FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Kensington Books (via NetGalley).
Series: A Nugget Romance #1
Publisher: eKensington on October 13, 2014
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (Adult)
The small mountain town of Nugget, California, has a strange way of giving people unexpected reasons to start over—and find the most irresistible chances to fall in love…
Maddy Breyer needs to prove she can make her own life after betrayal blew up her previous happily-ever-after. Staying totally focused on renovating a decrepit mansion into a bed-and-breakfast might help her—and this recession-hit town—finally turn things around. But the mysterious new sheriff is the kind of lawbreaking temptation that’s an even bigger challenge to resist…
Detective Rhys Shepard is only back in Nugget long enough to care for his ailing father. He’s got a big-city promotion far away from this place that never accepted him. He does not need a sudden crime wave to solve. Or one leggy case of heartbreak stirring up all kinds of trouble and challenging his rules. Which might explain why he’s suddenly finding it hard to leave…
After discovering her husband’s infidelity, Maddy leaves the world of high society behind and sets her sights on life in the sleepy little town of Nugget, where she and her brother plan on turning a historic downtown building into a beautiful hotel, and she plans on proving to herself and the rest of the world that she really can make it on her own. But small towns aren’t always so welcoming of newcomers, and her sexy new neighbor is an unexpected distraction.
When Rhys left Nugget, he never planned on coming back. With few good memories of the town that barely raised him and the single father who spent more time away than he did at home, Rhys has made a good career for himself in Texas. But when his dad starts showing signs of Alzheimer’s and can’t be depended on to take care of himself anymore, Rhys has little choice but to return to the home he’d rather forget. He plans on doing what’s necessary and then going back to his life far away… even if he can’t seem to stay away from the lovely new tenant next door.
I think I passed up the chance to read this book about a dozen times before I finally took a second to read the synopsis. It’s not a bad cover at all, but there was nothing at that split-second first glance when I was browsing to tell me it would be a pretty great romance. Okay, so it says romance right there on the cover, but that would have required my taking an extra second to read it instead of going off the picture. I guess that just goes to show how quickly we readers make a decision on books. At first glance, I assumed it was a memoir or some other genre of fiction — not romance. And while I completely understand the cover now that I’ve read it, I can’t say I would have ever grabbed this one had it not come up for review on a tour site. Sad, ’cause I certainly would have missed a good read.
Maddy was incredibly easy to relate to — I mean, who among us hasn’t been left to start over on our own? Her confidence had taken a beating when she found her husband had not only been cheating but had actually been in love with someone else throughout their marriage. Of course, he realized the error of his ways far too late, and he did that very realistic cheating man thing, where the guy wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Fortunately, business kept him away, but he kept trying to play contrite and win her back.
Rhys was a lot harder for me to understand, and while he did eventually win me over, I’m not sure I ever really fell for him the way I normally do when reading romances. He’d had a pretty tough childhood, and his relationship with his father was beyond strained. It made sense that while he was doing the right thing by coming home to take care of his dad, he’d want to go back to his own life in Houston as soon as he could. However, his reaction to and emotional inaction when it came to his unexpected half-siblings was something I had trouble with. He took them in, but he made little effort to get to know them, and that really bothered me. Sure, I knew he’d have some mixed feelings, and it certainly wasn’t going to improve his feelings for his dad, but what kind of man leaves two essentially parentless kids without a real support system? Feeding and clothing and housing them is nothing compared to what they really needed, and he came across as incapable of showing them any sympathy, much less love.
I think my dislike for that part of Rhys’s character played into my not feeling the connection between him and Maddy. They had chemistry, certainly, but they went from fighting it to giving in before I expected it, and it seemed to lack an emotional connection for far too long. But, like I said, that might just be my own disconnection from Rhys coming through.
I did, however, like the whole small town aspect of things. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone as overtly malicious as the woman Maddy was facing, but her type can always be found in insular communities like Nugget. The townspeople being polite and even friendly to her face while working to block her business from opening rang very true, and as much as I hate small town politics, it was nice to see that kind of realism in fiction.
In the end, while I never really completely warmed to Rhys, I did enjoy the book. It’s not your standard romance novel, and in many ways, the characters felt less idealized and more a reflection of real life. Sweet, fluffy romances can be great, but it’s not often that I find one in which the character deal with real world problems that don’t feel like they’re thrown in as shallow plot devices. I may not have entirely loved Rhys, but the storytelling was great, and I’m looking forward to finding more of Stacy Finz’s work.