"It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! --- It's Raining Men! Amen!" Eden Palmer's life takes an unexpected turn once again when two handsome men come into her life at the same time, and Eden's temperature "is rising." The plot of FIRST IMPRESSIONS is the fantasy of women worldwide --- a choice between two men who are in hot pursuit. Who will Eden choose: the man who makes a good first impression, or the man who makes the lasting impression?
A successful editor at a New York publishing house, Eden's love life has been limited. "The city (New York) was full of young, beautiful, young, gorgeous, young women. Eden felt that she'd never had a chance." However, "God bless Mother Nature, she's a single woman too...She taught every angel to rearrange the sky so that every woman could find her perfect guy..." In Eden's first 24 hours in her hometown of Arundel, North Carolina, her first impression of town lawyer and widower Braddon Granville --- "broad-shouldered with a thick chest" and "a thick mane of salt-and-pepper hair. Very handsome indeed" --- offers hope for Eden's nonexistent love life. A few hours later, she realizes that her first impression of Jared McBride, an undercover FBI agent sent to seduce information out of her in connection with a mysterious death, is less than chaste.
Eden returns to Arundel, North Carolina to take possession of Farrington Manor, willed to her by the petite and spirited Alice Augusta Farrington. She recalls her life there as a scared and pregnant 17-year-old girl taken in by Alice Farrington after she was thrown out by her parents when they disbelieved that the town minister raped her. The baby girl who Eden raised as a single mom and to whom Eden is completely devoted is about to be a mother herself, and Eden decides to move back to Arundel despite her previous history there to "find out about myself." There is nothing like the attentions of two virile men to boost Eden's confidence and make her forget the past.
Eden Palmer is being watched 24/7 by the FBI. Her name was found on a piece of paper in the stomach of a dead man, and the FBI thinks she is the key to why he was murdered. Eden is suspicious of Jared McBride's presence in Arundel, but invites him to stay in the eighteenth-century Farrington Manor so she can keep an eye on him after she viciously attacks and hurts him in a darkened room. Jared's involvement with the FBI soon becomes evident and helps Eden unravel the mystery of the Farrington Sapphires. The scene where the sapphires are discovered is one of the novel's most riveting passages.
Slowly, very slowly, Jude Deveraux develops a sexual chemistry between Jared and Eden that keeps the reader interested. This is the only undercurrent of romance between characters that keeps the novel alive. Will the lasting impression of the man who pursues Eden (despite her desire not to be pursued any longer) and who makes love to her in a secluded candlelit shed with the rain sprinkling on a tin roof win her heart? Not until the novel progresses in the second half does the storyline pick up and flourish. FIRST IMPRESSIONS is quick to pair Eden with Braddon and make mention of marriage between the two, long before there is any strong relationship built between the characters.
As the mystery of the Farrington Sapphires is unraveled and Jared heroically disperses of multiple poisonous snakes hidden in Eden's bedroom and rescues her kidnapped daughter, we come to realize that Braddon Granville's pedigree doesn't stand a chance against the bravado and body of a man whose "years of exercise had kept him in trim fit."
The strongest theme of FIRST IMPRESSIONS is a powerful statement about finding oneself and triumphing over life's unexpected events. Eden is forty-something and still discovering herself and her passions. Most importantly, she discovers the kind of man whom she allows to become the "Great Love" of her life. The man who leaves a lasting impression on Eden and who pursues her relentlessly triumphs over the man who egotistically depends on his first impression.
Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 22, 2011