Falling For Gracie by Susan Mallery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Falling For Gracie is the perfect title for this book, as you can't help loving Gracie and rooting for her.
At the tender age of 14, Gracie Landon became famous - or rather infamous - in her hometown, Los Lobos, for her wild crush on her 18-year-old neighbor, Riley Whitefield. She "loved" him with all her heart and wasn't afraid to show it, stalking him everywhere and basically playing havoc with his and his girlfriends' lives. That took a special kind of courage, the folks of Los Lobos liked to say. That took a special kind of insanity, Riley and Gracie's mother thought. So when Riley found himself forced to marry Pam, his pregnant girlfriend, the whole town started to wonder what Gracie would do... besides lying down in front of his car and telling him she loved him too much to let him marry that sneaky Pam and if he was going to go ahead with the engagement, he should just run her over and put her out of her misery. Ah, nothing like teen drama to liven up things! But Gracie's mother couldn't take her daughter's antics anymore, and sent her away to live with her aunt and uncle.
It's 14 years later now, Gracie is a successfull wedding cake maker living in Los Angeles and has left her crazy years behind a long time ago. When her estranged mother asks her to help with the preparations for her (Gracie's) younger sister's wedding, Gracie agrees to move back to Los Lobos for 6 weeks in hopes of getting reacquainted with the family she's rarely seen in the last 14 years. But things don't go accordingly to her plan, because Riley is also back in town - single! - and everyone, including Gracie's mother and sisters, expects her to make a fool of herself over him all over again. No one seems to care that Gracie has grown up and gotten over her crush on Riley, and her crazy teen antics are rehashed on the newspaper. Can Gracie's humilitation get any worse? Of course it can! Thanks to Gracie's older sister, who should really learn how to talk with her husband instead of getting her sister in trouble after trouble, Gracie ends up tangled up in Riley's life again.
Riley has only returned to Los Lobos to fulfill a condition of his deceased uncle's will: in order to inherit his estranged uncle's millions, Riley must prove that he's become "respectable" by running for mayor and winning. An entanglement with his former stalker Gracie isn't wise, but he can't help being charmed by her. It doesn't take long until the attraction between them takes over and before he knows it, he starts falling for Gracie. But there's something amiss happening in town... Who's plotting against Riley and Gracie and taking "compromising" pictures of them? Who's trying to ruin Gracie's business? And what about Gracie's family? Will they ever get a clue and start respecting her?
This book was mainly about Gracie and I simpy loved her. She was sweet, witty, funny and delightfully adorable. I wanted her to be happy, not because that's what I usually want for the heroines in the romance books I read, but because I really cared for her. I wanted her to get her man, Riley, not because he was the hero, but because she loved him and she deserved it. I wanted to smack her mother and her sisters because they hurt her, and I wanted to throttle that deceitful Pam.
Riley was more "complicated" to me. Sure, he was likeable and overall nice, but I couldn't help thinking he wasn't the smartest cookie in the jar. I mean, he knew very well the terms of his uncle's will, so he should have guessed who was behind his demise and put a stop to it. I also thought that some of his actions concerning what would happen after his election were cold and uncaring, but at least he was honest about it with those who were close to him and that helped to "redeem" him in my eyes. Plus, his refusal to use his relationship with Gracie to save his campaign/election was perfect and I ended up liking him.
The ending was a bit uneven, with the predictable but OTT unmasking of the villains and Gracie's somewhat lackluster last antic - considering her past, I was expecting something bigger and bolder. Oh well, I should have stopped acting like the nice folks of Los Lobos, expecting Gracie to be the same crazy 14-year-old. After all, she had changed...
"What do you think?" Gracie asked, sounding more than a little nervous.
God, she looked great. "That you’re crazy."
"Good crazy or bad crazy?"
"There’s a difference?"
"Oh, sure. I was bad crazy before, when I stalked you. I like to think I’ve changed."
All in all, this was a very charming and enjoyable read. Almost perfect.
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