Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson

Genre: Romance, contemporary, minor supernatural elements
Theme(s): Second chances, coming home, sports, raising teenagers, divorce, death
Year of publication: 2008
No. in series: 4
Setting & time: Small-town Texas; contemporary
Sex? Yes (fairly explicit)

Adele Harris is plagued with bad dates. One man after another she had dated for the last 3 years has turned out to be a creep or a jerk, and she is ready for a change - any change. This arrives in the form of her pregnant sister, whose husband has left her for his personal assistant. Together they return to their old home-town in Texas after an absence of 15 years, and Adele ends up looking after her 13 year-old niece while her sister is in the hospital with preeclampsia. Once there, she discovers that Zach Zeamaitis, the football player she had loved and briefly dated in college, is widowed and living there with his 13 year-old daughter. Neither thinks they have any particular interest in renewing the acquaintance, but neither can deny that there is still an attraction between them.
But Zach’s dead wife has a plan...

This is the fourth of Gibson’s loosely interconnected romances about a group of female writers in Idaho who find love, one after the other. I thought I had posted a review of the first one, Sex, Lies and Online Dating, which I read when it first came out in 2006, but apparently I didn’t. That book was a thriller, but this is a pure romance in the “second-chances” category.

Zach is a typical romance hero: handsome, sexy and rich and an ex-football player (“football as in American football), while Adele is a typical romance heroine who is smart and doesn’t see herself as beautiful, although the hero does. Despite being such typical romance heroine and hero, they are realistic people, and so are most of the supporting characters, with the exception of Devon, Zach’s dead bitchy wife, who is a mean-girl stereotype right out of every high-school underdog story ever written. She had bullied Adele all the way through their years together at school, and finally taken Zach away from her and unfortunately she never, not even at the end, rises above the stereotype.

The story realistically (for the most part) shows two people hooking up again after an initial heartbreak. Both of them have lives of their own, and both have been happy, if only briefly, with other people, but the old flame of their first romance has never died. Adele had been deeply in love with Zach and Zach had had some feelings for her that might or might not have been love, but even the most romantic reader can see that the girl and boy they were the first time around would not have lasted long together. They have grown into a man and a woman and had experiences that have matured and changed them into the people they are when they meet again, and it is those changes that both almost rip them apart and eventually bring them together in the end.

Adele and Zach were torn apart originally by Zach’s decency and insistence on doing the right thing when it turned out that Devon, with whom he had broken up shortly before getting together with Adele in college, was (deliberately) pregnant. With her dead and Adele and Zach both in the same place, things should run smooth, but Devon, who is stuck in Limbo pending the rectification of the wrongs she has done to others, has every intention of preventing the reunion from taking place even if it means losing her chance of getting into Heaven.

This supernatural aspect of the story feels unnecessary and strikes a false note in an otherwise straightforward romance. It would have been quite easy to keep Adele and Zach apart by non-supernatural means for long enough to create some tension in the narrative. Fortunately this aspect of the story is presented with a minimum of fuss and the Devon chapters are not long. Additionally, I must admit that they undeniably infuse some humour into the story. Anyone who has ever been bullied or wronged by a bitchy princess-type will immensely enjoy the descriptions of Devon’s stay in Limbo, even if they agree with me that it could easily have been left out of the story.

3,5 stars.

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