Review: Open Cover Before Striking by Willa Okati

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Open Cover Before StrikingRating: 4.5 stars

Davis Carmichael has one focus in life, his job as a writer for Tatterdemalion’s Voice, and he let’s nothing else distract him from that.  This includes sexual encounters, then he meets Cristián in an airport while both are waiting for flights out.   Their one night stand is not only white hot but revelatory and neither man can let go of their memories of the encounter.  And neither man expects to see each other again, afterall they don’t even have each other’s full name.

But fate has something else in store for them.  Because the subject of Davis Carmichael’s next column is a matchmaker who Davis intends to expose as a fraud and that matchmaker is none other than Cristián Baranov.  Cristián Baranov is a believer in the adage that there is only one true love for each person and he believes he has a real gift in his ability to see those who are soul mates.  When Davis travels to the home and office of the matchmaker, he is astonished to find his one night stand is the person he has been sent to interview and the surprise is not at all one sided.  Cristián too is surprised to see Davis but also delighted.  It is a case of big city snarky pessimism versus warm country romance and the winner will be anyone’s guess.  But both will be losers in love if Cristián can’t make the biggest match of his life, that of his own.

I will say immediately that while I loved this book, I can see where it is going to be one that people either love or hate depending upon their taste.  And they are going to feel that way from the beginning to the very end.  It will be due to one character and maybe also because of a slight paranormal element that glides throughout this contemporary romance with all the subtly of a light fragrance you can’t put a name too.  It will either  tickle your fancy or make you retch and not too much in between.

First to the characters Willa Okati has created for her story.  I actually loved them both.  The first we meet is the one that will decide this story for the reader.  You might love him or detest him as a total jerk.  I loved him.  Davis is that hot tempered, small bodied prickly hedge hog of a man.  He has a vocabulary both quick witted and foul mouthed and uses words as a weapon more often than not.  Davis pokes and strikes out at people to keep them at a distance and he does not make it easy to like him.  But I did, from the first opening snark.  Because for all his spines, and they are plentiful, there is something about him as Okati has written him that cries out “Don’t discount me, I am going to surprise you”.  And he does.  He has layers, the top of which are distrustful, sarcastic and defensive.  But keep going and the real Davis appears and he is startling!

The one character that will keep the wavering reader going is Cristián Baranov.  A creature of the country and a true romantic at heart, he really does have the power to see personal matches, all but his own in an ironic turn he is not blind to.  He is compassionate and very much aware of human foibles, saying to the couples he brings together that while he can unite them, the rest is up to them.  And as we all know “humans screw up”, and if things don’t work out, then it is only ourselves we can blame.  Not that this makes his pain any less when the couples he brings together don’t make it.  The author makes us believe so totally in his abilities that by the end of the book, you will wish that Cristián Baranov was real and that you could meet with him soon to find the one  you were meant to be with.

The other element that the reader must take on faith is that the events in the story happen very quickly, this is no drawn out love affair, although there is a troubled long term couple also involved.  It all comes down to faith.  Faith in Christian’s abilities and faith that we have a perfect match for each of us out there.  If you can take those concepts to heart, then this story will beguile you and the ending will make you cheer.  And while I may not believe that there is only one for each of us, I loved these characters and their story.  For me it was a darn near perfect Okati, just what I expect from her.  So give this book a chance because really these characters and their story is worth it.

Cover art by April Martinez.  I think you all know by now how I feel about red or yellow cover colors.  I really dislike them and that is once again my only problem with this cover.  I get why the artist did it but still while the models are perfection, ditto the lit match, couldn’t another background work just as well? Sigh.