You know what happens when you have a craving for a great book, one that you know will rock your socks off, but you feel like giving an ‘oldie’ a chance? You dive into your overflowing list of books to read and aim straight for a Kristen Ashley classic. Stories of second chances are my personal weakness, never failing to engage the ol’ ticker, and this one did not disappoint. In her distinctive and utterly addictive style of storytelling, Ms Ashley delivers another truly compelling, and oh-so romantic love story that made me want to re-read it over and over again.
“No connections. Play it safe. Still, if I could connect, if I could let go, if I could take a risk, I’d do it with him. In all my wandering, all I’d seen, all the people I’d met, he would be the one I’d smile at and do it without a guard up. He’d be the one I’d want to smile back at me.”
Ivey Bailey has spent most of her young life on the run from a past that taught her to protect her heart by never forming any attachments. At twenty-two, Ivey has never known the comfort of a home, the thrill of a first love, or the spark of that first kiss, always moving from town to town and never stopping anywhere long enough to connect with anyone. The only permanent fixture in her life has always been her older brother Casey, her protector since she was a child, and now her partner in crime as they travel the country hustling people and never putting down roots anywhere. But from the moment Ivey arrives in the quiet little town of Mustang, Colorado, she knows she would be happy living there forever, especially when a blue-eyed rancher lowers her guard and gives her a taste of what it would feel like to finally belong to someone.
“In this town. With him in it. Roots. Connections. Wake up every day and know where you are and go to bed every night knowing you’ll wake up that way. I would love that.”
Grayson “Gray” Cody might be Mustang’s favourite son, but life has never been a walk in the park for the young rancher. Groomed since birth to continue his family’s legacy, his future has always been tied to the land that has been passed down through generations of Cody men, and he is determined to continue that tradition by one day raising sons of his own with the same reverence for that land. Ivey might be the prettiest girl Gray’s ever seen in his life, but his immediate attraction to her runs much deeper, recognizing in her eyes the hardships she’s had to endure in life. Their pull is magnetic, visceral, meaningful from the very first touch, and for a brief moment in time, Ivey allows herself to dream of finally having a home, a family, a man who’d love her every single day of his life…until all is taken away from them all too quickly, and all they’ve found in each other is tragically lost once again.
“You weren’t just my first lover, Gray, you were my first everything.”
Seven years go by, and while Gray has kept living life just as before, he has never gotten over losing Ivey, or truly understood why she left him in the first place. Ivey, on the other hand, has settled down in a big city and worked hard to put down roots, but her heart still longs for Gray and the promise of a life they could have had together. So when she suddenly hears of Gray’s troubles, she does not hesitate to run to save the man she still loves from losing everything he holds dear. But the last thing she expects to find in Mustang is the knowledge of a betrayal that has cost them seven years of heartbreak. Or that Gray has never stopped loving her either.
“I loved you then. I love you now. I’ve loved you every day for seven years.”
A heart-wrenching, and yet truly uplifting second chance romance, this is one of those unforgettable love stories I just knew from the very beginning it would crush me emotionally, and while the tears kept coming…and coming, I never lost faith in Ms Ashley’s extraordinary ability to give us powerful endings that more than make up for all the heartache. It’s a story of a young girl who never had anything, yet all she ever dreamed of having in life was a place to belong to and the love of a good man. And it is a story of a man whose birth right gave him all he ever needed in life, but it is the love of a woman like Ivey that made it all worth fighting for. Whether you have a fondness for second chances at love, or a craving for a heart-warming romance to put your heart through the wringer, look no further because Ivey and Gray’s story will inevitably embed itself into your heart as an all-time favourite.
“There was nothin’ better than you.”