A stranger comes to town… And isn’t that one of the best attention grabbers there is for the beginning of a story? Once my attention was grabbed, I was treated to a delightful, heartwarming book that offered up a romance for Margarita Gal, Fia Thomas with former Army sniper West Texan cowboy, Elliot Ross. Beyond the romance, is also the story of a woman who needs the answers about her deteriorating health and a man who is looking for home. It’s a tender-hearted story of what love and trust can do between two people supported by a strong, supporting group of friends.
This is the sixth book in the Tallgrass series. It is connected to the rest of the series, but like the others, it can be read standalone.
The story opens with Elliot Ross hitting town with just a few bucks to his name in a rain storm. His new found stray dog, Mouse, has to go, but hates to get wet. So it is while talking to his dog and holding an umbrella over her in a grass area of a parking lot that he encounters sweet Fia Thomas. Elliot needs to get a job and earn some cash to build up his dwindling funds even as his reason for moving about is to find a permanent place to stay- a true home with love and happiness like his parents have. The lovely and light-hearted Fia is game to share a burger and chat for his first night and they hit it off. Elliot starts to get comfortable and put down roots with the help of Fia and his new bakery employers, Lucy and Patricia, along with their gang of family and friends, The Margarita Girls. He draws closer to Fia and starts dreaming of what can be, but he senses she is keeping something important back and not just holding him at arms’ length because she isn’t ready to move on after the death of her husband.
Fia Thomas was once a risk-taker and woman who lived big and real. She grew up with parents who didn’t want her, but had it good for a few years with a husband who did. After his death, she not only grieved, but now faces a mysterious debilitating illness that leaves her curled up in pain and blinded by headaches. It’s been scary not knowing the cause or knowing when an episode would occur. Doctor after doctor has poked and prodded and come up empty. So, when Elliot comes along with his easy smiles, sexy Cowboy looks and drawl, and has no idea that he’s supposed to pity or run from the sick girl, she chooses to enjoy his bright company and not tell him. It’s just temporary. She can’t have a serious relationship with anyone as messed up as she is and besides, Elliot is a drifter who will probably move on eventually. But then he doesn’t and their connection grows stronger. She has to tell him the truth and push him away- or maybe the truth will send him running anyway.
Meanwhile, Margarita Gal, Marti takes on the responsibility of her teenage niece while Cadence’s parents are away for a year on a job in Dubai, and through Cadence’s matchmaking tendencies and Marti’s own interest, she surprises herself by tentative reaching out and time spent with brooding bad boy, Dillon Smith, the black sheep brother to Jesse’s husband, Dalton. Dillon made a mistake that cost him dear and his wild ways have estranged him from family, but he’s done his time and just wants to move on from his past.
As with each of the books in this series, the couples face unique and difficult circumstances. Fia and Elliot have to deal with her mystery illness and her trust issues along with his tendency to wander while Marti must let go of her rigid, organized life and Dillon must get beyond his past and look to his future. Marti and Dillon’s situation is simmering in the background and barely getting started with Fia and Elliot as the main story.
I love the blend of the new with the familiar that takes place amongst the friendly group living in Tallgrass. The bakery is a success and is going strong for Lucy and Patricia was introduced in the last book and it is part of the background for Elliot’s story and Elliot also shares a scene with Benny’s adorable grandmother. Of course there are the meetings of the widow ladies of the Margarita group and the times they jump in and help each other. The extended group is expanding with spouses, children and peripheral friends adds to the enjoyment of this story. I feel like I’ve been to someplace special and been with close friends when I read each book.
Now, while the book tackles tough subjects, the angst is low. These are mature adults and they act like it even if they do make mistakes. Fia hides her illness from Elliot though she has a good reason. Just like Dillon screwed up his life, but it was a stupid mistake and one he has learned from. Actions have results, but the author doesn’t dwell on it all.
Elliot and Fia have a tender, friendly, and slow-burn passionate romance. He might be a drifter who has sampled many women, but he’s not a jerk or a womanizer. Elliot is respectful and sweet. He’s as far from brooding as it gets with his sunny, energetic nature. He’s a cowboy at heart and he loves cooking and baking for people. Being a sniper hurt a little of his soul, but he has since healed. His parents sold the family ranch and found semi-retirement working on someone else’s ranch in Arizona. Elliot is happy for them, but it leaves him at loose ends when he gets out of the army. He struggles to find a job so he moves on. I loved seeing this deserving man find a home, a job doing something he loves, and someone to love.
Now Fia, she too is a generally happy gal who takes the bad and doesn’t let it get her down. Her past has shaped her, but it also made her stronger. She reaches out and finds her way to a better place. She will miss her husband, but she is also ready to move on to grasp life if only her illness didn’t drag her down and scare her. She enjoys Elliot so much that she doesn’t want to ruin it and then she is afraid to take what he seems to be offering and pushes him away. Her friends have her back and challenge her fears. Fia must learn to trust in Elliot’s sticking power and that he can see past her illness to her- that she can be more than just a caretaking duty for him.
They were so good together that I was constantly smiling as I read.
And yes, the dogs in the form of Mouse the baby abused pit bull and Dillon’s dog get to share the limelight with the human characters. Always fun to see how the dog character will help further the romance.
And so, this latest installment was another hit. I really hope that Marti and Dillon’s story gets more page time as they are such opposites, but bring out the best in each other. I would recommend this book/series to those who enjoy small town character-driven gently paced romance.
My thanks to Forever-Grand Central for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #227