Meet the Hero of In Your Arms – Sean O’Malley
By: Shannyn Schroeder
I love the O’Malleys. From the first moment I wrote about them in my O’Learys series, I fell for them. And Sean is one of my favorites. Everyone describes him as a live-and-let-live kind of guy who happens to be quick with his fists. And that really sums up who he is.
Sean is all about enjoying life. He works as a mechanic because he likes working on cars. It’s not a stepping-stone to some other career. He plays hockey every chance he gets and rides his motorcycle until the weather prohibits it. He does whatever he wants, pretty much no matter what. When he has a chance to enjoy a long motorcycle ride due to some unexpected awesome weather, he goes, even though it costs him his job. He knows he won’t have a problem getting a new one.
Sean loves his family and likes having them around. It’s part of why he continues to live at home. He can afford to live in his own place, but he chooses not to. He’s very protective of everyone he cares about, and that’s the reason he’s usually so quick to use his fists.
Part of why Sean refuses to be more than an “overgrown boy” is because he grew up watching his older brother Jimmy take care of everyone. Jimmy is ultra-responsible and Sean doesn’t want to live with that kind of burden.
When he meets Emma, he starts to want a relationship with her and doesn’t understand how he could fall for a woman who is a female version of Jimmy. She expects him to be something he can’t be, but for her he’s willing to try.
The blast of air-conditioning hit them as the automatic door swung open. Emma paused, looked up and around, and turned toward the bakery. Sean followed. She kept walking, and he stopped by the coffee cakes. A chocolate-chip cake sounded good.
“What about this?” He held up the plastic container.
“Uh-uh. It needs to be birthday cake.”
Sean held on to the coffee cake but followed her to the refrigerated section. She looked at the display for a minute before choosing one. As great as Emma seemed, she sure had some weird quirks. She picked out a round cake with Happy Birthday written in blue handwriting. Red, yellow, and blue icing balloons decorated the edge.
Emma said nothing. With the cake in hand, she turned toward the register. Although she quickly offered answers to his questions, she wasn’t like other girls he knew, who would fill silence with any kind of pointless chatter.
“You okay?” he asked when they got to the self-checkout.
“I will be.” She scanned her cake, and he jumped in to scan his too before she could finish the transaction. Then he swiped his card to pay.
“You didn’t have to buy my cake.”
“I know I didn’t have to, but if I have a crappy day and someone buys me a beer, that beer tastes even better going down.”
His answer got the reaction he’d hoped for. A smile. Emboldened by her smile, he pushed on. “So why does it have to be birthday cake?”
She sighed and he thought she might not answer. “Birthday cake was the one thing my mom got right when I was a kid.”
He waited, hoping she’d explain, because how could anyone mess up store-bought birthday cake? They walked through the automatic door, and the heat of the afternoon swamped him.
“You met her. Even with that brief encounter, you can probably tell Brandi is far from a stellar mom. A lot of things were uncertain when I was little. But birthday cake was something we could always count on. It didn’t matter where we were living or even if she had a job, Mom made sure we had birthday cake on our birthdays.”
“It’s weird now that you mention it. I guess I always took birthday cake for granted. In my family, we’re all adults and we still make a trip to Blackstone’s to get a birthday cake.”
“For me, birthday cake is comfort.” She leaned over and bumped his shoulder as they walked. “I keep some in my freezer because you never know when you’re going to have a bad day.”
“Well, it’s not like I buy a cake and eat it all by myself in one sitting. It would be a waste to throw it out, so I cut it into pieces and freeze it.”
The walk back to his house was too quick. Sean liked Emma talking about herself. He didn’t know how he’d even managed not to realize how much he missed having a girlfriend. Then he remembered that every girl at some point pushed for something more than he wanted to give. He wasn’t about to put a ring on anyone’s finger. That kind of commitment would ruin his easygoing lifestyle.
I really liked Sean and Emma together–they had good chemistry, and clearly brought out good qualities in one another, even though they couldn’t always see it. I wasn’t crazy about how Emma wrote Sean off from the very beginning, though I did understand her instincts there–yeah, a guy who lives in his parent’s basement and thinks nothing of having three different jobs in one year doesn’t exactly scream “stable grownup”. She was a bit out of line not wanting to date a mechanic, though (seriously, with how much I have a tendency to shell out to gentlemen of that profession each year, they’d be on my short list), and the whole dating other guys to find “the one” while keeping up a friends(? up for debate–even they weren’t sure how to label them) with benefits thing she had going on with Sean was not cool. Even though he freely admitted he wasn’t looking for anything permanent, I had trouble believing he’d be okay with that aspect.
And yeah, Sean definitely needed to do some growing up, but overall he was a really good guy…though that could be my partiality for bar league hockey players doing some of the talking there. 😉 Still, he was easy to root for, and it was clear from the start that the two of them had something that was going to be worth the work in the end–if they’d let it get to that point, that is.
It was also nice to see a realistically-written teacher for a change! Yes, lesson planning, grading, and getting up early Monday through Friday are very real facts of life for teachers, even in kindergarten. So many authors over-romanticize their characters, having it be all sunshine and rainbows and I-adore-my-student-y with dedicated teachers who hardly seem to do much more than show up for class every morning. Emma loved her job and seemed good at it, but she also worked for it, which was refreshing.
Though both the hero and heroine were frustrating at times, ultimately this book was more satisfying than the previous one in the series, Under Your Skin , where the heroine (Sean’s younger sister Norah) being pregnant with another guy’s baby for 2/3 of the book made it more than a little bit disconcerting. The entertaining O’Malley family dynamic was here again, making me look forward to the last two siblings (Kevin and Tommy) finally getting their HEAs.
In Your Arms should work fine as a standalone if you haven’t read book one or the original series this is connected to (oldest brother Jimmy’s story is part of the O’Learys series–Catch Your Breath ).
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.