At eighteen, Kara Duncan had already made her fair share of mistakes, choosing the wrong boy and earning herself a bad reputation in the process. Hurt and humiliated, she’d packed up and moved on, sure that everyone in Bella Warren, Arkansas, would be better off without her. She’d planned never to return, but when crisis strikes, she has nowhere else to turn.
After seven years, Wade Chester thought his feelings for Kara were finally ancient history. Until he sees her again, standing on his front porch just as she’d done a million times before. She needs his help—and his family’s crops—if her canning business is going to survive. The rest of his family has let bygones be bygones, so why is it so hard for him to let go of the past?
While Kara claims to be interested only in putting things right, the old heat flaring between them is undeniable. But Wade will need to risk his heart—and the reputation of his farm—to prove that they’re meant to be together.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I’ve read Ford in the past, and I really enjoyed her stories. The chance to read another small town romance, a favorite trope of mine, and I was all over it. However, this book started really slow for me, and unfortunately never really picked up.
Kara left her hometown with a horrible reputation, a broken heart, and a mother who was off her rocker. Coming back years later, Kara worried more about getting her business started and her good reputation back. The never ending feelings she’s had for Wade is something she isn’t ready to deal with, no matter how much they push to the forefront. But the town of Bella Warren is all about holding a grudge, and Kara is going to have her work cut out for her to rebuild her image.
Wade thought he was over Kara long ago, but seeing her in his home once again brings home back all those feelings. The last thing he wants is to have Kara walk out of their lives again, especially after the hurt that his sister, Whitney, and he went through the first time. But the feelings for Kara are all-consuming and Wade isn’t willing to deny what he knows could be the future he’s always dreamed of.
I can’t pinpoint an exact reason why this book started so slow for me, but I had a difficult time getting into the story. I’m not sure if it’s Kara’s hesitancy toward returning home, or the extended narrative in the beginning before any action happens, but either way, it was difficult for me to get really engaged. That being said, I thought the setup of this story was super cute and had the potential to be so amazing and incredible.
The romance between Wade and Kara was one of those ‘one step forward, two step back’ kind of things. Wade was constantly worried about Kara leaving again (which she proved to do time and again), while Kara was worried about what other people would say and think. She was so desperate to turn her image around that she was willing to put her whole life and feelings on hold for the approval of people who she couldn’t even stand. It was a little immature and uncalled for, especially after the strength she showed in coming back to her hometown in the first place.
I really enjoyed the friendship between Kara and Whitney and Tasha. The strong bond and female friendship was a big theme throughout the book, and I enjoyed getting to see Kara and Whitney rebuild their friendship, while adding Tasha into their circle. I love getting to see strong female friendships, and think Ford really knocked that aspect out of the park for me.
The town of Bella Warren was a big bone of contention for me. I’m not a big fan of small town romance books where the town plays such a negative role in the books. I tend to find more enjoyment in the books where the town is such a positive and driving influence toward good, not the bad. I found the other people in Bella Warren to be stuck in that high school mentality, and I did not like it. I hope that in future books, Ford shows the town and it’s people in a much better light.
I also thought the sub-plot with Kara mother to be sad and depressing. While I completely understood why Ford went in the direction she did, I was hoping for some kind of happy resolution between Kara and her mom, or at least some kind of closure. Instead, I ended up feeling sad for both of them, as neither one really got what they wanted out of their relationship.
All in all I thought the first book in the Chester Farms series was good. It wasn’t a book that kept me turning the page faster than I could read the words, but it was a cute story overall. I do like the Chester family, and would be interested to see how Whitney and Tate Chester get their happily ever after.
I give Never Stopped Loving You a C.