Once and Always by Elizabeth Hoyt (writing as Julia Harper)

I apologize to my readers for the lack of posts lately; I had a huge work project going through and taking all my time. But now I’m back to reading and reviewing!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I tend to pass on contemporary romances, but took a chance on a couple being released by my favorite historical romance authors. Once and Always, by Elizabeth Hoyt (writing as Julia Harper), is one of those books.

Once and Always Front Cover

Once and Always Front Cover (Forever/Hachette)

THE PLOT: Maisa Burnsey’s uncle was a member of the Russian Mafiya, but he gave evidence against a boss and has been in hiding in small-town Coot Lake, Minnesota, for years. May comes occasionally to visit him and has been stopped for speeding multiple times by Coot Lake cop Sam West. She also had a one-night stand with Sam some months ago. Now he wants an actual relationship, but May doesn’t want the police getting any closer to her and her uncle. As the town becomes snowed in, an old cohort of her uncle’s shows up with a suitcase full of diamonds. Suitcases are switched, the Mafiya shows up, and May, Sam, and most of the town are dragged into the mess. No outside help can reach them through the snowstorm, so it’s up to Sam to defend his town while trying to convince May they can make a romance work.

MY TWO CENTS: One of the main reasons I usually don’t care for contemporary romance is that I feel they often use sex to get couples together. After all, many of the circumstances that work in historical romances can’t work in contemporary. Not that I’d enjoy being forced into an arranged marriage that MIGHT work out, or caught in compromising circumstances that were actually very innocent and forced to marry a man who MIGHT become my true love. But these old-fashioned rules often work well in historical romances.

Here, I felt that the couple already had one strike against them for the one-night stand that took place prior to the book. Immediately, sex is what brings them together. Then we get a very intriguing story about diamonds and mobsters and shootouts and snowmobiles, but in between the action, we have Sam dragging May to his conveniently secluded cabin for sex. Really? Okay, I know most action movies have some sort of romantic element thrown in, but in this case, the love scenes seem to completely stop the main story and divorce those scenes from the rest of the plot. It seems like an awkward fit, like puzzle pieces that don’t really fit together.

Having said that, I did really enjoy the action part. I just think the romance would have worked better if May and Sam were just meeting and getting to know each other.

BOTTOM LINE: An interesting story, but I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t feel that the “required” steamy sex scenes had been shoehorned in. I’ll probably stick with Elizabeth Hoyt’s historical romances, which I absolutely love and highly recommend. If you usually like contemporary romances, though, this may be your cup of tea, so give it a try.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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