Review: Instant Attraction, by Jill Shalvis

Instant Attraction, published in Feb. 2009, is the first in Shalvis’ contemporary romance trilogy about the Wilder brothers, who run Wilder Adventures, an outdoor expedition company based in the small Sierras mountain town of Wishful (excerpt here).  The family had some rough going as children, and each brother has his own issues. Cam was the product of his mother’s extramarital fling with a ski bum, and his father made sure he knew it.

Cameron was a snowboarding and X-Games winter champion until a leg injury forced him to retire early. Unable to cope with such an abrupt end to his adrenaline junkie, gold medal winning lifestyle, he left home to travel the globe for a year, staying in barely sporadic contact with his concerned family. When he returns unannounced in the middle of the night, he finds an attractive young women in his bed. After an amusing first chapter that establishes Cam’s emotionally deadened, but sexually interested state of mind, morning arrives and he learns that the cute girl in his bed is Katie, an office temp. Here’s a bit from their meet cute:

She’d been working for Wilder Adventures for a week now, the best week in recent memory. Up until right this second when a shadowy outline of a man appeared in her room. Like the newly brave woman she was, she threw the covers over her head and hoped he hadn’t seen her.

“Hey,” he said, blowing that hope all to hell.

His voice was low and husky, sounding just as surprised as she, and with a deep breath, she lurched upright to a seated position on the bed and reached out for her handy dandy baseball bat before remembering she hadn’t brought it with her. Instead, her hands connected with her glasses and they went flying.

Which might just have been a blessing in disguise, because now she wouldn’t be able to witness her own death.

Katie, a former accountant, is the lone survivor of a California highway bridge collapse. In response, she has quit her L.A. job in order to live life “balls out”, and her stint at Wilder Adventures is just the first of what she hopes will be many exciting adventures, the kind of adventures that, prior to the accident, she would have been too timid to try. Katie now knows that every minute of life is precious, and she’s determined not to waste it. On the other hand, she still suffers from the symptoms of PTSD — panic attacks, nightmares, and generalized worry and dread — and, like Cam, needs to do better at facing them head on.

Katie and Cam share an — er — instant attraction, and while Katie is pretty much gung ho, Cam is worried that she will fall for him. He has no plans to get into a relationship. They do spend a lot of time together, though, with Cam taking Katie on a hyperspeed snowmobile ride and a midnight trek up a mountain, and, despite being interrupted several times by the inopportune arrivals of various Wilder clanmates, they don’t fight their attraction for too long before giving in. Shalvis is excellent at writing sexual attraction, tension, and fulfillment, and this book is no exception.

Cam ends up having to recognize that although he was always physically very brave, he has been too guarded emotionally to have a mature adult relationship, especially not with a woman. And Katie has to face her survivor’s guilt head on.

There is a secondary “older” romance involving Annie, the chef, and her estranged husband Nick. Annie is a hard-boiled mountain woman who took Cam in when he was being abused by his father. She’s short and stout, a scowler, fiercely protective, loving beneath a tough exterior, etc. She wears a different apron every day, with sayings that reflect her mood, usually aggressive. Nick is oblivious to what she means when she asks him to “see her”. I wasn’t that interested in this relationship, which unfortunately takes center stage near the end of the novel.

This is the third book by Shalvis I have read, and I enjoyed reading it. “Enjoyed” in that sentence is the average of my “delight” in the first half, and “occasional boredom” in the second. I loved Katie’s straightforwardness, the humor, the really sweet and exhilarating and sexy moments between them as they grew to know and care for each other. I am not sure what happened, but at a certain point, I stopped being able to figure out what the conflict was between Cam and Katie. They kept having these arguments that seemed to come out of thin air.

One of Shalvis’s other strengths is creating a world you want to return to, and this is no exception. The setting is very fresh and authentically rendered, and I’m interested enough in the other brothers to read their stories as well, although at about $9.00 a pop for the Kindle editions, I may wait for the library to get a copy.

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