Series: Country Roads #2
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Forever (October 1, 2013)
Grace King knows two things for certain: she loves working at her grandmother's café and she loves the hunky town sheriff. She always has. As she bakes him sweet treats, Grace fantasizes about helping him work up an appetite all night long. But whenever she thinks she's finally getting somewhere, he whips out some excuse to escape. Growing up, he never looked twice at her. Now Grace won't rest until she has Jax's undivided attention.
Jaxson Anderson can't deny that his best friend's kid sister is the sexiest woman in Mirabelle, Florida. Unwilling to burden Grace with his painful past, Jax keeps the sassy blonde at arm's length. Yet one heated kiss crumbles all of his carefully built defenses. But when a town secret surfaces, threatening to destroy everything they have believed in, can the man who defended Grace from bullies as a child protect her now?
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I am a big fan of friends-to-lovers stories, and I have a soft spot for "older brother's friend falls for the younger sister" trope. I like seeing how a shared history forms a relationship and brings two people together. So the blurb for this book drew me in immediately. The author definitely succeeded in making me want Jax and Grace to be together, and there were several good characters in the book, but there were certain elements that just didn't work for me. There's some spoilers in here, though I tried to keep them to a minimum.
The entire "bastard scandal" subplot really fell flat to me. I imagine it was intended to give Grace's back story and character more depth, but for me it felt ridiculous. This might be my lack of familiarity with small town politics and such, but someone being born out of wedlock and not having a father in their life really doesn't seem like the kind of thing people would be overly concerned about. Certainly not to the degree that Grace gets tormented about it.
More than anything, though, the pacing of this story nearly did me in. There were parts of this story that I had to force myself through. It felt like way too much detail, exposition, back story. All of these characters were meant to be life long friends, and the author seemed to think that she needed to include a bunch of shared stories to make sure the reader understood that. So much was needlessly inserted that it almost felt like this was NaNoWriMo and we were trying to reach our word goal. Combined with that, portions of the writing were really dry and step-by-step; at times it felt like reading instructions on how to assemble a novel.
And, of course, there were a lot of characters. I had a hard time remembering who was who in relation to who, and who did what to whom. And while I imagine that some of the characters were written with the intention of baiting for future books (cough Shep cough), it still felt excessive at parts. But that doesn't mean I didn't like the characters, because I certainly did!
I think the majority of my problems with this book can be summed up with one word: abundance. This book was longer than I think it needed to be, with a lot of exposition and information flooding, with excessive detail into minor things that I think could have been cut.
But no matter what, I was invested in the romance between Grace and Jax (even if there were a lot of declarations of being "done" with Jax before promptly proving she was not done with him). Seeing them finally get together (for good) was great, and helped me end the book on a good note.
"I'm not upset. I'm way beyond upset. I now know what the drive for murder feels like."