This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Tantor Audio
Released on July 9, 2019
Give me a good underdog story and I will be the happiest of readers. I saw this first time opportunity with a new to me author, new to me narrator, and a standalone romance as solid gold.
Ruby grew up poor in a small town having ambitions for college and the world beyond and then make a choice at a high school grad party which ruined her chances to get out and never look back. She’s living in her mom’s battered old trailer, working at the diner, and living the life she hoped to leave behind. She’s also keeping a big secret. Seven years later, town golden boy, Levi Cole returns to help on the family farm not expecting to find Ruby still around.
He wants to settle the past and get a new chance in the present, but Ruby’s been living with her walls up and a jaded look at life for so long along with some very personal reason for wanting nothing to do with a Cole. He has his work cut out for him and, bless his heart, he isn’t perfect, but Ruby is far from perfect herself so this was a tough-fought one from start to finish.
With first chances when it comes to an author’s writing and a narrator’s reading, its always a gamble. This book both lived up to my good expectations and had its moments when I was so done. First of all, I loved the author’s writing style and the way she gets the reader engaged emotionally with the story and characters. She writes a blend of all too real and swoony, sensual romance. It just so happened that there was a certain element that I really struggle with, but I felt that I could very well understand in this case as I got to know the heroine and understood her.
That brings me to the heroine and why I felt somewhat conflicted about the story. Ruby is one of those characters that isn’t easy to love or get behind, at least at first, but she is definitely one that could screw up again and again, get abrasive and judgmental, be stubborn, but at the same time, keep me coming back each time I got upset or frustrated because I really hoped for her to come through the story in a different place than she started. Ruby got a bad roll of the dice for her early start with a mom running a strip joint and entertaining half the men in town from their poor trailer on the outskirt of town. Ruby kept her head down all the way through school and could only crush on golden boy Logan Cole and dream of getting out. She watch the other girls living it up and looking down on her and didn’t bother trying to do more than tread water. But, then she got pregnant and lost her chance to get out and had to reconcile to her life even as she lived for her little boy, Max.
However, as much as I admired her for not just rolling over, this chicky could hold a grudge like no others and she was well past the point when Levi had explained and explained, and proved himself. I felt like he was paying for Ruby’s mistakes, other people’s wrong actions, and well, the life she got. That secret she kept seemed especially wrong when I met and loved Levi particularly after he tried to fix things and she was busy obstinately misunderstanding and refusing to believe him. But, like I said, I’m conflicted about that, too. She’s got a past that won’t let her see things through a different lens. She’s had to pick herself up a lot and she doesn’t want to be anyone’s damsel in distress or lose the only person she’s been living for all this time.
And, Levi… gah! He was the fantastic guy who was perfect, but not perfect as in boring with no flaws or need to grow. I fell for him and fell hard. He was the balance that kept me going. His way with people and the care he took was what made me fall hard. People tried to put him on a pedestal and even Ruby totally misread him all their lives, but as he is made known and he gets the chance to talk and find understanding with Ruby, he was so amazing.
The romance was obviously slow burn since this pair had a lot of water under the bridge and even tough times in the present. I wanna say it was worth the wait, but I have to admit that I could have seen it as sheer perfection to have resolved things a bit sooner. When it did, total chemistry. I loved seeing this pair finally get their break and a family together.
Lidia Dornet was a first time narrator for me, but I settled in immediately to this story and never felt pulled out. She voiced Ruby and caught her personality so well. Her other voices were spot on, too, but Ruby was the narrator and heart of the story so that had to be just right for everything else to fall into place and it did. There is lots of introspection and rehashing on Ruby’s part, but the narration made this not as heavy ground to get through as it could have been. She drew all the feels without overplaying the voices. It was a great experience and I look forward to listening to more of her work.
So, all in all, this book hit the emotions, gave me a tough, heroine who I was glad to see grow and finish strong with a hero that everyone will fall in love with. It was a heartwarming and sexy small town slightly enemies to lovers romance that I can recommend.
My thanks to Tantor Audio for the opportunity to listen to this one in exchange for an honest review.
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