This series is heartwarming and down-home country goodness, but it also offers a little something different with each installment. As every person and their circumstances are unique so are their relationships. I like how this author brings that out. In this story, there is a young guy doing the best he can to keep his family and maybe try for some happiness along the way.
Ryder Dent, to all appearances, is a young guy with a young wife and child that he supports on his job managing his dad’s store. People talk about how they had to get married and both lost their chance for college on his part and a big marriage to a wealthy rancher like her daddy on hers. People also talk about the fact that Ryder isn’t Jonas’ daddy and that he was duped by Andi. What they don’t know is that Ryder and Andi are best friends and they married so he could protect her and her unborn baby and so that nobody would ever learn that he was not into women.
Over the years, they have become a strong, affectionate family. Andi might wish for a career in music and Ryder might wonder what it would be like not to hide, but they are both content. That is until a new doctor comes to town who Ryder can’t keep his eyes off and Andi is given her break by an opening act band. Things are a changing and Ryder has to decide if it is time for everything to come out in the open and if it does, what that will do to all of them.
The story is gently paced and character-driven. Ryder was a teenager when he made the decision to protect Andi and her unborn baby. He never had a chance to fulfill high school dreams of college and football and other guys. He shouldered a family and stood strong in the face of Andi’s rich rancher controlling father and even takes her emotional outbursts when she wants someone else to feel misery with her. He’s just this amazing guy who does the best he can. Unfortunately, he is also naive and innocent. His growing need to be honest and restlessness when he encounters the handsome Declan are the catalysts that motivate him to set things in motion by telling Jonas the truth about Ryder not being his birth father and telling the truth about being gay. His world as he knows it goes up in flames all at once. It was quite the emotional read as a result.
Much of the story is a personal journey of growth for Ryder and he is the narrator and central figure. As such, the romance is a secondary plot that unwinds slowly. Ryder doesn’t communicate well and doesn’t know what he is doing much of the time since he’s never kissed a guy let alone explored what it would mean to be with one so he hurts Declan and causes them to stutter step through things. Declan is as amazing as Ryder. He was hurt in the past, but he is willing to try again with Ryder. He is confused by the situation, but he is accepting as he learns to understand as Ryder slowly opens up to him. They explore the beginnings of a relationship. If I have any complaints about this story, it would be that I wanted more. The story ended more on a happy for now with a lot left unsettled.
On a side note, Trip and Lucho have a few scenes as secondary characters. I enjoyed their spotlight appearances as brief as it was.
All in all, this was another strong segment of the series and works fine as a standalone. I enjoyed being along for Ryder’s awakening and steps toward being the man he was meant to be. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy M/M Cowboy or Small Town Romances.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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