I think this is more along the lines of 2.5 stars.
I picked it up because of the blurb - the hero pushing for the marriage, with the heroine being reluctant. I enjoy stories that include that type of storyline.
While I overall liked the story, there was a lot going on. Almost too much. And it was set up as if to have one or two more books written about some of the secondary characters . . .I mean, secondary story lines were brought in/mentioned, with no type of resolution. And as this is one of those 'series' that involve many, many books and multiple authors with no single storyline involved, it's iffy that we will see books addressing the secondary storylines.
Okay - so it was an appropriate book to read in October as it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The heroine, Jo, had breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Once we finally find this out, her behavior and thoughts make sense. We just find out in the beginning of the book that she was going to have surgery - not what kind or why - then we are brought back into her life a year later.
In addition to the cancer that we don't know about for a while, Jo is trying to save her business - which was her grandfather's local paper - and she is working very hard to do this. All the while, there is the possibility of her selling the business to a larger paper going on during the book.
And, as if this isn't enough, her grandmother has Alzheimer's and she is trying to take care of her at home. While her grandmother had made arrangements to be placed in a specialized care center when she realized that her disease was going to progress to the point that her care would be too much for her granddaughter, Jo still refuses to admit that it is too much for her. Oh, and did I mention she has not spoken about any of this with her friends?
So, while we have all this going on with our heroine, our hero is now back from deployment and he brings issues of his own with him. We find out - in a much quicker fashion than Jo's issues - that he lost 2 of his team members in a mission that he was not in on, because of a tooth ache.
So, Dan has a huge, heaping helping of survivor's guilt, with a smidgeon of PTSD symptoms thrown in. However, he is totally in denial.
He comes home after being discharged from the military and throws himself into planning his wedding to Jo. But he neglects to tell the bride, who received a wedding invitation on her birthday, and initially thought it was a joke. But, she soon realizes that he is serious and she becomes upset trying to cancel all the arrangements that were being made. (This was a drunken agreement, written on a beer mat, that if she wasn't married by her 33rd birthday, they would marry each other.)
Despite being best friends for, practically, their whole lives - - they don't discuss what is really going on until about two-thirds of the way through the book.
So, while they are finally starting to share their issues and concerns with each other, we have all these other things going on in the background. Including Dan not knowing how to deal with his cousin and her son, whose husband/son was one of the team members who was killed in the mission. He realizes he's actually in love with Jo, who categorically denies feeling the same about him at that time.
Then, we have Dan's parents having problems and divorce being discussed - - despite both of them eventually expressing love for each other - -and separating. Um, oh yeah, one of Dan's sisters is apparently in the process of her marriage ending - at least she is currently separated from her husband. We find out, almost at the end of the book, that she apparently kissed someone other than her husband.
We also have one of Dan's team members, who happens to be his sister's brother-in-law, come in to the picture and we find out he has a lot going on, including his plan on returning to active duty so that he can avenge his injuries and his friends' deaths. But, we can't forget the other member of the team who is in America, avoiding everyone, due to everything that he experienced during that apparent ambush.
Slowly, Jo starts to deal with her issues - finally placing her grandmother in the care facility that is well equipped to provide the necessary/loving care that is required. She deals with her fears of her cancer returning and her self-image and is sharing this 'burden' with Dan, acknowledging that she actually loves him and not just as a best friend.
Now, while she is coming to terms with everything, Dan is beginning t have doubts and actually shows up at Jo's house to cancel the wedding, but she does the about-face and states they are getting married. Of course, Dan, while agreeing to go through with it, is still having self-doubt, concerns, etc.
So, how does this all resolve? Well, apparently by drugging Dan and dropping him in the middle of the woods on the afternoon before his wedding to deal with his feelings, while finding his way out. He remains out until the next morning, waking up with no compass and no way to communicate with anyone in order to get out of the woods and to the church on time. He has a rucksack with some basic supplies, including some water and energy bars, to help him to get out of the woods.
Well, despite all odds - and being late - he shows up a little worse for the wear (his tux was packed into his rucksack for him), back to his old self, and they get married and live happily ever after.
Oh, and this all happens in a 3 to 4 week period.
The issues the characters were experiencing were dealt with (kind of)in a realistic way. However, like I said, there was almost too much going on for this book.
(Okay, my bad. I just looked and there is a follow-up book in which the team member of Dan's that is actually in this story - - the brother-in-law of Dan's sister - - does have his own book. It's "Stand-In Wife". I may pick it up to see if there are resolutions to all the extra story lines thrown in this book.)