Julia Rachel Barrett
Pushing Her Boundaries
Siren Publishing, 2011
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Maggie is done with men. Flying to Minneapolis, she’s seated beside the type of man she always falls for. A sexy, arrogant alpha jerk.
Mace Williams irritates the woman next to him. She's so damn sexy, he doesn't care. When their seatmate suffers a cardiac arrest, Maggie and Mace team up to save his life, but it's too late.
In Minneapolis, Maggie heads to a restaurant with her sister, only to find Mace waiting. Worse, she learns he's the brother of her sister's fiancé.
Stuck in her sister’s apartment with Mace, Maggie offers him one night of sex, anything goes. No obligations, no recriminations. Mace agrees...he wants more than Maggie's body, he wants her heart.
Thrown into a disastrous canoe trip, they must work together to survive. Maggie must face her demons and trust Mace with her life. Mace is determined to save her, regardless of what the future brings
Genre & Keywords:
M/F, Contemporary Romance, wildlife experience, survival, canoe trip
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 flames
Why I read it:
The author sent me a copy for review and I read (and enjoyed) one of her books, Captured, before, which I reviewed here.
When I received Pushing Her Boundaries in my mailbox the author piqued my curiosity by telling me that this story was inspired by her own real life experience, that I remembered as a 'canoe trip from hell' from her blog posts last year. It made me open the attached PDF-file for, what I thought would be, a quick look. But once I started reading the first page I got drawn into the story by the compelling way of writing. Before I knew it I was on the plane with main characters Mace and Maggie, two total strangers thrown together into action when the passenger sitting next to them suddenly goes into cardiac arrest. Mace, being a doctor, and Maggie, a nurse, do everything they can to help the man but without avail.
After this unusual meeting they part ways only to meet again shortly after when it turns out that Mace's brother and Maggie's sister are getting married. Maggie is annoyed and Mace delighted about their unexpected reunion. Despite feeling attracted to Mace Maggie doesn't like him because he reminds her too much of the type of men that hurt her in the past. Mace is oblivious of this but does sense her dislike of him which he finds rather amusing. He can't stop teasing Maggie. And when they end up alone in Maggie's sister's apartment sparks fly and passion ignites between the two of them. But Maggie has one condition: it'll be for one night only.
So far, I still couldn't stop reading, although I hadn't planned to read this much at all, due to other obligations. But I was that engrossed in the story, even though there wasn't a canoe trip in sight yet. So, I kept reading and continued enjoying the hot chemistry between the hero and heroine. Their sexy romp of one night is very, very amazing and I fell piece by piece in love with Mace. He's such a wonderful and giving lover and man, and I was a bit annoyed that Maggie couldn't see that. I think Julia Barrett did a fabulous job with the characterization of her protagonists. Alternating between both their perspectives, she shows their insecurities, their thoughts, their behavior and their feelings. We learn to understand Maggie and her reluctance to fall in love again. And we learn to admire Mace and his perseverance. They feel real.
Finally, the canoe trip is about to take place. Maggie is unaware that Mace will be part of the trip as well; somehow her sister Lynn kept this a secret from her. Earlier Lynn also played a dubious role that caused Maggie and Mace to end up alone in her apartment. And now it's strange again that she’s keeping Maggie in the dark about her canoe partner. Initially Lynn and her fiancé Jeff would come on the trip as well, but Lynn broke her foot and now she and Jeff are staying at the cabin of their friends who will be the guides for the canoe trip (honestly, I can't fathom how they can call these people friends). Lynn insists that Maggie will follow through with the original plan for the canoe trip. Even when Maggie has a bad feeling about their guides and tells her she wants to go home, Lynn convinces her that she should go. And this is where I started to find the set-up unbelievable. Lynn's reasons for her behavior stayed obscure (not even an explanation after everything was over) and therefore it felt as if it was just for the plot's sake. To throw Mace and Maggie together in a life threatening situation in which love can bloom.
Admittedly, this idea worked out fine and the adventures in and around the canoe are breathtaking and very well-written. The descriptions are vividly and precise, so that I could imagine every move of a paddle, nearly experience the motion of every wave and almost feel the wind and icy rain. And I also could enjoy every sweet touch and loving gesture between the protags as if I were there myself. It all is quite an adrenaline rush. And the HEA for this love couple is well deserved, although perhaps based on not the most solid basis one can start a relation on. Adrenaline is fickle like that.
Nevertheless, or the more, I regretted the lack of confrontation after the ordeal was over. I would've liked to see Maggie and Mace confront the guides of the trip for what they've put them through. And I was also expecting a serious get-together for Maggie and her sister and a realistic explanation from Lynn for her behavior. But, unfortunately, none of that.
The relational conflict in Pushing Her Boundaries is all about Maggie’s bad judgment of the men in her life and her unwillingness to lose her heart again. Therefore the plot is focused mainly on proving her wrong, on showing her that Mace is the exception and that he is fabulous. Unfortunately this makes Mace nearly unrealistically perfect and a bit of an ‘easy catch’. Almost from the beginning he wants Maggie and he knows that she’s the one for him. He rarely has doubts about her, he’s all set on winning her heart. But we never learn much about his history with women, why he’s still single, why he’s ready for a relationship now, why it should be Maggie he wants to spend the rest of his life with... Okay, in the end we can see why. And true, they made a good team in the canoe, so they do match, outside as well as inside the bedroom. But as the title already tells us, the story is more about Maggie and her development, than about Mace, even though we do get his point of view occasionally. The relational conflict is embedded wonderfully in an exciting, adventurous survival story, which is a big plus for adrenaline junkies who like their romances to be plot driven and action packed.
Altogether Pushing Her Boundaries is a sexy, adventurous and entertaining novel. Apart from a few plot turns that felt forced, a couple of unanswered questions, and some issues I had with the guides' unlikely personalities, I enjoyed reading this book a lot. Especially its humor, the characterization and the engaging writing style make this a recommended read.