Tracey Alvarez's Melting Into You is a gripping and moving romance
How delightful to travel back (virtually) to New Zealand’s Stewart Island via Tracey Alvarez’s new entry in her Due South series, Melting Into You. I found the description of this wild island's winter most refreshing as I swelter here in 90+F degree days. Once again, Alvarez has written about real-to-life characters who are facing major issues in their lives.
Ben, the swinging bachelor whose longest commitment was measured in just a few months (and that to guarantee an assistant for his tourist shark dives), is faced with the result of a long ago one night fling. A nine-year-old daughter he never knew existed till she was literally dropped on his doorstep by her self-involved mum. As someone who took on the mantle of family protector and provider when his father died, Ben has never wanted to be responsible for anyone else again. But he can’t dodge paternity forever.
Contrast him with his sister’s best friend and roommate, Kezia, who’s a widowed mum of a precocious daughter whose leukemia (now in remission) was almost fatal. She’s the new island school teacher and although there’s a very mutual attraction at work between the two of them it remains unacknowledged as their lives are just too different. Add Jade (Ben’s daughter) and Zoe (Kezia’s) desire for a family to the mix and Ben and Kezia may need to reassess their lives and give that attraction a whirl.
In Alvarez’s first Due South book, In Too Deep, I had enjoyed the character of Ben, even though he seemed like consummate player who had a proverbial unending buffet of tourist lovelies to choose from. But there was something truly solid about this bad boy and when he rescued Kezie from a very uncomfortable situation, I could seem him as a white knight (perhaps with slightly tarnished armor). However, faced with his daughter it seems that any gentleness has been lost and he only becomes human again when his hormones are activated by Kezia. With Jade staying with him for two weeks, he (with Kezia’s guidance) finds a way to connect with this child that seemingly no one wants.
Along the way there’s quite a bit of almost consummations between Ben and Kezia, but if she’s looking for a real relationship is he capable of offering one. The dynamics change once again, when the absent mum calls on the day she’s scheduled to arrive to say she’s decided Ben should keep Jade - permanently - as she’s off to be married to a banker who doesn’t want encumbrances.
Thus Jade and Ben and Zoe and Kezie little by little become a family. Shared meals, excursions (the Manliest Man contest is a must-read in and of itself), playdates, and celebrations all coalesce into the sense of a possible idealic, picture perfect family. But as this is Tracey Alvarez, fairy tale endings are not the name of the game. She makes the Ben and Kezie (and the reader) work for a happily-ever-after and throws in plenty of plot twists and turns along the way.
If you’re looking for a romance that has a bite of reality, Alvarez is the author for you. I have to admit to wanting to shake both Kezie and Ben many times in the story, but that just goes to show how involved I was while reading Melting Into You.
Once again, I highly recommend that you travel with Tracey Alvarez Due South to Stewart Island and Melting Into You.
Four and a half stars
(I received an eARC from the author for use in this review.)