Review: Can't Hurry Love by Molly O'Keefe

Review: Can't Hurry Love by Molly O'Keefe

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I have a a tough time reading the romance genre. Renegade is our Official Romance Correspondent, and she is so shrewd with her observations of what works an what doesn’t, and really articulating that in the context of the genre.

And, I think that romance is a very important genre. Yep. People who know me are often shocked by this. That’s because romance is the only genre that’s largely dominated by female readers and writers. This is a significant thing. 

However, I often find myself distracted by the tried and true character types and story structures. There’s nothing wrong with those things, it’s just they often don’t work for me. I like books that push the limits and take characters in unexpected directions. And more than anything, I want an emotionally authentic story. 

This is why I appreciate the two novels I’ve read by Molly O’Keefe so much—they work for me because they’re emotionally complex and the characters surprise me. Can’t Buy Me Love was remarkable in how challenging the characters were, pushing all sorts of boundaries in terms character motivation and development. Can’t Hurry Love, the companion novel featuring different characters but set in the same Texas ranch, featured similarly challenging characters, one of whom was simply unlikable in the previous novel. 

But (also as in the previous novel) Can’t Hurry Love explores damaged people finding a path forward and coming to terms with their own pasts and figuring out a future together. 

Victoria is the sister of Luc, the ailing hockey player in Can’t Buy Me Love. In that novel, we learn that she’s recently widowed, following the suicide of her husband who had orchestrated a Ponzi scheme that bilked the couple’s friends in New York out of much of their money. She and her son and alone in the world, as all of her former friends have turned their backs on her. Marooned at her late father’s Texas ranch, she really has no means to take care of herself and support her son—she was always taken care of. 

In the previous book Victoria came across as, well, pretty much a colossal bitch. (Which is why I’d held off on buying Can’t Hurry Love, to be honest.) But, in this novel, the reason for her hostility and insular behavior is revealed. My heart sort of broke of Victoria when I understood more about her character. She’d always been taken care of, filling a certain role in New York society, but she never really worked out why she is and what she wanted out of life. 

Then there’s Eli, who lived his entire life on the Crooked Creek ranch, and who knows exactly what he wants: to live on the ranch and start his horse breeding business. He’s happy being a loner and has built of very carefully lines of demarcation around his life. The terms of Victoria and Luc’s father’s will left him a portion of the herd of cattle, so Will finds himself suddenly able to finance his dream. 

Except Victoria throws a bit of a wrench into his plans to buy the ranch when she announces that she’s finally figured out a plan to support herself by converting the ranch into a luxury spa catering to the sort of people she left behind in New York. Enter an interesting push and pull between the two, as they each dig in their heels and challenge each other. What’s unexpected to both is how the other rises to the occasion. When Victoria mucks out the horse stalls for Eli, she also sprinkles them with potpourri. This push and pull is interesting, because each reacts to it extremely different.

Victoria embraces pushing back as a rejection of her old self, the person who spent all of her time playing a role. It’s freeing.

On the other hand, for Eli, this dynamic makes him feel like an ass. It’s this element that makes Can’t Hurry Love work so well for me. If you were to read the blurb for the novel, it sounds like the two characters are tried and true archetypes. However, almost immediately it’s clear that both Eli and Victoria are wearing masks, letting people only see what they want them to see. As the grow closer, they each let the other see a bit more of the “real” person behind that carefully-construction facade. It’s quite moving. 

There are also some intriguing side-stories in Can’t Hurry Love. 

My favorite of which is the transformation of Victoria and Celeste—Luc’s mother whom Victoria’s father cheated on with Victoria’s mother. Celeste is a former model, gorgeous and a self-made success. Yet, aging preoccupies her. She’s invigorated by her new partnership with Victoria, and she also gets involved with a contractor working on the spa project. For me, this was a satisfying direction for Celeste’s story to head, as I viewed her as symbolic of Victoria’s possible future had she not given herself permission to get involved with Eli. (I know not everyone loves this sort of veering from the main story, but I adore it when it’s done well, and it was in this case.)

A lot of Eli’s family history as he knew it unravels as his relationship with Victoria grows into something real. This is brought on by the presence of Eli’s mother, who’s an accomplished architect that Victoria and Celeste hire to work on the spa project. Lots of things that Eli thought were true about his family and the circumstances of his childhood come to light and, like Victoria’s character, his behavior makes far more sense with this context. I love that there’s resolution to the family issues, but it’s not “fixed,” the groundwork’s simply laid for Eli to be able to move forward. 

The one significant annoyance in Can’t Hurry Love occurs near the end of Eli and Victoria’s story. While I can’t say what it is, because that would be too much of a spoiler (even though it’s a minor plot point), I addressed it in a post in our super-secret spoiler discussion area. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

Despite that one frustration, Can’t Hurry Love proved, much like its companion, to be an emotionally authentic and fresh novel that should appeal to readers who don’t usually pick up a romance. The journey that the main characters take together, as well as their individual growth rang as realistic and compelling. It’s messy and difficult, just like real life. 

FNL Character Rating: Tim and Lyla

{Buy Can’t Hurry Love at Amazon | BN | iBooks | Book Depository}

{Add it on Goodreads}

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author—which now has my favorite inscription on any book ever. 

“Love live FNL!”

Thoughts on the Cover

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1) Waxed chest shirtless dude = NO NO NO!

2) Photoshopped cowboy hat = NO NO NO!

The books in this series just scream, “HELLO! I’m a trashy romance novel!!!” But they’re far more nuanced than that and deserve something better. I know covers like this appeal to people who head straight for the romance section, but I think a lot of folks who don’t read a lot of romance would find both Can’t Hurry Love and Can’t Buy Me Love appealing (and I think some folks who want a more traditional, category-style romance may not like these books), but the visual representation fo the story doesn’t convey that. Plus, the script-y, drop shadowed font and striped top edge just look wholly generic. 

Frankly, the covers convey that these are Naked Books, and while people do get naked in them, that’s a relatively small part of these novels. And, covers can be sexy without Rebeca’s Favorite Waxed Chest Shirtless Dude emblazened on the front. Perhaps something more similar to the new covers on Shannon Stacey’s books

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