Discovering Dani by N.J. Walters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a very sweet, "feel good" story with a fairly simple plot: hero meets heroine, they develop a tentative relationship, a few conflicts arise along the way, but they manage to work everything out and live HEA. There are no mysteries to be solved and no dangerous villains to defeat, this is a straight contemporary novel set in a small town called Jamesville (I'm assuming this is a fictional town, but I might be wrong).
Dani O'Rourke is a 25-year-old virgin who's spent the last eight years of her life raising her younger brothers Patrick and Shamus. Dani and her brothers were left on their own when their mother died from cancer, no more than two years after they'd lost their father to a heart attack, and then 18-year-old Dani had to quit high-school, look for work and become the family provider. Dani doesn't regret her decision and doesn't think about what-might-have-been, because keeping the family together is what really matters to her. They don't live a luxury life, but they're happy.
Burke Black is in Jamesville on a sabbatical, after spending the last five months recovering from a car accident that made him realize how shallow and lonely his life is. He has no family and no friends, only business acquaintances and employees. He's already filthy rich and doesn't need to keep dedicating all his life to his business anymore. So he's sold his business and headed to Jamesville, where he hopes to spend some time relaxing while pondering what to do with the rest of his life. Then he meets Dani, and suddenly relaxing is the last thing on his mind...
Dani and Burke feel strongly attracted to each other, but they've lived completely different lives and have opposite expectations: she wants to build a serious relationship with him and isn't willing to sleep with him until she really gets to know him - remember, she's a virgin - but he's never done this relationship thing and wants to get physical as soon as possible. Naturally, he ends up acting like a jerk and hurting her, and must find a way to win her trust (and love) back.
Oh boy, how I wanted to smack Burke in the beginning of this story! He was cold, callous, and even though I felt he really liked Dani, he didn't have a clue about how to treat her. In time, I learned to understand (and forgive) him. He'd never met anyone like her before, so he was right to be p!ssed when he thought she was leading him on and playing with him. He also earned major points from me when he came around and set out to show Dani he was worthy of her love.
As for Dani, I really liked her from the start, even though she was too sweet and saintly to be true. If I lived in Jamesville, I'd want to be her BFF. I especially loved her relationship with her brothers and how well-adjusted they were, despite what they'd been through. I know Patrick's and Shamus's stories are books #3 and #4 in this series, and I can't wait to read them.
Overall, I really liked this story, but it had some problems. The biggest one was the way Dani kept jumping to wrong conclusions about Burke over and over again. I understood her insecurities, but she'd known that b!tchy Cynthia James all her life and she should have known better than to let that jealous tart needle her. In the end, it was kind of funny to see Burke address that issue when he proposed to Dani:
"Damn it, woman! I want to marry you. God only knows why, you jump to conclusions so fast. But there's no accounting for taste, is there?"
I also had some trouble adjusting to the pace of the story, especially near the end. I didn't need to read about all the wedding preparations, and those scenes felt like fillers to me. Maybe I was just anxious to get to Burke and Dani's wedding night, when they would finally make love for the first time, LOL. Fans of N.J. Walters's erotic novels should be "warned" that this single lovemaking scene in Discovering Dani is very tame and nothing like she's known to deliver in her spicier stories. To me, the whole scene was kind of old-fashioned, but sweet and fitting to the story.
All things considered, I really enjoyed this read and will definitely read the next books in the series.
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