One Night With Her Bachelor by Kat Latham

One Night With Her BachelorWhy I read it:  It was on special recently so I bought it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Molly Dekker hates being the town charity case, but when her son Josh is seriously injured she has no choice. She lets her best friend organize a bachelor auction to help pay her massive bills and make Josh’s life more comfortable. She can’t bid on any of the men, but a surprise bidder gives her a gift she never expected: a date with the man who saved her son’s life—the only one she’s in danger of losing her heart to.

Former Air Force pararescueman Gabriel Morales made a career of flying to the rescue, until a tragic helicopter crash stole more than his livelihood. Being auctioned off like a slab of beef isn’t in his recovery plan. But one look, one touch and one night unlocking Molly’s pent-up passion makes him realize how badly he needs to be rescued…and how badly he wants to rescue Molly right back.

Will Molly and Gabriel’s never-quit attitude have them rushing head-first into love? Or will Gabriel’s secret pain stall their relationship before it can get off the ground?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Even though I have most of the books in this series, loosely linked by a bachelor auction in the small Montana town of Marietta, this one is the first that I’ve actually read (the curse of the TBR of Dooooom). I wasn’t really expecting what I got – which was deeper and heavier than I thought it would be. For starters, the bachelor auction takes place well into the book and it’s not at all the main focus of it.

Molly Dekker has had a crush on Gabriel Morales since she was a little girl. He was her older brother’s best friend (I can relate Molly, I had similar crushes, although mine did not outlast my teen years). Her brother was killed in Afghanistan the year before. Gabriel was with him at the time because they had joined the Air Force together after finishing school. Molly knows Gabe is back, living in an isolated cabin on Copper Mountain outside of town. She thinks they share a ‘moment’ when they bump into each other at the grocery store (she is mistaken) and decides to hike up to Gabe’s cabin to finally put her curiosity to rest about just how good Gabe is in the sack. She’s been sexless for ages, between work (as a kindergarten teacher) and raising her son, 10 year old Josh, and she’s decided, while Josh is on a Scouts camp, to take some time for herself.

It doesn’t go well. Gabe had never before thought of Molly as anything other than Scott’s little sister. He has to completely shift his view. It takes him a little while. Molly is humiliated (her moves are not smooth) but Gabe encourages her to stay and not long after they try a kiss to test their chemistry. It is as good as Molly hoped.

However, they are interrupted by Gabe’s radio which is tuned to the local SAR operators. Josh and a friend are missing on the mountain, having wandered away from their Scout leader. (As an aside, I really wanted to know what the hell the Scout leaders were doing to so quickly lose two boys). Gabe takes Molly to the general vicinity on his trail bike and they are actually able to local Josh first. Gabe’s experience as a pararescueman comes in handy but, as he was injured in the same incident which killed Scott, effecting a rescue is a bigger challenge than even Molly knows at the time.

Spoiler alert: Josh is left paralysed after falling down a mine shaft. (It’s not a big spoiler if you’ve read the blurb.)

The story picks up months later when Josh is on his way home to stay. He’s been living with his dad in Colorado while in rehab after his accident. There were no facilities suitable close to Molly and it was best for Josh to get the best treatment. Molly has been burning the candle at both ends, driving 10 hours every Friday evening to spend the weekend with Josh in Colorado and returning late Sunday night to start the work week on Monday morning. The medical bills have taken their toll and she is in deep financial doo-doo.

Gabe and Molly haven’t had much contact in the intervening months since Josh’s accident but Molly knows he is the one responsible for her fuel tank mysteriously filling up before and after each long trip to Colorado.

When Lily, Molly’s BFF, arranges the bachelor auction to ease Molly’s financial burdens, Gabe is again called to action. And this is where Molly and he start spending regular time together and the real romance begins.

Both Molly and Gabe struggle with accepting help from others but, over the course of the story, they realise it is not weakness to get help when you need it and it is okay to lean on someone sometimes.

Gabe has not really dealt with the events which put him out of the Air Force. He was significantly injured trying to save Scott’s life and he feels rootless and uncertain about what he can do in the future. Living off the grid in his isolated cabin hasn’t really brought about any closure. His twin sister, Camila, who lives in California, encourages Gabe to start living his life again and between her encouragement and Molly, Gabe begins to make changes.

Their path to HEA doesn’t run smooth of course, but eventually, Molly and Gabe both work out they are better together than apart.

Disability is a theme which runs through the book, both for Josh and Gabe. The story explicitly refers to Josh as  having “different abilities” (ETA: originally I had this listed as “differently abled” but on checking the text, it actually says “different abilities”) and it seemed to me that the focus there was shifted to the right place. Actually I have just read an article which indicates that the phrase differently abled is problematic as well. I don’t know enough about the subject to say whether the context that “different abilities” was used in the book is in the same family as differently abled or not.  The story is about Molly and Gabe and for Molly, part of her journey is as a carer, so it made sense to me that challenges she faced in that role were part of the story. Josh, by the time he comes home, is far more focused on what he can do and being as independent as possible, as opposed to what abilities he has lost as a result of the accident. On the one hand, the focus was positive for Josh and I liked that the narrative didn’t present him as someone to be pitied. On the other hand, Josh wasn’t the focus of the tale and therefore, I could see readers feeling that the disabled character was reduced to a lesser/secondary role and/or acted as some kind of prop for the main characters. It didn’t ping any of my buttons but I don’t know how well calibrated my buttons are.

Of course, Gabe has a disability too and I think there is some focus on what life is like for him so that may well balance out the above regarding Josh. I don’t know enough about the topic to make an assessment here. When I read the book I thought it was handled well but I’m obviously reading from an abled perspective and the more I learn about the topic and my own privilege, the more I know I’m not an expert. I put this out there so readers can make up their own minds. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I’d be happy to hear about them in the comments.

The nature and extent of Gabe’s disability is not revealed until late in the book. There were possibly pros and cons things about this. The reader gets to know Gabe as a capable man, not defined by a disability. On the other hand, because it is hidden away, his complicated feelings about his disability are not as fleshed out as they might have been otherwise.

What else? I thought the portrayal of motherhood rang true as well. It is not idealised. Josh is a rambunctious boy who is starting to assert his own independence. He is not perfect and he’s far more than a plot moppet.

Josh grabbed her hand, his eyes widening as he gave her his serious look, the one he’d perfected as a toddler when he’d tried to make his extreme disapproval of broccoli clear. “Mom, I didn’t want to have to say this, but I need my space.”

The romance between Gabe and Molly felt, at times, a little squished in with all the other stuff going on in the book. I’d have liked a little more page time with Gabe and Molly. I expect I would have been about to relax into the setting a little more if I had read at least some of the earlier books but that said, I do think One Night With Her Bachelor works well as a stand-alone.

I thought I was getting a light-hearted romance about a bachelor auction. It wasn’t what I was expecting (I couldn’t call it light-hearted or “fun” but it wasn’t all angst all the time either) but it was well worth my time and money.

Grade: B-

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