Everyone knows that second chance romances are my ultimate weakness, but very few such stories are capable of bulldozing my heart to a point where it becomes a physical ache. Well, this book gave my poor heart the equivalent of a back-alley beating. I was stunned by how quickly I connected with the characters, how invested I had become in their story in a matter of seconds, but what shocked me the most were the silent tears that just kept falling page after page, scene after scene, making this quite possibly one of the most emotional reading experiences of my life. A truly splendid story that I am recommending without reservation, one that I just know I will be revisiting time and time again as my heart takes up residence in Whiskey Creek.
“I’m no one you have to bother with.”
Phoenix Fuller has spent the past seventeen years of her life behind bars, blamed for a crime she did not commit. Always treated as an outcast, Phoenix had known true happiness only once in her young life, when she fell for the golden son of one of the most prominent families of Whiskey Creek, but happiness quickly turned into heartbreak as she learned that her love could never be enough for someone like Riley Stinson. Now, at thirty-five years of age, Phoenix is finally free again, and we meet her as she returns to the very town that scorned her so many years before, hoping to get to know a son she’s never even held in her arms.
“I’ll sit on the visitors’ side, so don’t worry about that.”
Confusion created lines in his forehead. “Why would you sit on the visitors’ side?”
Because she couldn’t imagine he’d want a mother who’d been in prison for murder showing up where people might recognize who she was and connect them. “I’d rather not cause a stir.”
Having spent her son’s entire life in prison, Phoenix is a stranger to her own child, but she is willing to endure the disdain of the entire town just to get to know the man he has become in her absence and to be close to him as he enters adulthood. The only person capable of keeping her away from her son is his father, the man she once loved with all her heart and never stopped longing for, the very man who took her love and threw it away, leaving her pregnant and scared. But Riley Stinson is no longer that impressionable young man who trusted others with his fate, and while he was once willing to break both their hearts to make his family happy, from the moment he lays eyes on Phoenix again, he knows she would forever be his biggest regret.
“I listened to the wrong people, Phoenix. I loved you. I want you to know I did love you.”
As Riley’s heart remembers all the reasons they once fell in love with one another, and realises he never stopped loving her, Phoenix cannot forget that she has spent the past seventeen years of her life teaching her heart not to love him anymore. She is terrified of making the same mistakes again, mistakes that could now cost her her son’s affections and respect, and the closer Riley tries to get to her, the harder she fights him away, refusing to acknowledge her own feelings for him. Because experience has taught her young heart that a man’s love is fickle, and that someone like her would never have anything to offer to a man like Riley.
“I wasn’t good enough for you in high school and, after seventeen years in prison, I haven’t exactly come up in the world. I’m fighting day to day for the most basic things. How could I possibly attract someone like you?”
But Phoenix has never seen herself through Riley’s eyes, and everything he discovers about the strong and independent woman she has become—regardless of how unkind life has always been to her—only makes him fight for her harder and harder.
“What matters is that you have the biggest heart imaginable. And you are the most forgiving, unassuming, generous person I’ve ever met. What man wouldn’t be happy with someone like you?”
A heartfelt and truly gripping tale of second chances, of forgiveness, of two people finding their way back to one another and learning how to trust each other again—my heart was in my throat from beginning to end and I adored every gut-wrenching moment of it. From the very first page, I cared for these characters, I cheered for them, I felt their every emotion as if it were my own, and as the story moved forward, my attachment to them only grew. Poignant, romantic, impossible to put down, this was a rare treat for my greedy heart, full of great characters and a story that was gripping enough to keep me awake and reading until dawn, and I already cannot wait to re-read it.
“. . . since you came home it feels . . . it feels as if you’re what I’ve been waiting for.”