TYPE: Straight Romance
REASON FOR READING: It was probably Maili that recommended this book (her blog seems to be shutdown unfortunately so I can't check). I also loved some of her other works like Amazon Lily and Cool Shade.
SUMMARY: [from back cover blurb]
He spent his lifetime running from his past...
Right from the start Maggie Mayfield knew Johnnie Irish was trouble. The sexy Hollywood star had returned to his hometown of Hope, Texas, to a hero's welcome. But Maggie the notorious bad boy was nothing but bad news -- until she discovered the tragic secret behind the hidden sweetness in his cynical smile.
She risked her future on the promise of his love...
Johnnie knew he shouldn't have come back, knew he could never forgive this stark desert town for turning its back on a boy just struggling to survive. But all thoughts of revenge faded when he met widowed schoolteacher Maggie Mayfield. Passionate and caring, she seemed to sense the yearning behind his cocky swagger, the pain and loneliness he had tried so hard to escape. Against all reason Maggie believed in him. And now he knew he had to find the strength to confront his demons -- or lose the only woman he could ever love.
THOUGHTS/OPINION: Although LS was published 15 years ago there is nothing outdated about it. Johnnie is what I would call an 'anti-hero' in the tradition of Anne Stuart. I can't explain why I have such a love/weakness for such heroes but there you go. Johnnie's bitter attitude stems from his horrid childhood. He was raised by a seriously dysfunctional mother who was the town slut. She would lock him in a closet while she entertained customers or throw him out of the house to sleep on the porch in any weather. He seldom had enough to eat or proper shoes or clothes. And the town of Hope stood by and did nothing to help him or ease his situation. Needless to say, he grows up with a major chip on his shoulder. When he was about 16 the town sheriff (who was his mother's regular customer) drives him to the edge of town and tells him to start walking. He makes it to California where he is now a big Hollywood star.
Maggie Mayfield is assigned the task of picking Johnnie up from the airport and she doesn't think too much of him at first. He's cocky and arrogant and seems to be drunk or on drugs. When he falls off the back of the convertible that she is driving through the parade, she notices a syringe fall out of his pocket. Of course, she assumes the worse. But when they get him to the hospital she discovers how wrong she is... Johnnie is a diabetic (not a spoiler) and the syringe is insulin.
Maggie is a kind compassionate person and she is drawn to him and wants to help him. Johnnie is extremely bitter and angry, and uses alcohol excessively to the detriment of his health. In fact he seems suicidal and ends up in rehab a couple times. He comes in and out of Maggie's life and it's a roller coaster ride. Just when they seem to be getting along so well something would happen and Johnnie would disappear again. His childhood experience has left him feeling worthless and incredibly lonely. When Johnnie disappears from Maggie's life he thinks he's doing her a favor, feels he doesn't deserve Maggie or any happiness. It didn't seem like he was just feeling sorry for himself, he really believed it.
There is one other character in the book that was well drawn, Johnnie's high school drama teacher, who was like a real mother to him. Other than her I can't remember much about the other characters. This was all Johnnie and Maggie's story. I fluctuated between hating Johnnie, and wanting to strangle him, and eventually he just broke my heart when the story of his childhood all comes out. But Maggie was not a doormat. She was kind but demanding that he take care of himself and treat her right. And willing to go it alone, if he didn't straighten out. It was a long road, but I think realistic in how the story developed. I really love stories about the healing power of love and this was an excellent example of one. If you can find a copy somewhere it's well worth it.
MISCELLANEOUS: Couldn't find a cover image anywhere (book is too damn old) so I used this scanned image from ebay. This book really reminded me of One Summer by Karen Robards (bad boy / teacher / small town).