightly lacking. For example, we are allowed to see Celine's internal dialogue where she's attracted to Pierce and then later when she realises she's fallen for him. But on Pierce's side, we don't get to see that moment when he realises he's in love with her. The author skipped that part. We go from "She's so hot" to "I can't live without you" with nothing in between. Another example was when Pierce decides to take Kylie and Celine on a trip to visit Celine's family in France, because "You've talked so much about Marc and Sylvan (Celine's younger brothers) that I feel I almost know them". Really? Where were all those conversations? From what I understood, he's only around on weekends, and during that time Kylie is always present. When did they have personal conversations about her family?
The scene with Pierce and the kitten was jarring and totally unnecessary. If the author wanted to show Pierce as a vulnerable human being, it could've been done in, oh, probably at least ten different ways that would have fit the story better. Similarly, the abrupt way Celine decides to leave Pierce's employ (and her reason for it) is kind of silly.
Furthermore, if Pierce realised he's in love with Celine, why did he not pursue her? He seems to have made no effort to stay in contact with her or to persuade her to change her mind when she insists on leaving his employ. It's only when she goes back to see Kylie that he suddenly tells her how he feels.
It seemed like the whole thing with Sophia (the requisite unpleasant, possessive, delusional Other Woman) fizzled out. Firstly, she's a complete caricature as we're never told exactly why she behaves so possessively about Pierce. Does she really care for him, or does she only want him for his money, what?? It's like she's not a real person, she's just there because the author needed to throw a spanner into the works and make Celine feel insecure. Secondly, when Celine tells Pierce about Sophia's behaviour, we never see him confronting Sophia or setting her straight. So it's not clear to the reader whether Sophia ever realises that her hopes and dreams in his direction are totally futile. Thirdly, I fully expected Sophia to be the one behind The Climatic Incident, but the way her role in it was unveiled seemed like an afterthought. It was revealed in the epilogue, sort of like the author realised, oh, people are going to wonder! Let's tie this loose end up! I actually expected Pierce to find out what had happened and then go after Celine and tell her the truth, and persuade her to come back. Fourthly, not only did this not happen, in the reunion scene when Celine comes back to visit Kylie, Sophia opens the door, and then Kylie runs out, starts calling Celine "mommy" and Pierce proposes. I was like, where is Sophia when all this is going on, and what is she doing? Why does she not try to stop it? It was like the author forgot all about Sophia and forgot she was present. Finally, in the epilogue Sophia suddenly does a 180-degree turn and becomes not only human, but friendly enough to be a big help to Celine in the wedding preparations. That was completely out of character and unbelievable. There's nothing to explain this sudden about-turn, and if I were Celine I'd never have trusted in a single piece of advice Sophia were to give me about my wedding!