Those of us who live in Southern California can relate well to this story. In my own family, my oldest daughter and her family were stuck in the San Francisco Loma Prieta quake and were out of communication with us for hours. It was very scary. And then hubby and I and our kids living close by all had a shock in January, 1994, at 4:00 AM , when the house started shaking and just didn't seem prone to stop. The Northridge Quake was a dilly--a 7.0 biggie.
So this story rings very true for a reader like me who has been through some of these "temblers" as they are sometimes called, both big and small. The aftershocks go on for days, and they are often just as scary as the very first quake action.
We've all heard the miraculous discoveries of people who have been trapped in rubble for up to 4 days and somehow they survive. While it wasn't 4 days in the case of the characters in this story, their long and frightening experience being trapped under an old warehouse that was unsafe to begin with is not unusual in our part of the country. But the story is deeper than just the quake that brought Amber Riggs and Dax McCall together, huddled under the only sturdy furniture they could find deep in the warehouse basement--an old oak desk--with both of them pretty much accepting the fact that they have a better than even chance of dying. Cool and motivated real estate manager Amber with successful, single, fun-loving Dax who was the fire inspector, both now knew the core-liquifying truth that they were going to die. In the harsh reality of several aftershocks that threatened to flatten the full weight of a multi-storied building on top of them, Amber and Dax comforted themselves with body heat and finally, kisses--kisses that turned into so much more--an affirmation of life in the face of certain death. When they were eventually rescued, Amber remembered that Dax had told her that he was single and determined to remain so. Thus, when they were separated by the necessities of speaking with authorities, Amber quietly slipped away. As she put it: "I have no desire to be the 'flavor of the week.'"
It was a year later, when Dax was accompanying one of his sisters to the OB/GYN clinic for her late pregnancy check-up, he spied a familiar face across the waiting room and realized it was Amber, and she was holding a baby. . . as it turned out, his baby. And thus began a small war of wills and emotions and trying to find a way to both be parents to this remarkable little girl, one that had been a surprise to both of them and who kept them connected.
But Amber had issues . . . a military father who had never forgiven Amber's father for leaving him and her, who had raised Amber believing that her mother was a slut. Now he had also repudiated Amber over her pregnancy and she was truly alone. She had been alone for years, if the truth be known, so she would do this alone. Except Dax would have none of it. He was a responsible man, very good at his job as a county fire inspector, and one who fell instantly in love with his daughter. Yet his anger over Amber's apparent decision to not tell him about their child angered him for a very long time. How to get these two really good people to get past all this?
That is the crux of the conflict in this novel. Shalvis has crafted a story that gently but relentlessly works through the issues and barriers to each of them coming to grips with the other. Both love their child, but actually it is Amber's fear of being controlled by another person--mostly growing out of her father's never-ending control of every aspect of her life when she was growing up--that kept them from growing close. Dax was determined--he grew to love Amber as the strong, caring, genuine person who had weathered that quake with him. He saw her fearless protection and love for their daughter, and he resonated with gratitude that she was always willing to allow him maximum access to his daughter's life. These were just two really good people. When I finished this book that is the overwhelming impression I had of these two characters and even now, having read the book again, I am still sure that would be wonderful people to know in real life.
So go sit in your best chair and turn on your reading light. This is Shalvis at her best and you don't want to miss this story--a beautiful woman, a tall, sexy man, and an adorable baby. All the kinds of stuff that make warm, fuzzy, enjoyable, and memorable love stories. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5.