Dating A Cougar (Never Too Late #1)

Dating A Cougar (Never Too Late #1) - Donna McDonald 3.5+ starsThis book is tough to rate, because it has so many unique characteristics for the contemporary romance with "steam" genre. It's hot. It's meaty, in that it has well-developed characters who don't play by anyone's rules but their own. The 2 main leads have their own issues and are strong, forceful people. They fight - a lot. They love - deeply. They struggle with age differences and life and finances and all the things that we "normal" folk do.Alexa is a 50 year old former fashion model who owns her own lingerie line. Because her 1st husband is such a financial whiz, she's also co-owner or part-owner of many other businesses, including local Falls Church restaurants and gyms. She's been on her own for many years, raising her daughter with some help from her ex. But she hasn't had a real love relationship since her ex - almost 30 years ago now. She's surrounded by wonderful, loving, supportive friends (Lauren "The Saint" and Dr. Regina the sex therapist) and her daughter, Jenna. But Alexa's past relationships often made the press, because of her celebrity status. Her daughter thinks she flirts too much. Alexa's only gone for the attraction-physical in so long, she doesn't know how to be part of a real relationship now, and she's sure that at 50, she's past her prime anyway.Casey is a 38 year old retired Marine. He retired, because during his last duty at an embassy, a bomb resulted in him having a hip replacement. He's still got limited mobility, but he's all Marine, so he sucks it up and uses a cane when necessary. Casey also lost his wife, Susan, to cancer around the same time, so the man's had some things to deal with. Casey and Alexa meet because Jenna (her daughter) is dating Seth, Casey's cousin. Seth is only 8 or so years younger than Casey, but when Seth's parents died when he was 12, Casey was 20 and already married to Susan. Casey and Susan took in Seth and raised him. So Seth and Jenna obviously want their "parents" to meet. No one expects the instant chemistry and sparks!While there's some of the expected age-difference debates, it doesn't drag down the book. Alexa is concerned and aware of the age difference, but she doesn't wear it like a martyr. The book's focus is really on these 2 people with an instant and constant attraction trying to figure out if there's MORE than just a physical connection between them. And if they scratch the itch, will it all just go away? And is that a bad thing or a good thing?What holds the rating back for me is that 3/4 of the way through the book, it makes a turn... into almost a whole new book. An instance of Casey being the hero that he is turns tragic. And we have to deal with the uncertainty of life-and-death. Then, we struggle through a realistic issue, but one that feels non-organic and manufactured for this couple and this story. Yes, it brought tears to my eyes several times, but somehow the momentum of this wonderful story just... slowed. I'm not sure if it ever completely recovered.I appreciate the author's attempt to bring real-life in. For the most part, it worked and gave this book a freshness and excitement to it - for me. But the very last part of the book just didn't fit neatly. I think, perhaps, that it was the TIMING of the event and how close it was to the end of the book that got me. There didn't seem to be enough DEVELOPMENT of the issue at hand and, therefore, time for the RESOLUTION before making everything happy-happy and nice-nice. And THAT is what felt off to me.But I do intend to try the next book in the series, so this author definitely has captured my attention!