This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Brilliance Audio
Released on December 8, 2020
A big city public school guidance counselor is looking forward to a relaxing summer when a call from her manipulative older sister changes everything. Eight weeks as a summer camp counselor at a camp on a rural Texas ranch to a handful of troubled teen girls doesn’t sound like a picnic, but she reluctantly agrees to take her sister’s place. And, so a rustic journey of the heart begins and I was captivated from the first chapter.
Jayden is the oversized gawky sister compared to svelt, put together Skylar who has had her own way all their lives. Skylar manipulates and won’t let up so Jayden gives in to take her place at the well paid camp job so Skylar can traipse off to Europe with her private school teens’ music group. Jayden is a weathered teen guidance counselor and good at what she does, but she’s been put down by her sister so much growing up that she sees herself as inferior. But, once on the scrub brush ranch and working with the people there and the girls, she truly shines and slowly works out her past troubles as she helps the girls work on their issues. Meanwhile, the handsome rancher who is a former combat vet leads a no-nonsense camp program and works his way into her heart. At least temporarily, she thinks.
Elijah was lost until his family, Mary and Henry, bring him back to work their ranch for wayward teens. Corralling the girls soothes some of his guilt over surviving on a mission when some of his friends did not. He’s been content, but it’s not until Jayden strides into his world that he starts to want something more and works to convince the woman that she’s beautiful and talented and she’s amazing at what she does at the camp with her girls and helping them all out. If only he can convince her to stay and follow her dreams.
I loved this challenging situation with the girls and all their troubles- bulimia, shoplifting, bullying, and substance abuse for starts- and then Jayden and Elijah who were working through their issues at the same time as they helped the girls. It was bootcamp and the ranch environment was no Club Med. My heart went out to the girls who struggled with so much more than what got them arrested and with Jayden and Elijah burdened by their pasts. I felt emotional a few times and there are sad things brought out, but also hope. Change happens along the way. And, there are liberal doses of ranch life and humor like when the girls were shocked out of their cool, hardened exteriors as a result. And, oh, that first scene when Jayden took on the ringleader and knocked her down several pegs was priceless.
The pace was perfect. The changes came at a steady rate instead of suddenly everyone is healed and happy. Just like the romance is slow burn and somewhat in the background at times. The eight week period kept it moving, but also left room for a lot of life to happen.
I’ve spoken of Jayden, Elijah, and the girls, but the older couple who were retiring after the camp year and the other two counselors were colorful and quirky additions . I love the author’s salt of the earth characters and situations.
Britany Pressley is a familiar voice for me from listening to previous books by the author. She captures the regional accent and the charm of the author’s writing tone. She has a nice flexible voice for young or old, male or female. And, she delivers the humor and the tender moments with equal ability.
I rambled on a bit with this one and wanted to gush and gush, but in summary, it was a heartfelt story of several people triumphing and a great couple finding their way to love. A story full of humor, hope, and a good dollop of country charm that I can highly recommend.
My thanks to Brilliance Audio for the opportunity to listen to the book in exchange for an honest review.
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About the Book
A headstrong woman discovers it’s never too late for change in New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown’s spirited novel about lost hope and second chances.
Substitute counselor for wayward teens isn’t how public-school teacher Jayden Bennett planned to spend her summer vacation. However reluctant, she’s hiking up her jeans and heading for remote Piney Wood Academy in north Texas. Two months. Seven days a week. Few amenities. And three troubled girls daring Jayden to make a difference. She understands what she’s up against. She has her own burdens to bear.
Jayden’s not in it alone. The devoted elderly couple who run Piney Wood trusts in Jayden’s tough-love approach to get the job done. So does drill instructor Elijah Thomas, whose hardened boot-camp hide conceals a heart broken one too many times. Jayden is making it beat again. For both of them, falling in love is a risk. Because all summers must come to an end.
But with each new sunrise on these rustic acres, Jayden discovers that Piney Wood is a last chance for her, too. And with so many lives in turnaround, a new beginning for everyone could be a dream come true.
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