Set in Wilmington, North Carolina, Promise Me a Rainbow is about Catherine Holben, a recently divorced 32-year-old teacher whose students are pregnant girls whom the school system wants to keep in school, and Joe D'Amaro, a 38-year-old widower with three kids and a struggling construction business that he co-owns with his brother, Michael. Catherine and Joe meet cute; actually, there is considerable sadness behind their meeting, but it's still kind of adorable. Catherine buys a pair of gnomes, Daisy and Eric, a mother cradling a child. They hold particular significance for her because the reason behind Catherine's divorce was that she and her husband could not have children. After the exhaustion of fertility treatments, she simply was told that there was no reason behind her infertility; both she and her husband should be able to procreate, but they just couldn't.
During the checkout process, the shop owner asks Catherine if she can keep her contact info on file; the gnomes were sold by a man who needed the money. Catherine agrees, and before she knows it - and after a difficult conversation with her ex-husband - Catherine meets Fritz D'Amaro, Joe's seven-year-old daughter, who tracks down Catherine (Fritz and Joe actually had been in the stairwell outside of Catherine's apartment as Jonathan and Catherine concluded their emotional confrontation, and Fritz remembers how to get back) and asks to visit the gnomes. Catherine calls Joe ... and we're off.
But Joe and Catherine are people with complicated histories and turbulent emotional cores. Joe is drawn to Catherine's calmness, but he is perceptive enough to know that beneath her seemingly even temperament lies the potential for fire. But he is reluctant. His wife has been dead for five years, and he has three children, an older teenage daughter, Della, and son, Charlie, along with Fritz. Della is another problem, as she resolutely resists any romance for her father.
Catherine, meanwhile, has to process Jonathan's desertion. She isn't sure she wants to be attracted to Joe, but she is. In the early stages of their relationship, she realizes that he's quite handsome. He's steady and strong, and when he holds her, he holds her - physically, emotionally, completely.
But Joe conceals something. His brother Michael's wife, Margaret, continues to pursue him, despite his clear rejection of her. Her attraction to him causes him no end of troubles, the least of which comes from Della.
He put his face in his hands. He was so tired. Life was so simple to Michael. If one was faced with the possibility of some kind of relationship, all one had to do was "check it out." Michael didn't see the consequences of that simplistic approach any more than he'd seen the consequences of marrying a hungry woman like Margaret. Joe didn't want his life any more unsettled than it already was. Della had always rebelled against even the idea of someone taking her mother's place. He was sure that it was Della who resurrected the old photograph of him and Lisa and put it back on the mantel, just as he was sure that it had been done for Catherine's benefit. God knows he had enough to worry about with Fritz. He didn't want to have to deal with Della, too, particularly when there was no real reason for her to be concerned. Catherine Holben had given no indication that she was interested in anything other than Fritz and, unless he took the initiative, he'd never have to see her again. Even if he took Fritz to visit the gnomes, he could do it without seeing Catherine. It wasn't too late. He could hold back, and she would be out of his life. Then he could just go on as he had before.They resist each other, Joe and Catherine, but their attraction to each other is intense and deep. Just as Joe prefers to avoid another complication in his already over-complicated life, so Catherine would like to forget about Joe.
Her panic had nothing to do with the cookout per se. It had to do with Joe D'Amaro. Her recovery from her recent emotional trauma was now no doubt complete. He was on her mind; she couldn't keep from wondering about him and his children and the dead wife of whom he didn't speak. And it scared her to death.
She spent the rest of the weekend mentally making excuses not go to, only to have them all wiped out by the reassertion of the poignant image of Fritz D'Amaro's little face.
"I've done something stupid," she told Pat Bauer before her math class on Monday. She hadn't meant to say anything because it was only a cookout and because she thought Pat wasn't feeling well.
"Oh, good," Pat said. "I was really getting tired of being the only one."They come together because of the gnomes and Fritz, but nothing afterwards is easy, and that's what makes Promise Me a Rainbow so delightful. We know Joe and Catherine belong together, but we also know that these two have to clean up their messy emotional states and, in Joe's case, their families.
If you're looking for some sexy times, there are a few. The love scenes are not graphic in terms of the physical act, they are in terms of the emotional. Joe and Catherine enjoy some pillow talk, but as with everything about these two, it isn't typical or easy.
Promise Me a Rainbow is as entertaining and lovely a read as I've had in a while. Please give this sweet little book a chance. It is a pleasant, enjoyable surprise.
Published by Bell Bridge Books and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.