Dylan's Redemption by Jennifer Ryan
Series: The McBrides #3
Publisher: Avon Impulse on September 2, 2014
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (Adult)
Jessie Thompson had one hell of a week. Dylan McBride, the boy she loved, skipped town without a word. Then her drunk of a father tried to kill her, and she fled Fallbrook, vowing never to return.
Eight years later, her father is dead, and Jessie reluctantly goes home—only to come face-to-face with the man who shattered her heart. A man who, for nearly a decade, believed she was dead.
Dylan accepted the position as sheriff of Fallbrook looking for a fresh start and a chance to uncover the truth about Jessie's disappearance. He knew he'd have to face a few ghosts … he just never thought one would be Jessie, all grown up, stunning … and alive.
The pull between them is instant, but Dylan's heart has already mourned Jessie, and she has secrets she can never share. Can they escape the darkness of their past for a chance at a bright future together?
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Jessie’s life was never an easy one, but she was a good kid, and she had a best friend and crush in Dylan McBride. Dylan was everything that high school girls dream of, and while Jessie may have been from the wrong side of town, she’s always held a special place in his heart. But it’s been years, and no one’s seen a trace of Jessie since the last beating she took from her father. Dylan’s used all the tools law enforcement has placed at his disposal, but nothing’s even pointed toward a body. Until the day her father dies, and Jessie returns from the unknown.
As much as I felt for Jessie, I had a hard time connecting with her like I should have, and I think that’s in large part to the disparities been teenage Jessie and grown up Jessie. She was supposedly a hard ass as a kid, too, with a soft-spot for Dylan, but all I really saw of her in the prom flashback at the beginning was an enamored little girl who didn’t fit in well socially. There was nothing there for me to see firsthand how strong she was inside. But grown up Jessie was all hard edges and boxed-up emotions, and while some of that made sense given both her career and what she’d been through, it didn’t line up with the fifteen year old girl that was first introduced to us.
Also, I’m not so sure about the age difference. Unless I missed something, Jessie was fifteen and Dylan was eighteen when they went to prom and had the requisite back-seat experience afterward. While that’s not necessarily unheard of among high schoolers, the age of consent in the U.S. is at between sixteen and eighteen in all states, and while it may not be criminal for a fifteen year old and a sixteen year old to sleep together, the bigger the age difference, the higher the probability that it’s a criminal act. I don’t know which state they’re in, but Jessie’s young age was enough for me to do a double-take, not to mention start wondering if the statute of limitations had passed by the time she came back or if Dylan had in fact broken the law. If it was illegal, that would certainly explain his mother’s actions more reasonably… Oh, but for those of you who might be creeped out, it wasn’t explicit; it was simply said that it happened.
Every second-chance romance has a sad story in the past, but this one just might be the saddest I’ve read. For all intents and purposes, Jessie and Dylan were just kids, and life pulled them apart — at first simply the way life tends to do, and then later thanks to cruelty and awful luck.
After returning from his stint in the military, Dylan’s become the local sheriff, in part because he wants to help people who are being abused. He didn’t realize until too late that Jessie’s bruises weren’t accidents or on-the-job mishaps, and by the time he did, she’d disappeared. For years the town has speculated that her father finally killed her, but there’s never been any evidence one way or the other. She’s just gone without a trace, and even with law enforcement databases and resources, Dylan hasn’t been able to find any clue that she lived past the week after he left for the service. When Jessie’s father dies, though, she suddenly shows back up in town, intent on burying the past and helping her brother before he’s too far gone down the path her father took. He reappearance is a shock, to say the least, and it’s the answer to Dylan’s prayers.
Time and survival mode has only made Jessie stronger and more closed off, though, and while she and Dylan may have history, she doesn’t want to visit it for fear that remembering everything else will simply be too painful. I won’t give it away, but Jessie’s got a devastating secret that she can’t quite bring herself to tell Dylan, and it’s absolutely heart-breaking for him.
While the age difference not being better explained away certainly bothered me, and I had a little trouble completely connecting with Jessie, the majority of the story played out perfectly. From Dylan’s consistent attempts to win her back, to the men she’d come to think of as family, to Dylan’s little boy pointing out the obvious (you’ll see!), it’s a great story. And while Dylan certainly did everything he could to show Jessie that he’d never leave again, she was smart enough to hold back her own feelings for much longer than I expected. It made sense, given what all she’d lost, but it also did well to avoid one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to romances — everyone falling head over heels too fast. The pace of their relationship was slow, but perfectly so, and it made for a wonderful story of forgiving and falling in love again.