Why I read it: I’ve had this entire series on my TBR for ages. I’m reviewing the second book for AudioGals and I thought I’d listen to the first one as well (and beforehand) so I bought it from Audible. My TBL is much shorter than my TBR and sometimes, listening is a way I can get to something more quickly.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Ten years after disappearing from Antietam, Maryland, the bad boy has returned. Cleaned up and successful now—and still dangerously good-looking—Rafe MacKade sets the town on fire, and tongues wagging.
Lovely newcomer Regan Bishop is intrigued—what kind of man could cause this sort of talk? She’ s just about to find out.…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): What struck me the most about this book, is its plot similarities to the first Inn Boonsboro book, The Next Always. That series had three brothers, this one has four but, Rafe returns to town, having bought a rundown old mansion which had historic significance in terms of the US Civil War and which is also haunted. There is also a domestic violence subplot – although in The Next Always, it is a stalker wanna-be-boyfriend and in this book it relates to one of the secondary characters – who is the heroine of book 3, The Heart of Devin MacKade. Of course, The Return of Rafe MacKade was first published in 1995 by Silhouette and so pre-dates The Next Always by decades. But because this book came second to my ears, it is the one I’m giving the side-eye to. I realise that’s ass backwards.
I felt that The Return of Rafe MacKade suffered from being too short. It has the task of setting up the entire quartet and delivering a satisfying love story. For me, the “I love you” part and the “let’s get married” part came way too soon. If I had liked Rafe better, perhaps this would have bothered me less but even with the distance of audio, he scared me a little. He is renowned for his fiery temper and it seems that the MacKade brothers have long though that fighting was a good way to release tension and resolve problems. He gets very angry. A lot. And this is in the context of Cassie Dolan being beaten black and blue by her husband Joe. When Joe threatens Regan, Rafe’s anger gets out of control and is mostly directed at Regan. There are reasons and they make sense but I just don’t think it’s a good thing for a big strapping male with a hammer to be enraged in the same room as a woman who’s just been threatened and assaulted. Call me weird, but there you go.
Perhaps my reaction to Rafe is more about his performance and I may not have taken such a strong dislike of him in print. I’ll never know now of course. Luke Daniels had him being really angry in that scary deep ragey voice that men can get. My dad rarely yelled and he never abused me but when he did yell, it used to turn my knees to water. My brother’s yell scares me and so does my husband’s (even though, he mostly yells at the computer when something goes wrong in World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online and never yells at me and has never ever and would never ever be violent with me.) There is just something really scary to me about a fiery temper particularly in a man. (So as not to be accused of sexism, I will also say that my son is scared of me when I yell and I do it often – especially in the getting ready for school part of the day *sigh*. He doesn’t like anyone yelling, regardless of gender or size – unless it is in a Minecraft video. He loves those.)
When Rafe wasn’t yelling and storming about and punching walls etc, he was quite a nice guy and he could be gentle and caring. But he seemed to go off at the drop of a hat and I couldn’t be comfortable with that.
I think as well, the story is dated. It’s not just lack of internet, there’s a sensibility that is different in the more modern romances but it is difficult for me to put my finger on exactly what that is. (Naked in Death was also published in 1995 and yeah, that is a futuristic series but the sensibility is completely different there and in Rafe’s book. I wonder if that means JD Robb successfully predicted a more modern vibe? Maybe I’m overthinking.)
What else? Luke Daniels did a good job of the narration. Initially his female character voices sounded a bit drag-y to me but either they improved or I got used to them because by the end I enjoyed them fine. He did also have distinct voices for all four MacKade brothers. However, there were times when he used them interchangeably and that made things sometimes confusing.
He did a great job of putting me in the room with Rafe and his brothers, in the various fights they got into and with Joe Dolan and his various confrontations in the story. Unfortunately, when the fists were flying or when the tempers were flaring, I mostly didn’t want to be there. I’m pondering as I’m writing this review and I can’t really put my finger on why I didn’t like angry Rafe much when I have read other books with angry heroes and didn’t have the same reaction. It may well be the narration I had a visceral reaction too. This is actually a compliment to Mr. Daniels. I didn’t like it because it sounded authentically angry and scary.
My review is probably more negative than I actually felt about the book. It has taken me some time to get to write this review – nearly a week later, my overwhelming thought is that I didn’t like Rafe’s temper and the romance was too quickly resolved. I thought they needed to spend more time dating. Even though it’s a category length story, I don’t think it necessarily has to have a truncated relationship story.
When the brothers weren’t fighting, it was clear they had a very strong bond. I generally liked the other brothers better than Rafe so I’m looking forward to their stories, whether on audio or in print. I liked the background history of the setting (Antietam) and I didn’t find the antique/house-restoration stuff boring (I admit I got a bit tired of it all in the Inn Boonsboro series). Regan was a modern woman who didn’t want her life being run by a man – she wanted to make her own decisions and be self-sufficient. When Rafe steamrolled over her – she re-thought plan A – to be fair, Rafe’s steamroller effect was more about his strong personality and their attraction rather than him being overbearing. There was a kind of Grease vibe to the finale – each moves out of their comfort zone to prove their affection for the other. And, like in Grease, it is the female character who is most on display. (Aint it always the way?).
If I were to grade the story alone, I’d probably go with a low C but the narration was quite good so that bumps it up a bit.
AMAZON KOBO BOOK DEPOSITORY