Small town romances are my ultimate weakness. There’s something so irresistible about a powerful love story being set against the backdrop of a quaint little community in which everybody knows everybody, and its many intermingled lives rolling along so close to one another, that we get to know much more than just two of its residents. I love being able to imagine that love story continuing long after the novel ends, peaceful and simple in its ways, but unwavering in its strength, and more often than not, I find myself drawn like a moth to such settings. But when you add a carefully crafted, entirely character-driven tale of second chances to the mix—delivered in Kristen Ashley’s inimitable style—you’ve got me purring at every single word. In this book, Kristen Ashley returns to a more multi-layered plot progression reminiscent of some of her earlier works—with several subplots serving the central one—and to a softer, more thoughtful style of narrative where the characters’ identities are shaped by the relationships they build. This was an absolute treat for me, reminding me of all the reasons why I fell in love with this author’s extraordinary writing in the first place, and why her stories will never stop making me feel all the feels.
“Don’t think, no matter your Playboy bunny with a few extra years look, he’s gonna stick around and fight your battles for you. What he’s gonna do is take, and take more until he’s got his fill and then he’s gonna go.”
In the quiet town of Glossop, Nebraska, gossip travels fast, but when their beloved sheriff has a one-night stand with the local hairdresser-slash-lounge singer, word spreads even faster and the whole town is in the know before their tryst is even over. One night of unbridled passion is all that Hixon Drake thought he would have with Greta Dare—a romantic relationship being the kind of complication the newly divorced father of three thinks he is not ready for—but when Hixon’s past decides to meddle in his love life, he finds himself protecting what he didn’t even think he wanted.
She was great and it might not be the best timing, but he’d be a fool if something that gave every indication it was just that awesome walked into his life and he didn’t work with her to discover where it might go.
All Greta Dare ever wanted was a peaceful, quiet, simple life, hopefully with a man who would let her take care of him the same way he would take care of her, but nothing has ever gone according to plan in Greta’s life, leaving her willing to settle for the smallest blessings that come her way. So when the kind of man she’s always dreamed of finding gives her a taste of what’s been missing in her life, and then ends up treating her like dirt, Greta is once again reminded why her heart has had to harden against men like him.
It had ended with him sharing with me indisputably I was only what I was. Something that had been shared with me way too many times before. This being a piece of ass not worth any more of his time than it took to get what he wanted out of me.
But when Hixon realises that the woman he so hastily dismissed as a complication he did not need in his life might have been the best thing to ever happen to him, he becomes determined to earn her trust again while showing her just how great they could be together.
“What I hope is that you think I’m a good thing. And you got me. We work on this, you’ll keep me, because I hope I’ve made it clear, I want you to. I won’t stray. I won’t go back to her. But I also get I have to prove that too.”
As Glossop faces its first murder investigation in half a century, with Dixon at the helm, we watch the new couple become each other’s sources of strength and support, learning not only how to slowly merge their lives, but also how much joy and beauty there is to be found in the complicated.
“Night before last you told me you liked me, and I didn’t share you got the same. But I’ll share more. It’s about pancakes. It’s about the way you sing. It’s about how amazingly beautiful you are, so beautiful, sometimes, if I don’t brace myself, it blinds me. It’s about you knowin’ I really need another bourbon and gettin’ me one when I’m tryin’ to do the right thing. It’s about you knowin’ better what the right thing needs to be. It’s about how hot it is when you fuck yourself on my cock. And it’s about how gorgeous you look when you come. It’s about stud muffins and gum drops. It’s about a lot of things, Greta.”
“That all sounds really complicated, Hix.”
“No, sweetheart, all that is really fuckin’ simple.”
A compelling, uplifting, truly beautiful tale of two people finding exactly what they always needed when they least expected it, this book sank its hooks into my heart from the start, and I absolutely adored every minute of the emotional journey it took me on. Narrator Lance Greenfield’s style of reading is intimate and personal, his sultry voice adding an alluring dimension to Hixon’s character, and it is perfectly complemented by the way Erin Mallon injects energy and emotion into Greta through subtle variations in the pacing and intensity of her reading. Kristen Ashley is a master at weaving just the kind of perfect chemistry between her characters that makes the reader party to that magic, feeling, marvelling, aching, breathing their every emotion, and her stories could be said to get even better as audio books.
Finally, I’d found something to fight for.