I think this book is a "put up, or shut up" for anyone who's called for flawed characters, physical imperfection or morally ambiguous heroines. It defies a whole host of genre conventions in a way I found refreshing, but anyone looking for a placeholder heroine to indulge in female fantasy would be completely put off. It's not a perfect book, but Maguire is taking romance somewhere new with her books, and I'm totally on board with this.After a driver held a knife to her throat and a territorial property owner sprayed her with buckshot, being frozen on a rural driveway by two protective German Shepherds is hardly the worst thing that's happened to Sarah Novak. Clutching her bloody side and tired from running from the law for the past two weeks, she's at the mercy of a shotgun-wielding man standing before her in his boxers at one in the morning. Luckily for her, Russ Grey is a veterinarian willing to pick the buckshot out of her side and give her a place to stay, no questions asked. Unluckily for him, she plans to leave just as soon as she can, with whatever cash she can find in his house.Widowed seven long years ago, Russ is a lonely, kind man. So eager for company and starved for excitement, he can't resist the urge to let this mysterious woman stay with him. She reacquaints him with things he thought he buried with his wife--easy companionship, shared work around his property and simple sexual desire. When she surprises him one night by preempting him and making the first move, he thinks he's hit the lottery. When the woman he thinks he's falling for drugs his dogs and runs off with his money, his anger is intensified by his hurt.So, like I've said, this is an object lesson in realistic heroes and heroines. The characters look and act like normal people, fucking up and making bad decisions along the way. This premise isn't groundbreaking in of itself, but the heroine actually following through? Amazing. And when you think of it, her behavior makes a hell of a lot of sense. The hero's doing the conventional romance thing in unquestionably helping a pretty woman and falling for her, but who the hell would do that in real life? Now, a fugitive putting herself first and seizing every advantage, that's more like it.If you've ever wanted imperfect characters behaving believably, this book has them. Like real life, it isn't always pretty. They don't follow the rules. Russ isn't an alpha or a beta, or gamma, or any of those. He's Russ. He's nice, but not a pushover, handsome, but with a little paunch, lonely, a little desperate, but far from pathetic. Sarah's selfish, but regrets hurting people, afraid, but gutsy, pretty, but hates how scrawny she is. They are average people with an even mix of awesome and bonehead. Along the way they make idiot decisions I'd never make, but they're screw ups they come by honestly. Since these decisions are rooted in their personalities they ring true, rather than come across as cheap plot vehicles.Unlike most romances, this isn't really a journey so much as a snapshot. Much of the emotional turmoil centers on her fugitive status. It was a great story of trust gained, lost and regained and of two wildly different people discovering in each other all sorts of things they didn't know they wanted. Buffalo native Sarah, raised by a drug-addicted single mother and living her whole life in a hard neighborhood, is enthralled with Russ' seemingly endless goodness. Good, kind, straitlaced Russ is drawn to the lawless, exotic, ballsy Sarah. It's a look at a couple going through it's most tumultuous, emotional period rather than a chronicling of the evolution of a romance and the growth of its protagonists. I think that's the best way to describe it, anyway.While I enjoyed the story, and found it more consistent in pace and plotting than The Reluctant Nude, it wasn't quite as emotional a story as I expect from this author. I think I wanted a little bit more time with them and a few more insights into who they were. As much as they were unique characters, they didn't really stick with me the way her characters usually do. The external conflict of her fugitive status overwhelmed the characters a bit more than I liked. And, frankly, her reason for running wasn't quite water-tight: She was on the run from what she figured was a murder charge, but her recollection is of hitting a guy in the head with a glass blender pitcher and seeing blood everywhere. Everyone knows head wounds bleed disproportionately bad. It felt like Romancelandia logic and was mismatched with the tone of the book.In the end, this was a different sort of romance, and I liked that about it. This author has a lot of potential, I think, and once she nails a balance of prose, voice, emotion and plot, that book's gonna be amazing. She's my new auto-buy author, I think.