Dear Ms. Kent,
I haven’t read the first two books in this series (Undeniable and Unbreakable), but I don’t think it hindered my enjoyment of this book. There are a few things which I didn’t understand relating to the earlier couples but for the most part, the books reads well as a stand alone. As someone who hadn’t read the earlier books I appreciated that this one wasn’t bogged down with loads of backstory and I think this would be appreciated by readers familiar with the earlier stories too.
Boone Mitchell is the third member of the “Dalton Gang” a trio of teenagers who were taken in* by Dave and Tess Dalton. When Tess passed away, the ranch went to the boys – Dax, Caspar and Boone and the three men returned to Crow Hill after a long absence. I say t aken in but that implies that the boys had nowhere else to go and in Boone’s case that’s certainly not true. He has a loving family (his dad is the high school football coach) who still live in Crow Hill. But all three boys were hell raisers and grew and matured under the tutelage of Dave and Tess Dalton.
Everly Grant is a reporter with the local newspaper (unimaginatively named the Reporter). She was a rising star journalist in Austin four years earlier but after her abusive boyfriend hit her for the second (and last) time, she packed up and moved to Crow Hill. She’s been basically hiding out there ever since, not really socialising except with Arwen and Faith (Dax’s and Caspar’s partners respectively) and Kendall, the local bookseller. She’s afraid to trust after her experiences with her ex but by the start of this book, is thinking that it might be time to at least have a sexy fling, even if she’s not ready for a relationship.
In a kind of romance role reversal, it is Boone who is more interested in a relationship, wanting what he sees his friends Dax and Caspar have with their partners and he falls quickly for Everly even though she’s made it clear she doesn’t want a relationship – just sex. Even so, Boone tempts her resolve at every turn.
She’d sworn when leaving Austin she would never be a victim again, and being with Boone, she hadn’t once gotten the sense she was anything but cherished. That she was important to him. That he wanted to be with her and do for her because he enjoyed her.
I liked Boone very much. He is honest and honourable, whatever we are told about what he was like when he was a teenage and all the trouble he got into. He has clearly matured into a kind and responsible man. He’s also drop dead gorgeous and great in bed (of course) and not afraid to get in touch with his kinky side. It’s clear that Everly is hiding something important from him about her reasons for moving to Crow Hill but he is prepared to give her time and not demand answers.
He didn’t exactly like talking about his past. And he hadn’t talked about all of it. Just enough for her to realize he was pretty much an open book. He didn’t see much of a need not to be. And he’d respect her wishes. But down the road, he’d want to know. And if this thing between them got real, he’d expect her to tell him. Just like he’d expect her to want to hear all of his truths—the good and the bad. Hard to build a lifetime of trust without a solid foundation.
He takes earthy delight in sex with Everly but when, at one point, he is so overcome with desire he forgets to pay attention to her and comes to an abrupt realisation that he has frightened her, he is horrified. It is only at Everly’s urging (and reassurance that his misread her reaction at least in some ways) that he keeps going and even then, he insists on being able to look into her eyes, so concerned he is that she be with him.
I was more than half expecting there to be a stalkerish subplot involving the evil ex but I’m happy to say the story didn’t go there. There was a man from Boone’s past who was a potential threat but the narrative didn’t go quite where I expected there either. Which was a good thing. Everly is tasked by her boss to do a human interest piece on the Dalton Gang and she interviews various people about Boone, including the man himself – although they do tend to get distracted from interviewing by the sexytimes.
Boone and Everly scorch the sheets (and the shower and the kitchen and his truck) but they also talk and hang out and I felt the characters were a good fit for one another.
“…But I gotta say I’m getting tired of being friends.”
“You want me to go?” she asked, the knot of nerves in her stomach beginning to burn.
He shook his head, leaned it against the seat back, and, eyes closed, said, “I want you never to go.”
Toward the end of the story however, the narrative tension felt a little artificial, with Everly being uncertain about moving forward with Boone far longer than I felt was justified and also by some scenes ending abruptly in what seemed to be the middle of an important conversation. It felt inorganic to me and designed to draw the story out.
There is a really interesting secondary character in this book. Her name is Penny Upton. In high school Boone hooked up with her once and it ended in disaster and led to Boone leaving Crow Hill for 16 years. Penny describes herself as a “slut” when she was in high school. What I loved – and I loved it a lot – was that Penny isn’t slut shamed in the book. When Everly goes to see her, she expects a certain thing from the neighbourhood and the outside of the house (junker cars etc) but what she finds in Penny is different. Penny is attractive, happily married, a good mother, keeps a nice house and is not at all a skanky monster type. She isn’t presented as Miss Perfect either but she’s not what I typically see in romance novels where there was a previous bad girl who got the hero into trouble. She’s a girl who had a difficult home life (to say the least) and who got her act together and has a happy life. In the course of the story, both Everly and Boone take themselves to task for expecting a stereotype and being too judgemental about what someone’s house might look like on the outside.
I enjoyed reading this book and I liked the connection between Boone and Everly and the way that Everly decided to stay in Crow Hill out of a positive, lifestyle choice rather than just to escape from a bad situation. I did feel the back half of the book was a bit waffley in terms of what was keeping the main characters apart and there were some sections which felt like one thing had been sorted and then in the next, it was not – for example, Everly tells Boone she loves him but a few pages later when asked by Arwen how she feels about Boone, she’s not sure how she feels. The story Everly is writing gives her an opportunity to dig into Boone’s past but that doesn’t really create much of a barrier for them either, which surprised me a little. Those things meant that the latter part of the story was less successful for me. I enjoyed the friendship between the girls and I didn’t find it intrusive or manufactured – I felt they were there to be a part of the story rather than just because they had been previous main characters.
“I can help with the money, you know.”
“I don’t want you to help with the money.”
“But I do. Whitey doesn’t pay me much, but I can sell my shoes—”
That brought his gaze to hers. He came closer, his hands at his hips as he took in her boots. “No. You’re not selling your shoes. I like your shoes. I love your shoes.”
Oh, poor misguided man. “Do you know my shoe collection is worth as much as a couple of Tess’s antiques?”
“Okay.” He nodded, and his head came up. “You can sell your shoes,” he said, and she laughed.
It was a fun sexy story about a strong silent cowboy and city girl who likes her shoes. I give it a B.