I’ve enjoyed a historical romance by this author and loved its heartwarming quality alongside a good action plot. It was neat to get more of the same here in this small town contemporary plot. A woman and her child hiding out from her abusing husband encounter trouble when they nearly freeze to death in a record breaking winter ice storm and are rescued by a lonely bachelor with a heart of gold. I enjoyed how it was sweet without neglecting the very sad and real issues of long term abuse survivors and ongoing danger from the abuser.
Amanda and her daughter managed to escape her psycho husband and she lands in a small central Oregon town. She finds a job that barely makes ends meet as she saves a little each month toward the cost of a divorce case in court. She wants everything good for her daughter and goes without herself. Staying detached and under the radar. Walking to work, shabby thread bare clothes, leftover food from her job, and walking wherever she needs to go. Her only way to deal with the pressure of it all is to write notes and toss them into the wind. Only, those snippets of pink paper with her anguish, need, hopes and dreams are going to just the man who needs his own dream to come true.
Jeb Sterling is the oldest of six kids. He lives alone with his dog and his livestock in a big lovely home that was meant to hold a family by now. He is thirty and wonders if he will ever find the right women. Then he is irritated to find someone has littered on his property with all these torn pink pieces of paper. Jeb notices writing on one and is intrigued by it. He then pulls the wad of others out and reads through them all. Somewhere close by is a woman and her daughter that are living in fear and need. A bad storm with tempts well below zero have him out getting his neighbors to safety and then he finds his note lady.
Amanda and Chloe are skittish and Jeb knows it won’t be easy to gentle them and show them they are safe. Amanda is proud so he has to find creative ways to get her to accept his help. Making it about Chloe has her seeing that as much as she needs to do for herself, that trusting and accepting help and giving help in return is alright. And she knows there is something between her and Jeb, but can she ever trust another man again? Will Jeb suddenly show a different side once he has her at his mercy? But his dog loves him, his neighbors love him, and Chloe is blossoming under his care… And so is Amanda. But there is the danger from her husband…
This is a sweet and heartwarming romantic suspense and contemporary romance mash-up. Though it is not fluffy. The long-term emotional, psychological, and physical abuse that Amanda and Chloe went through is the focal point of the story. They survived, but it did a number on them. Jeb is just the sort of guy who could stand between them and danger and need even while nurturing them back from the darkness. Jeb and his family are a fun and friendly group and I loved seeing them surround Jeb’s girls and show them they can be safe and happy.
I loved this story, but felt it could have used a fat trimming. For example, in the beginning, there was this long and detailed description of every shop and shopkeeper in town. As this is a series, it would be best to spread out the description over the course of the books for when the characters actually went to those shops. A paragraph when a sentence would do sort of thing (I know, pot; kettle). I let this slide in the rating since I very much loved the story and characters so let it go.
The romance is long developing and on the sweeter end which made sense for this story since Amanda distrusted and hated men in the beginning. Then the scheming husband is in the picture and targeting Amanda. But Jeb waits and is strong and patient allowing her to set the pace. They were great together and great for each other.
As to the villain, Mark, I got pretty revenge-minded by the time all his torture and abuse started coming out and the evil way he kept slipping through the cracks and working the law to his advantage. I was the bloodthirsty type cheering for justice and maybe a bit of revenge.
All in all, I loved this first in the Mystic Creek series and look forward to the stories of the rest of Jeb’s family and maybe some of those other town folk. This is for those who like their romance on the sweeter end of the spectrum and like some small town and suspense mixed in for good measure.
My thanks to Penguin Group for providing the book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #36 CR
Literary Pickers #35 cast iron skillet
Mt. TBR #17
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