Title: It’s In His Smile
Series: Red River Valley #3
Author: Shelly Alexander
Format: Paperback & eBook, 306pgs
Published: June 14, 2016 by Montlake
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 3 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Miranda Cruz isn’t just the best darned waitress in town anymore; she’s Red River’s newest innkeeper. But first, she has to find the contractor who’s disappeared with her life savings so she can start renovations. Not so easy for a woman who never depends on anyone, especially a man. And when a gorgeous old flame shows up, the fire between them is reignited and threatens to send her dreams up in smoke.
Acclaimed environmental architect Talmadge Oaks returns home to Red River on family business. He plans to get in and get out quickly because a professional catastrophe is waiting back in Washington. When an unforeseen snag keeps him in Red River longer than expected, he finds himself entangled in the renovations of his late grandmother’s Victorian inn. Handy with a hammer, he offers to help the beautiful new owner, but his motives aren’t completely selfless. Will his secret demolish everything they are building? Or can their undeniable passion keep them together?
Miranda's mom made growing up in the small town of Red River very hard, her mother's actions with married men reflected back on Miranda. Therefore, Miranda works extra hard to be seen as an upstanding citizen. When her mentor Bea passes away, it brings her grandson home and Miranda's one weakness. Talmadge is the small town golden boy with a stellar reputation as a highly successful environmental architect but his latest project could bankrupt him. A will with a secret stipulation, a shady contractor, a nosy town, and some uncontainable chemistry could turn out to be the best thing to happen to these two.
Third in the Red River Valley series, the author once again visits this small town in New Mexico; I started the series here and had no problem following along with the characters. Miranda and Talmadge are the star of the story but there were plenty of small town characters that filled out the secondary roles, a brother and sister who were bestfriends to our couple, our heroine's brother, two older sisters bent on havoc and matchmaking, and a busy body villainess. Each helped to flush out the story more but the villainess was a tad over-the-top with her hate and vitriol towards the heroine and the over-sexed little old ladies routine has gotten a bit tired.
The majority of the story had a women's fiction and sweet small town contemporary feel and then the last thirty percent or so was filled with Miranda and Talmadge getting down and dirty; it felt a little jammed packed in. Our heroine and hero were both good people but also had enough rough edges to make them feel more real but also may rub some the wrong way. Miranda could be overly mule headed towards help that felt exaggerated to show "she don't need no man!" and Talmadge had a tendency to steam roll that made me side-eye how he was treating Miranda's thoughts and feelings. His character also had a completely unnecessary guilt plot that came off childish and added nothing to the story. They were good together and they were together for a lot of the story, which I like, but they also had so much on their plates that their emotional interactions were mostly left to hot abs/gorgeous eyes and hot butt/plump lips as they had to deal with crisis after crisis.
Usually found in historicals, the main plot mechanism to keep our couple together was a secret will stipulation that had Talmadge having to stay in Red River to inherit his money; it's a bit harder of a pill to swallow in contemporaries. As I mentioned, there was a lot going on for our couple, Talmadge had a plummeting environmental project in Seattle but had to stay in Red River, a secret guilt over his parent's death, and help Miranda open her Inn before he could inherit his money and Miranda had a scummy contractor, Inn to open, and had to be the head of a big town festival. All this happening kept the pace and story moving but it also kept me as the reader from settling in and getting a deep feel for the characters. Cutting one or two of the issues and replacing them with more emotional interaction between the couple could have made this more moving for me.
Miranda and Talmadge could have a little doth protest too much over their attraction for one another and a bit of dramatic feelings of betrayal towards the ending but they also had enough facets to feel like I was reading about real people. Small town contemporaries are very popular for a reason, they're fun to read. It's In His Smile has enough shenanigans, personalities, and steam to satisfy your small town contemporary cravings.