Some books strike just the right chord out of the blue. I saw a book with a blurb that drew in my curiosity and really had no expectations. It wasn’t far into this story that my anticipation grew and continued to grow as things were all laid out. A famous country singer discovers after her grandmother’s death that the son she gave away as a poor, scared sixteen year old when her grandmother and her boyfriend both rejected her has been living for years with his real father back home in Texas. Yeah…that was the set up. And then as I progressed, I could see that both Betts and Gabe who loathed each other for years were both laboring under false impressions as a result of lies carefully cultivated with both of them just as they now had to figure out how best to break the truth to their teenage son. By the time I had laughed, cried, and sighed my way through this heartwarming story, I realized that I had listened to a true gem of a story and I didn’t want it to end.
Fortunately, I get to stick around in The Marilyns’ world as this was only the first of three stories about three ‘through thick and thin’ best friends known as the Three Marilyns after the one time the women as girls dressed up as Marilyn Monroe for Halloween. Can’t wait to continue with Lucky’s story.
But, back to Betts. Mega-successful country singer Betts Monroe is with her flamboyant, unapologetically slutty mother, Mama Sheree, as they prepare for her grandmother’s funeral. Her grandmother was a hard, mean, loner woman who made the lives of those around her miserable. A registered letter arrives that rocks Betts’ world. Her grandmother sent her a letter from beyond the grave so to speak telling her that the baby she gave up when she was young and scared is with his father back in her Texas hometown. Betts rushes back determined to get her son from the man who used her and threw her love back in her face when she needed him most. But easier said than done. The Swansons were rancher royalty when she was just the daughter of the town slut back in the day and Tom is now a teen and thinks she gave him away and stayed away. Still, she will do whatever it takes to get back into her son’s life and show him that she never stopped loving him and she will take on Gabe and the Swansons to do it.
Laboring to hang on to the family ranch after his bitter, mean father lost almost everything in bad investments, Gabe doesn’t have time to confront trouble from his past. Gabe Swanson has hated the woman who took his dad’s bribe money to prove she never really cared about him and only the family wealth and then sold their baby into a bad situation all to fund her big time singing career. He raised Tom and she is not going to waltz back into his son’s life, make promises and skip out on his son like she did to him. Too bad the vixen is as attractive as ever and he wants to believe her, but can he when so much is at stake? Is it possible she told him the truth?
This story has a down home touch to it behind the storm and angst of the main conflict. It felt like a modern day Shakespeare story the way the characters have been fed many untruths piled on to already youthful impressions to cause trouble and heartbreak that lasted over eighteen years. Gabe and Betts were manipulated by their respective relations for both her Grandmother Geegee and his father’s purposes. It is only slowly through stormy confrontations and quiet of the night confessions that the two put together the truth which bring regret, guilt, and sorrow along with a renewed hope for the pair. I know some of the past drama was over the top, but yet it pulled at my heart and made me tear up for all these two lost at no fault of their own. It was sweet when this warring pair grew more open to the possibility for the truth coming out and it was hilarious the back and forth bartering and shenanigans the two pull on each other.
And beyond the bittersweet past and renewed romance of this middle-aged couple is a secondary story involving their young son, Tom, and his high school sweetheart where things are setting up for a repeat of the past. Gabe and Betts worry about telling Tom the truth even as Tom is meeting his mother without realizing who Betts is. Loved seeing Betts and Tom connect as mother and son over music and high school love.
Grounding all this tempestuous emotion is the wry humor and understanding of Betts two best friends and her outrageous Mama Sheree. Where Mama Sheree goes anything can happen. The humor was a nice counter-balance to the drama.
I listened to this one in audio format and absolutely adored the narrator, Pam Dougherty, as a perfect match for this story. Her tone, inflections, accents, characters, emotions, and over all storytelling were spot on. She enhanced this story and was a huge part of my enjoyment. I would definitely pick up more of her work.
All in all, I was thrilled to find this new to me author and series and was engaged completely in the story of this colorful cast of characters. I can definitely recommend this book for those who enjoy sassy, sizzling, and slightly dramatic down home contemporary romance.
Romance Roundabout #241 CR
New to Me #100 author/series