A consistent powerhouse in the small-town romance subgenre, Devney Perry delivers another riveting tale that is full of tenderness and heart as she takes us back to Clifton Forge, Montana with the story of a young woman desperate to make sense of her life after escaping a perilous situation following a lifetime of abuse. She finds safety in the home and arms of a man who is willing to risk everything for her, helping her see that true strength and bravery come from the heart. It’s another marvellous addition to a well-layered, emotionally charged series that continues to strike the perfect balance of emotion, setting, and plot.
After nearly a year of treading in a sea of my own mistakes, I was close to drowning. It was time to start making my way to shore.
Twenty-eight-year-old Scarlett Marks is dejected and guarded, and with good reason. Betrayed and hurt by every important man in her life, and then forced to go into hiding in order to stay alive, she finds herself at a crossroad, but she can’t see which direction would even start to unwind the mess that her life has become. A notorious and violent motorcycle gang is after her, her twin sister probably hates her, and the man who has vowed to protect her has somehow convinced her to hole up in his house.
“Are you a good man?”
“If you don’t know the answer to that already, I guess I’ve got some work to do.”
As the town’s chief of police, Luke Rosen has seen his share of tragedy and horror, but the night he saved a young woman from untimely death after her boyfriend had held her hostage at gunpoint changed something in him. Determined to keep her safe, he offers her his own home as a refuge, because while most people only ever saw the cracked or broken pieces of Scarlett Marks, Luke sees a fire in her eyes that blazes even when she is at her lowest.
Most people would look at Scarlett Marks and think she was broken. Maybe there were a few cracked and scraped pieces, but this woman was not broken. She was lost. Tired. Alone. But not broken.
Living under the same roof proves to be challenging from them both at first, but Luke Rosen is a patient man, gentle and steady and constant, and by giving Scarlett time to find her footing again, he gains her trust enough for her to tell him the reason why a motorcycle gang might want her dead.
Maybe I didn’t love Scarlett Marks. Maybe she’d been a coward her entire life. Maybe she should have fought harder, done better. But she was me. And one of these days, I’d find a way to redeem her.
The author builds the emotional connection between her leads with painstaking care and attention to detail. What makes this story shine is that the hero never disregards or undermines the heroine’s need for self-definition. Because, first and foremost, this is the tale of a woman who’s learning to love herself before she can love anyone else. After being raised by a cruel, controlling father and a mother who never found the courage to break free from the chains of domestic violence and abuse, Scarlett also grapples with trust issues when it comes to men. Luke’s readiness to put her first, however, even at the cost of his own moral compass, helps her see that strength, independence, and love can co-exist after all. Their path to happily-ever-after remains fraught with danger, but with a man like Luke by her side, Scarlett knows that there is no storm that she will ever have to weather alone again. Perry’s storytelling style never fails to delight, but it is her knack for crafting perfectly calibrated characters time and time again that keeps me coming back for more.
What do I want from life?
I wanted to be the woman Luke got pregnant on a rainy day. I wanted to love the dog who’d be his best friend.