This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Samhain Publishing
Released on October 28, 2014
I read a Christmas Military Romance novella by this author a while back and I really enjoyed her writing and the story so when I saw the chance to read another by her, I eagerly picked it up. This one was a fast read, but it had a nice blend of light and flirty with heartwarming and meaningful, too. I loved how both characters had to face some personal challenges and this was more than the surface ‘class differences’ romance it starts out to be.
Grady left the army after thirteen years when it bled his soul dry. He grew up in the foster care system so home and belonging are things he dreams of, but doesn’t believe he’ll ever have. He decides to make a fresh start by buying a fixer-upper ranch house on a small spread outside Meridian, KS. Right after he gets settled, he encounters the engaging Dr. Lauren Hayes as in one of the town founding streets and schools named after all the best clubs and town society Hayes. Grady is attracted, but he has nothing to offer a woman like Lauren who dates men of her own circle and enjoys a lifestyle he can never hope to give her if they were together.
Lauren’s dream is to escape her hometown and have ‘save the world’ adventures through her medical work. She is bored by the men she dates and thinks her chances at romance are hopeless until into her office walks an ex-soldier with a gorgeous body and a tortured past. Grady consumes her unlike any man she has ever met. She wants to know everything about him and wants to help him heal, but he offers her a real challenge when he holds her at arm’s length and keeps walking away. For the first time, she begins to weaken in her resolve to escape.
As I said, this one went quickly. Grady and Lauren are attracted on first sight, but encounter some stumbling blocks when Grady learns that Lauren comes from a very different background from his own and even now, they share little in common. Then there is his desire for stability and a home and hers to go gallivanting around.
Grady is up against his past as a foster kid and the trauma from the war he needs to heal from. He has to adjust to civilian life and figure out his future. He has determination and he works so hard even willing to work a road crew and take on extra work for a contractor to fix up his ranch. I enjoyed getting to know this brooding, nearly broken hero who wants to give up, but doesn’t mostly because Lauren won’t let him. He’s tired of it all, but there is a spark of hope left that maybe he can get a happy ending like the regular folks.
I confess that I struggled with Lauren. I think I had the notion that she was very put together and mature, but in truth, she has some issues and they are issues she isn’t aware of herself. I had my doubts about her, but then she pulled a stunt that had me lose complete respect for her. I was left with mixed feelings even after she got her act together. And I guess, knowing she had such an issue, put her and Grady on an equal balance in that respect.
See, that was the other thing that I noticed. Grady and Lauren’s romance wasn’t an easy sell for me mostly because I felt like they were not on the same maturity level. She gets almost giddy because Grady has ‘traveled’ right when he’s telling her that he saw the Middle East during a war. Later, she is imagining herself this superhero type of person who goes into hostile exotic environments to care for the injured people who only she can save. Then next to this, there is Grady who is soul-weary, struggling to make ends meet so he works hard, and just wants love and a family to make him happy. He doesn’t even care if Lauren jets to all points of the compass if she can just love him while she is busy backing away fast because she doesn’t want to be tied down even for love. In the end, I felt that Grady was right when he told her that she got in her own way. That’s when things flipped and Grady was the strong one while it was Lauren who had to face up to her flaws and grow.
The ending was not exactly on par with the rest of the story. I really didn’t like what was written as the climax and the romance ending felt rushed after all the build up to that point. Was left wanting.
So, in the end, this one does come out as a win in my book because Grady’s triumph and healing overshadowed the smaller issues I had with other aspects of the story. I did enjoy the writing other than the ending, the setting, the situation, and the way Grady was developed as a character. This is a trilogy so I want to keep going. Those who enjoy spicy small town romance with a dash of military flavor might want to try this one.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.