Review – Just Once by Julianna Keyes

Just Once cover image

Publisher: Omnific
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Kate Burke is done making bad decisions. Thirty years old and belatedly determined to grow up, the successful travel writer and one-time party girl returns to work at the remote Ponderosa Pines Ranch to reassess her life.

Although her kitchen/cabin staff is lacking and the workload never relents, Kate’s main challenge is Shane Maddox, the ruggedly handsome and doggedly stubborn ranch foreman. Instantly at odds, they battle over everything from ceiling fans to bothersome bats—studiously ignoring the sparks they generate with each confrontation.

They can’t explain their explosive physical chemistry, but after a few frustrated weeks they can’t deny it either. Their solution? Just once. They’ll get past their inconvenient lust and move on.

Kate’s been trying to think with her head instead of her hormones, but is this just another bad decision in a lifetime of careless choices? Has she really changed at all?
This blurb came from the author’s website.

I have to apologize to Keyes. I received this book to review mumble months ago and somehow it slipped off my radar. I was looking for a book to read the other night and thought I would go through my kindle to see if anything caught my eye. Just Once didn’t trigger anything in my memory so I looked up the blurb and immediately started reading. I really should have started it earlier during the day because I stayed up way too late to finish reading.

I found Kate and Shane both flawed characters in a way that made me really enjoy reading about them and their interactions. Just Once is told from Kate’s perspective in first person which took a little while before I was completely sucked in. As I continued reading I loved her inner monologue because it showed everything that went behind a particular action and really made her quite likeable. Shane was obviously a bit more difficult to understand but he was still a very vivid character.

Kate left her small hometown and lived the life others could only dream of. She traveled the world, stayed in exotic places, met glamorous people, and along the way turned something she enjoyed into a job that provided her the ability to live in whatever style she wanted. Dissatisfied with the toll her unsettled life was taking Kate returned back home and decided to take the summer working at a dude ranch to put away impulsive reckless Kate and start making responsible choices. It was very fascinating to see how her jet-setting life full of superficial relationships left Kate floundering when it came to enforcing authority or dealing with true emotions and the complexity of humanity. While some of her reactions seemed a bit immature, they made sense with the life she lived. I enjoyed watching her step up and start to own her life.

Shane was the strong, relatively silent, commanding type. I found it amusing how he tried to avoid Kate as much as possible but somehow was around when she really needed him. He could also be rather sneaky as their first interlude indicated. I enjoyed that he was the one who kept pursuing even though he could be an ass at times. The one drawback to only receiving Kate’s POV is that I wanted to know what made Shane so skittish. It seemed like Shane’s reluctance to stop hiding only came when he realized he had a chance with someone wonderful and was doing a very good job of keeping her away.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this story is how the romance and drama centered on the crew/employees instead of on a guest falling for the owner or a key staff member. It made the development of the primary romance and the secondary relationships much more believable. Not to mention the injection of drama from the local town involving an individual who really had not changed over the past decade brought home the idea of clearly established small-town roles.

I enjoyed the ups and downs of Shane and Kate’s relationship not to mention the other side romances and summer flings. Yes, there were some pretty incredible coincidences and a few semi-static characters but overall I found Just Once quite enjoyable and a pleasant change. Watching older characters try to find themselves while dealing with their own emotional entanglements and the mood swings of the younger temporary workers was just plain fun. I look forward to seeing what Keyes comes up with for her second title.

I give Just Once a B+

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