by Denise Hunter
So I’ve read several of Denise Hunter’s books, and they’re usually decent fluff. The Convenient Groom is my favorite (because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a sucker for a story where people are already married when they fall in love). Dancing with Fireflies is her newest book. It was a pretty comfortable 3/5, almost a 4. While the story was plausible and the characters likable, there was a lot about the main character that confused me.
Jade grew up in a sleepy town on the Ohio River. The story opens with a prologue – Jade is living in Chicago with a close friend, and getting ready to have a guy over for a first date. However, the friend gets called into work. Instead of postponing the date, Jade goes ahead and (not a spoiler because this all happens before the first chapter), he drugs her drink and rapes her (one of those cut-scene rapes where she’s sleepy and then it’s the next morning).
First chapter fast forwards – Jade moves back home because she’s pregnant and needs the support of her family (who doesn’t know any of this). (As an aside, women in books always seem to be super fertile. I’ve been married four years and don’t have a baby, but in books it only ever seems to take one chance!) Enter our hero, tall, dark, and handsome (actually, I can’t remember if he’s dark so that part might be a lie), Jade’s almost-brother, Daniel, who also happens to be the mayor of said small town. Guess who’s going to end up married??
Like I said, I actually enjoyed the story just fine. I really liked Jade, Jade’s family, and Daniel. I also enjoyed the references to the Midwest of which I am oh-so fond. ;-) But the reason that this story just didn’t quite do it for me was Jade’s motivation. Throughout the story, Jade is emotionally withdrawn and interested in a relationship that will be comfortable and workable, but not passionate. This seems understandable because, you know, she was raped. But instead of that event being the primary motivator, her reasoning keeps going back to a relationship she had in high school/just after. She was engaged, and her fiancee died in a car wreck. Consequently, Jade is terrified of loving anyone ever again. While this makes a perfectly fine motivator for her actions/emotions/fears, it just didn’t fit with the rest of the story. We didn’t know Jade when she was engaged to this guy, so it lacks the emotional impact to really make her attitude make sense. On the other hand, while she doesn’t really just completely brush aside the being raped thing, she does, in a weird way, act like it wasn’t a big deal in that it doesn’t really come up when she’s thinking about why she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with Daniel. In the end, it feels like Hunter just used the rape as a convenient way to get Jade pregnant (as a victim of circumstances beyond her control), when it feels as though it should be a lot more of a big deal.
Still, the story was a lot of fun, and Hunter does a good job of manipulating circumstances so that Daniel and Jade keep ending up leaning on each other (and of course Daniel’s been in love with Jade for years, so there’s that).
If you’re looking for a relaxing read with happy endings all around, Dancing with Fireflies just may fit the bill.