This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Western Romance
Published by Intermix
Released on January 21, 2014
Sooo…this book has me struggling to put my thoughts and emotions down because it’s all racing around inside me. I went into it just wanting to try a new author who happened to write a contemporary western romance series and the blurb sounded pretty good on this one. It’s the second book in the series, but I had no trouble jumping in. I went from liking it, to being irritated by it, to nearly loathing and setting it aside and finally, to not being able to put it down. See? Mixed. Up. I’ll try to explain without being utterly confusing after my summary.
Lark Mitchell is the younger, coddled sister of two older and very protective alpha males and she has an epiphany moment as she sits at the wedding of a guy whom she had a minor crush on. She’s a computer geek who has stayed holed up in her dark room vicariously living and staying disengaged from all around her. As she sees it, it’s time she pushed for a bit of independence away from the suffocating love of her family. She gets emailed a job opportunity to set up the tech stuff and computers out at a nearby ranch that has been converted into a reform camp for boys who’ve been in trouble. Lark signs on the dotted line and heads off on her first job away from home blissfully unaware that she has just made herself a pawn in someone’s plot for revenge against her brother, Cade.
Quinn Parker, disbarred rodeo star and all around bad boy, is set on getting his pound of flesh from Cade Mitchell for pointing the finger at him for the cause of Cade’s fall and injuries when someone sabotaged his horse with a metal spike under the saddle. Quinn’s been rejected and shunned all his life beginning at birth for being his mother’s bastard child and the rejections and anger have shaped him. Quinn suspects Cade set the whole thing up himself and doubts the injury is real. He’s sent his man, Samuel and his wife to go stay at the Mitchell’s ranch to go spy on Cade and he’s set up Cade’s baby sister to come work for him so he can both pump her for information and seduce her all in a ploy to hurt Cade Mitchell where it counted like Cade hurt him.
Lark is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place when she realizes that she signed a contract to work for the guy who crippled and nearly killed her brother and he won’t let her out of her contract. He’s also hotter than sin and makes it clear he wants her too. She’s never experienced anything like this and dives in with both feet.
Quinn hasn’t changed his mind about his plans to destroy Cade Mitchell and use Lark to do it, but now he wonders who is seducing whom. Then he suddenly realizes he has a conscience. Still, he needs to get back the one thing that keeps him going and Cade Mitchell stands in his way of getting reinstated. He’ll do whatever it takes to get all that back no matter who it hurts.
It was like reading a loose version of The Count of Monte Cristo with the whole wrongful accusations and revenge stuff and that need to be vindicated. Interesting themes of vengeance, vindication and hope of love.
At first, I was totally on board with 22 yr old Lark wanting to spread her wings a bit and it was understandable that while she adored her family and appreciated them that she would also want to be her own person and make her own mark on the world. All that made sense, but then for roughly half the book, repeatedly I had to convince myself that I was reading about a twenty-something and not a teenage girl. It was annoying at best. I felt very little sympathy for her supposed plight after a while. What I read didn’t show me a case of overbearing and unreasonable brothers because everything about her- thoughts, words, and actions- proved that this girl did need a keeper. Her mental monologue really drove it home that I was reading a teen’s thoughts and not a woman’s. She was woefully naive and strutting around like she’d seen the world (Her ‘I had cybersex-just dirty words mind you and I’ve never even been kissed- so I’m an experienced mature lover’ had me laughing, but also feeling great pity again for her naivete), she was petulant and bratty and the ‘stars in the eyes’ love for someone who repeatedly did bad things made me shake my head. Picturing her in this romance with a thirty-two year old who may have been emotionally stunted, but he was a mature man gave me ick vibes.
And speaking of Quinn, I totally got his anger, bitterness, need to smash and destroy something because everything he cared about had been wrongfully taken from him and left him with the reputation of the guy who not only tried to cheat, but had busted up a guy so bad that he was disabled and in pain for life. And all that on top of the fact that his entire family hated him because he was his mother’s dirty little secret that exposed what she did when he looked exactly like the gardener she cheated on her husband with. Totally get that, but sometimes he was described as this nefarious villain twirling his black mustaches that was over the top and took away from letting him be a beautiful flawed character who would grow and change when he experienced unconditional love and acceptance for the first time. Plus there was the very real fact that he was messing around with an immature girl who was confused and mixed-up about so much.
Now about the romantic relationship, that was a very mixed bag for me beyond the fact that I felt the girl was a teenager in her behavior and he was a seasoned man. It was like she was grasping at him in an act of defiance toward her brothers and he was grasping at her because she was the first person to believe him. They both emotionally manipulated stuff and I saw little of normal healthy relationship development. When someone admits they spied on your family, they set out to seduce you and actually started the process before guilt caught them up, they saw your head wasn’t on straight at the time, but still slept with you, when they admit they were using you to stab at your brother, and they took what you said in confidence to ruin your family financially even you- yes, when someone does all that- its not normal to say I accept you as you are and I’m sticking with you, turning my back on my family, and I won’t be mad because I love you. Those are things you call someone on even if you love them or should I say especially because you love them.
Truly, there were some good things- the family stuff with Lark and her brothers, the second chance romance for Sam and his wife, the scenes with Jake at the ranch, Quinn’s development from a bad character set on revenge to someone worthy of a girl’s unconditional love and just a little of Lark’s faith in him. This was enough to help the story balance out to being a decent read that left me okay with the results if not the entire journey to the results. As always, everyone has their own take and others may really enjoy this one particularly those who love Contemporary Western Romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for my honest thoughts.