In Molly O’Keefe’s captivating new contemporary romance, a woman with a past and a man without a future struggle to find a place where they belong.
A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Tara Jean Sweet knows that opportunity will never knock; she’ll have to seize it. Elderly Texas rancher Lyle Baker has a dying request: He will give Tara Jean a stake in his leather business in exchange for a little family subterfuge. All Tara Jean has to do is play the part of a gold-digging fiancée to lure Lyle’s estranged children home. The mission is soon accomplished.
Now Lyle’s gone—and his ridiculously handsome son, Luc, an ice hockey superstar sidelined by injuries, is the new owner of Crooked Creek ranch. He’s also Tara Jean’s boss. But being so close to sinfully sweet Tara Jean does crazy things to Luc’s priorities, like make him want to pry her deepest secrets from those irresistible lips. But when Tara Jean’s past demands a dirty showdown, will Luc stay and fight? ~ Goodreads
This book was an almost DNF (did not finish) for me but then it surprised me with a strong second half.
I don't think I've ever met a group of so many unlikable characters right out of the gate like this.
Tara Jean Sweet is pretending to be a gold digging fiancé to an elderly rancher (Lyle) to help anger his children enough to bring them yelling and screaming back to the ranch before he dies. In return, Lyle will give her controlling shares of the ranch leather making business. (or so she believes)
It works. Lyle's son, soon to be washed up ice hockey star, Luc is persuaded by his sister Tori to go back to the ranch that Luc has avoided his whole adult life because of his father's abuse and neglect when they were children. Tori needs the money after her husband left her and her son penniless, social pariahs. She will not let some two-bit blond bimbo steal what's rightfully hers.
Aside from Luc, I pretty much hated all these people. Luc knows they're all crazy and/or mean/selfish and wants to avoid the whole thing.
Tara and Lyle actually had a sweet friendship and were helping each other. Tara was very protective of Lyle when Luc and Tori came back to town very much angry at their father.
But my problem with this is - Lyle is a bastard. Not just a "my dad didn't say he loved me when I was a baby" bastard but an abusive bastard. Even though he tried to reconcile with Luc he was still cruel to Tori. And for me, it can't erase how he abused Luc since he never really acknowledged or apologized. Just because Lyle was kind to Tara (& even that's questionable a little later on in the story) I can't defend Lyle's character in any way as Tara did because he was "nice to her". I felt this aspect was a little washed over in favor of the romance.
Tori is one of the most selfish and childish people I've read about. She even resorts to using her son in a bid to grab her father's money. I will concede that she's been hurt and that her character evolves over the book. Probably more than any of the others. The next book in the series is about Tori so it would be interesting to see how she is redeemed.
Another thing was that Tara has a demon in her head (her mom) always "speaking" to her, encouraging her to design slutty leather clothing. O_O ??? That just bordered on weird. Tara Jean has made some really bad choices in her past but I felt over all she was trying to make a clean start. It took a while for me to warm up to her character though.
I just found it difficult to hang in there when I'm not connecting to anyone on the page.
So Karen…..why did you continue reading this? Well it was an Amazon Vine book that I had to review. I won't review anything I haven't read in it's entirety so I persevered. Then a strange thing happened. Once the father died and Tara & Luc connected, I fell in love with them. They are a great team. Luc saw Tara's fear and vulnerabilities and stood by her no matter what. Tara helped Luc through a difficult phase in his life; helping him come to terms with his age and the next phase of his life after hockey stardom.
As I said, even Tori's character became more rounded out thanks to Tara. I enjoyed how the women found a way to bond and help each other move forward in their lives. The story ended up being a truly inspirational story about love and overcoming adversity.
Rating: I have to say the first half barely rates a 1 star for me but the strong second half gets a 3.5.
Author: Website | Twitter
Source: Amazon Vine program for my honest review
Buy the book! Can't Buy Me Love