Falling for Gracie by Susan Mallery
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: HQN Books (March 1, 2005)
“Gracie knew she would rather be staked out naked on a fire ant hill than ever have anything to do with Riley Whitefield again. She didn’t need any more humiliation where he was concerned. And who knew what tortures he would be willing to endure to avoid the likes of her?”
Unfortunately for Gracie and Riley, fate has other plans in store for them. I really enjoyed reading this romance. The plot was interesting and there was a lot of depth to all of the characters, even the shallow ones. They all seem like people you can actually meet one day, if you haven’t already.. I found myself laughing out loud a few times, and I felt the same pain and sorrow the characters had to suffer.
When Gracie was a teen, she was hopelessly in love with Riley Whitefield, her nextdoor neighbor. In fact, she obsessed over him, even going so far as to become is stalker. Riley definitely did not return her affections, and was, in fact, terrified of her. She became a town legend because of the crazy stunts she pulled in her attempt to win Riley’s heart, or at least prevent other girls from winning it.
Now, Gracie is back in town for her sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, her homecoming is not what she was expecting. She is no longer close to her sisters, and the only reason she is out to help with the wedding is to bake her sister’s cake, and this only because she owns a wedding cake business. Her mother is embarrassed of her because everybody remembers poor little Gracie, the town legend who suffered the universal pain of unrequited love. Worst of all, through no fault of her own, she keeps getting stuck in the company of the irresistible Riley.
Riley is running for mayor, but not because he genuinely wants to help the community. He wants to get revenge on his uncle, who, despite his wealth, stood back and watched Riley’s mother die. It appears as though Riley has the town in the palm of his hand. That is, until Gracie enters his life again, and all of the old stories are brought back. Riley still does not love Gracie, and the townspeople do not want to vote for such a heartless man. To make matters worse, he is breaking all of his rules where Gracie is concerned, and he can’t seem to help himself. At least his heart is still protected behind the sturdy wall he built years ago. Little does he know, Gracie has been steadily chipping away at the stone, and all of his barriers are about to fall.
Meanwhile, Riley must deal with a campaign manager who is disappearing at night, an unknown cameraman who is attempting to sabotage his campaign, and a conscience he thought has disappeared decades ago. At the same time, Gracie must deal with her sisters, both of whom are immature drama-queens, a mother who disapproves of her seemingly unhealthy relationship with Riley, and someone attempting to ruin her.
While everything is quite complicated, Mallery is able to intertwine everything so that it all makes sense. Even better, she sets aside time to deal with each strand of plot by itself so that the reader can keep up and empathize with the characters at the same time.
I loved the characters in this novel because they seem so human. Not a single one of them comes even close to perfect, especially not the hero and heroine. None of the characters are forced to go through a complete personality makeover. They all must go through a bit of a change before the end of the book, but they remain true to themselves and each other. Of all of the romance novels I have ever read, this ranks up there when it comes to realistic characters.
I truly enjoyed reading this novel, and I would recommend it to any romance readers who are looking for a change from the near-perfect characters normally found in novels.