Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publication date: Out now
How I got the book: ARC from Netgalley
BONUS: ALSO INCLUDES A NEW ORIGINAL COLTER NOVELLA!
New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks’ enthralling saga continues as two men, and one resilient woman hiding from the past, brace themselves for an emotional storm of unavoidable danger and unmatched desire
Lauren Wilder fell for the wrong man, trusted the wrong man, and she paid a very dear price for it. Now broken and wounded, she’s retreated to the bosom of the Colter family and the unshakeable love and support they offer. But the man she once loved and trusted is not without his own power, and he’ll use every bit of his money and resources to make sure he gets Lauren back, no matter whom he destroys doing it.
Liam and Noah were hired by Lauren’s brother to watch over her. But with danger looming, they head to the Colorado mountains—where Lauren has found temporary sanctuary. In her wounded eyes, Liam and Noah see the woman she once was—and could be again. They’re determined to show her everything a man can be—someone who will love her, cherish her, satisfy her, and when the time comes, put their very lives on the line for her.
*blurb taken from Goodreads*
Warning: parts of this book may be triggering.
I will start off by saying that I am a notorious series hopper. Sometimes I’ll read the first book in the series, then start reading the blurbs of the rest (spoilers included), and then decide to skip to the synopsis that fascinates me the most. This often means that I leave a lot of middle books in the dust and skip straight to the end after reading the first one. I know I shouldn’t, but knowing and doing are two entirely different things. With that said, it is likely that I would have felt more invested in some of the characters from the beginning if I had, say, read the book that came before this one and featured Lauren coming to stay with the Colters. I believe that the book stands on its own, but if you would like to understand how the family truly gels as an unshakable unit and how the happily-ever-afters took place, I’d recommend starting with Colters’ Wife and moving on down the line. Onward!
Lauren Wilder was in an abusive relationship with a man who was less than honest about just what types of businesses he was running. Fearing retaliation for her family, she lied to the men who were hired to protect her. When the book opens up, she’s been living in Clyde (oh these town names) Colorado. Her brother Max, who is married to callie Wilder, still worries about her like a good big brother should, but Lauren is making her own way. She’s working at a diner, has her own apartment, and is trying to rebuild her life. But, as we all know, the past never stays buried.
Liam and Noah are best friends that we see fleetingly in ‘Colters’ Promise’. They have been hired by Max Wilder to find the man who did this to Lauren. The only problem is that after some extensive questioning, it turns out that Lauren gave them the wrong name. So, naturally being two upset alpha men, they decide to go to Clyde and confront Lauren. Oh, and they both like her a lot.
A damaged woman becoming stronger is one of my favorite tropes in romancelandia and I am not ashamed. I like books with a darker edge sometimes, and Maya Banks does not pull punches in terms of the abuse that Lauren has gone through or the healing that needs to take place. When Lauren first saw Liam and Noah, she felt like all that she had built was crumbling around her. She experienced so many feelings of shame and feeling unworthy that this made for some difficult reading. I wanted to reach through the pages, give her a hug, and tell her that it was not at all her fault and she was being too hard on herself. At the same time, I was really annoyed that she was hiding yet another secret, but I was so glad that we didn’t have to wait forever to figure out what it was that in the end, I’m probably just being nitpicky.
I was really worried that Lauren was going to be bowled over by these two strong men who obviously wanted her. Danger was looming and she already had so much to deal with that it really concerned me that Noah and Liam wanted to make their move right away. However, her growing acceptance of her feelings and her desire to become a stronger person put those fears to rest. She went through a lot, and it was nice to get to see her come out on the other side of that and become stronger, bolder.
So, our heroes. I have to suspend a great deal of belief that relationships like this could work, but I was really glad that they weren’t brothers. The only way that I was able to really get through Colters’ Wife was by pretending that Ethan, Ryan, and Adam were actually in a fraternity called Colters, where they just refer to themselves as brothers because they were so close. Hey, it’s how I get through sometimes. But anyhow, our heroes are not related by blood, but Noah’s parents were Grade A jerks and he went to live with Liam’s family as a teen. Liam is this gorgeously tattooed, foul-mouthed badass while Noah is supposed to be the more levelheaded of the two. They both wanted Lauren, but Noah was more hesitant.
And this brings me to my least favorite part of the book. So, Lauren is in danger and they didn’t want to leave her alone for a minute, yet they needed to have it out about whether or not Noah was really committed to this burgeoning relationship thing before they spoke with Lauren. So, instead of waiting, or talking about it like rational men, they dropped Lauren off at the police station and then came back to *her* apartment to have it out. I thought that was so unbelievably rude that I could hardly stand it.
But you know what? Every time these guys annoyed me, they also had some really good grovel. They were committed to Lauren no matter what. They were willing to wait. They listened to her secrets. Sometimes I felt like they were being unbelievably dense about why she kept those secrets in the first place given her situation, but they really cared. So it was impossible for me to be irritated for long. Also, there is a phone call to Liam’s parents that is so full of hilarity that I totally snorted water.
Unfortunately, I felt like Lauren had more characterization than Noah and Liam did separately. Together, Noah and Liam were fantastic. I understood their main motivation. But I didn’t really get a good sense of each of them as a person, just the full package. I felt like Max really got shortchanged in this novel considering that he was Lauren’s brother. I couldn’t believe the way that Liam and Noah acted toward him. They should have known where Max was coming from, in my opinion.
Let’s talk about the Colters. Could I be in this family, please? It was so awesome to see how Holly had evolved from her own story. She was such a mother hen and she wasn’t about to let anyone hurt her babies. I loved seeing that Mama Bear come to life. Also, the dads (her husbands) were so awesome. It was great to see them older and still happily married. Seth, Michael, and Dillon who are Lily’s husbands were great. I could see the characterization of each of these people. Their unshakable faith in one another and their commitment to family ran deep. When everything hit the fan toward the last part of the book, we really got to see them come together for Noah, Liam, and Lauren.
This book was so cheesy, but I could not stop. I love books about the bond of family and how people get their hearts desire. I am definitely going to go back and read Lily and Callie’s stories because I want to immerse myself in the world of the Colters even more. Oh, and there is a bonus novella at the back of the book that gave me so many happy feels and such a sugary sweet ending, that I couldn’t help but give a satisfied sigh when the book was done.
Whether you are new to the Colters or you have been better about reading a series in order than I could ever hope to be, this book is fun and full of awww. The characters might not have been everything that I hoped they would be, but what I liked I really, really liked. The bonus novella wraps the series up nicely. I wish that the suspense would have been more suspenseful, but all in all, I enjoyed this installment of the series. I give Colters’ Gift a B.