Publish Date: December 26, 2012
How I got this book: eARC from publisher
Welcome to Valentine Valley, where tongues are wagging now that the town bad boy is back—and rumor has it the lean, mean ex-Marine is about to lose his heart! But like it or not, in a town like Valentine, love happens…
Adam Desantis is back—bruised, battle-weary and sexier than ever! Not that Brooke Thalberg is in the market. The beautiful cowgirl of Silver Creek Ranch needs a cowboy for hire, not a boyfriend—though the gaggle of grandmas at the Widows’ Boardinghouse thinks otherwise. But from the moment she finds herself in Adam’s arms, she’s shocked to discover she may just want more.
Adam knows it’s crazy to tangle with Brooke, especially with the memories that still haunt him, and the warm welcome her family has given him. But he finds himself in a fix, because tender-loving Brooke is so much more woman than he ever imagined. Can a soldier battling demons give her the love she clearly deserves?
Just about everybody in Valentine thinks so!
*blurb from Goodreads
This is a slow-moving slice-of-life contemporary Romance set in the small mountain town of Valentine. It has everything going for it that I enjoy: mountains, ranches, horses, strong female characters, attractive war-weary veteran male lead all wrapped up in a small town vibe. The story itself has some sweet ancillary elements to it that hang out in the background: community efforts to support veterans, a troubled teen who needs some guidance, a group of feisty Grandmas (“the Widows”), a businesswoman who just wants to help the women of Valentine feel pretty, refurbishing old buildings within the town into thriving businesses. These elements ghost in and out of the narrative and support that slice-of-life feel. However, the primary focus of the story – the romance between Brooke and Adam – took awhile to grow on me.
A lot of that has to do with how the story begins to take shape. First, the insta-attraction trope is used to develop a base for Brooke and Adam’s relationship. Rather than having the relationship develop organically, the attraction felt forced. Also, everyone starts immediately scheming to get them together. I kept asking why? The only answer I could come up with was because Adam was the proverbial prodigal son returned and Brooke was single. But that’s not really an answer for why two people should be together.
Second, the narrative relied heavily on Telling, especially in the beginning. I kept looking for the story but found myself repeatedly stuck in either Brooke or Adam’s head reading about their internal musings. For pages and pages. Internal dialogue is not the same as having the characters interact. It is, rather, the opposite. More importantly, it doesn’t give me any sense at all for what these two characters see in each other beyond the surface of “He’s sexy. She’s hot. He’s changed since high school. She’s hot.”
The narrative didn’t provide enough depth in the first third of the story for me to get a firm grasp on the emotional subtext of their characters. The narrative kept Telling me what the characters were feeling. He’s surprised. He’s feeling sensations (but no specificity as to what those “sensations” are – I have to guess). She’s uneasy. She’s frowning. Where’s the concern here? And why, damn it? Just Telling me doesn’t help me connect to the characters. Why should I even care? What’s the subtext that I’m not getting from this superficial scene? I just had the feeling I was missing something. I wanted more…something.
Fortunately, the story does perk up in the second half. Perhaps it was because I persevered long enough to finally get a sense for who Brooke and Adam were. But mostly I think it was at this point in the story where characters started having more interaction with each other. As individual characters, I did like Brooke and Adam. Actually, all the characters seemed quite likeable (not that characters have to be likeable). Not being from a close or large family myself, I do enjoy reading stories that include strong family ties. And moving through the holiday season with them let me live vicariously through all that happy family chaos.
Brooke was a hard-working and adept rancher with a passion for the land and the animals and everything that must be done every day – come rain, shine or blizzard. I didn’t understand, however, why the narrative had to keep pointing out just how surprised and impressed Adam was with her proficiency on the ranch “doing a man’s job.” Why wouldn’t she be adept at a job she grew up doing and had a passion for? But I actually quite enjoyed the final third of the book as Brooke discovered an aptitude for something other than ranching and allowed herself to consider that perhaps she could assert a bit of independence from her family. Adam carried a heavy weight of guilt from his last tour of duty. As he opened himself up to Brooke and the people of Valentine, it seemed to give him the space he needed to heal. He seemed to find new purpose being in service to his grandmother, Brooke’s family’s ranch and his community. Despite the slow start, I rather enjoyed how the story all came together.
Having said all that, True Love at Silver Creek Ranch is a quick read with a cozy small-town vibe and some heartwarming messages. And even though I felt like the insta-attraction was a bit forced in the beginning, I did like where Brooke and Adam eventually ended up.
I give True Love at Silver Creek Ranch a C.