Author: Leslie North
Series: Grant Brothers #1
Ian Grant isn’t a man who accepts help easily. After promising his young son that he could participate in the strawberry festival, and then missing the admittance deadline, Ian’s in a bind and forced to ask the mayor for a favor. The mayor agrees, on one condition: his niece has run into hard times and needs a safe place to stay: Ian’s place to stay. She’s great with kids and Ian needs someone to look after his rambunctious son Andy while he ranches. Ian agrees, expecting some college-aged girl who’d flunked Algebra. Instead, he finds a full-grown woman—a beautiful and sassy one to boot.
Katie Rylie has always dreamed of helping others by teaching them to cook. Her online persona was thriving—until a scandal with her forthcoming cookbook rocked her career. Not only did she have to pay back the entire advance, but her once-loyal fan base has turned against her. Defeated and with nowhere to go, Katie feels it’s better to hide out in the country until she can get her life back together. The offer of a free home, an open range, and a wily six-year-old to focus on sounds like just the escape she needs.
When Andy’s diet restrictions force Katie to become creative in the kitchen, she finds herself drawn back into the food world, just as she’s falling in love with Ian and Andy. But Ian, who likes having control of everything, doesn’t know how to ask Katie to become a permanent part of their lives.
If their love is ever going to work, Ian and Katie will need to learn that having it all doesn’t mean giving anything up.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
My last encounter with cowboys was a bit of a disaster, so I was eager to wash the foul taste from my mouth with something simpler and more enjoyable. For that task I guess I will always be able to trust in Leslie North’s books. Yes, they are nothing out of the extraordinaire, but they get the job done. Actually, with minor tweaks they could be much more… Or maybe, those slight modifications would ruin the style. You never know.
This time we travel to Texas to meet Ian, the cowboy whose wife died a couple of years ago and now he must take care of their son all by his own. The hunk with a stetson is a bit of a mess. All work, no fun. And that is making the realtionship with Andy a bit terse. In order to fulfill a favour, Ian lets a total stranger come to the farm to help him with the house and the special dietary restrictions of his son. The cowboy was expecting a troublemaking teenager, but he found himself in the presence of a woman that makes his heart beat again. Katie seems the perfect cook and nanny, but she has secrets of her own…
The story was a nice surprise. The kid involved is not the result of a unprotected sex between strangers (as it was being the case lately). Andy was the only son of Ian and his deceased wife. That brings another dimension to the story and, also, several risks. When there was a former partner that is now dead, sometimes stories tend to demonize the deceased one in order to make the new one better. As if there were a fear to cheat on a dead person. That is, in my opinion, absurd; so I’m glad this book didn’t take that route. Ian makes perfectly clear that his former wife was his first love and nothing is going to change that. There are not constant comparisions between the two women, which I’m grateful for. Falling in love again is not a crime and this book shows it!
About 70% of the book is really enjoyable and above the average quality I expect from these stories, but after that point… It takes a turn to the worse. I understand the drama as a way to keep us engaged, but I don’t think it is done in a logic way this time. The fight they have is too big, too hurtful. Ian puts on Katie’s shoulder a lot more blame than she deserves, creating a huge rift between them. Such downfall was asking for an epic make-up, but what we get is not nearly enough. As a reader, I don’t believe they are in a healthy situation, so I can’t buy the undeniable love they profess each other at the end of the book. It looked fake.
The issue of that ending has its main source in Ian. Yes, when we meet him he is not exactly the joy of the party, but we soon see that his hard shell is easily cracked. The problem rests in the fact that that shell can regrow at a really fast pace and for really stupid things. Why can Ian so easily remove himself from the warm of a happy home when facing the tiniest of problems? The book doesn’t really explore those changes in behaviour and I’m afraid it was necessary to make me believe that those two have a future together. It doesn’t help at all that even Katie is still walking on egg shells around him just before the ending. As if she were scared or something…
But even though that is a big issue for a romance novel, the rest of the book is easy to read and with a lively pace. Yes, we have again unsafe sex with adults who should know better… but it hasn’t annoyed me as much as in other recent books.