Rafferty Hamilton doesn’t plan on putting down roots anytime soon. With her divorce final, the hotel heiress has left Manhattan behind to scout new locations for her family’s chain of resorts. Which is why it’s so frustrating to be stranded in Laurel Falls while a good-looking, slow-talking, Stetson-wearing mechanic takes his sweet time with her overheated coupe. A decorated vet who paid his dues in Afghanistan, Trace Black can fix anything with an engine and get it revving—even Rafferty’s ridiculous sports car. He couldn’t say the same for the knockout driver, who looks like she’s never gripped a gear shaft in her life. Women like Rafferty don’t usually stick around in Laurel Falls, but Trace finds himself showing her everything his hometown has to offer before she cruises on down the road. As the days pass, Rafferty finds herself charmed by the pace of life and the openhearted warmth of the residents. She’s even tempted to trust again—and it’s all thanks to Trace. He’s not the kind of guy she’s used to falling for, but he just might be the man she needs.
Source: Netgalley and Purchase
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
I seem to be on a roll with strong, character-driven reads lately and I am loving it!! Zoe Dawson never disappoints me when it comes to well-developed, totally real characters that just suck me in and won’t let go. Here’s the skinny:
Rafferty Hamilton: Total business bad ass, total personal relationship fail. Rafferty is damn good at her job, always closes the deal for her father, and never looks back once a job is done. Unfortunately, her mad business skills haven’t transferred to her personal life and Rafferty finds herself recently divorced and completely lost on an emotional level. To clear her head, Rafferty bought a shiny new British import (a car, not a dude) in order to drive across the country on a scouting mission for her dad. Just outside of Laurel Falls, Montana, that shiny new British import (still the car!) broke down. Of course, it did. While most people would embrace the suck and wallow in self-pity, Rafferty looks at the detour to Laurel Falls as an opportunity especially when Trace Black shows up to haul her broken down car to his garage for repairs. Rafferty has no intention of becoming involved with Trace Black but that man is hard to resist especially once she sees him in action with both her car and his family.
Trace Black: Holy hotness, Batman!! There aren’t enough synonyms for smokin’ hot to adequately describe Trace Black. Make no mistake, his hotness isn’t all on the surface. In fact, Trace’s true hotness lies in his character (and his pants); he is devoted to his family, he is devoted to his home town, he is kind and caring, funny and smart, witty and playful. Trace is really the total package but his family is quite demanding of his time and he has issues where commitment to a wealthy woman like Rafferty is concerned. The problem is that Rafferty is unlike any woman he has ever met and it takes no more than a hot minute for Trace to become completely smitten. Over the course of the weeks Rafferty is in Laurel Falls, Trace proves himself to be a very, very good man time and time again. His concern and care for his brother, Harley and his little sister is absolutely endearing and his respect Rafferty and her need to take things slowly is damn-near saintly. It is only when Trace feels betrayed that his ugly side comes out and, unfortunately, Rafferty makes that happen.
Reece, Cadie, and Harley: The other three members of the Black family and the focus of much of Trace’s time and attention. Reece is by far the most self-sufficient of the group and a perfect example of still waters running deep. As a firefighter, Reece constantly risks his life for others and that carries over into his personal life as well. He is as devoted to his family as Trace is and will do anything necessary to help them. Reece doesn’t play a huge role in this read but it is clear he has a story all his own and most assuredly involves the pretty town doctor, Eden.
Cadie is quite passionate about a great many things (her mango bra and panty set!) but her two greatest loves are cooking and local hottie, Brooks Gill. Cadie has grown up under the watchful eyes of her brothers and rarely gets away with much in the shenanigans department. That’s OK though since shenanigans would just take away from her passion for cooking. Cadie is focused on her dream of going to culinary school and spends much of her time and energy planning for that very dream. As with her brother, Reece, Cadie (and Brooks) has her own story that most definitely play out sometime in the near future.
Finally, there is Harley Black. Harley is, for now the most tragic of the Black siblings and is in need of serious help. Harley’s tours in Afghanistan didn’t go well and he is left with a large number of physical wounds and a spectacular case of PTSD. Harley is just barely hanging on and knows his situation is weighing heavily on the rest of his family. Though Harley wants to be better, his road to recovery is going to be very long and very painful but he has not only his family but all of Laurel Falls behind him. Interestingly, I think Harley is destined for a most surprising romance but it is going to have to wait for quite some time . . .figure that one out, dear reader 🙂
Anzu and Eden: Talk about a mismatched pair! Eden is a big-city girl who has managed to thrive in a very small community. No one really seems to know precisely what brought Eden and her daughter to Laurel Falls but they sure are glad to have her and Eden is more than happy to live and work in such a small and inviting community. In this first read, Eden doesn’t show much interest in romance but I’m fairly certain her heart is going to belong to Reece Black whether she knows it or not. What a wonderful pair those two are going to make! Anzu is Eden’s daughter and is by far one of the highlights of the read. Anzu is Asian-American and was adopted by Eden when she was just an infant. Anzu loves Eden dearly but finds it hard to fit in when she is so clearly different from both her mother and most of the people in Laurel Falls. With Rafferty’s help, Anzu slowly begins to find her way and become more comfortable in her own skin. Anzu’s passions are working on cars, art, and Harley Black, one of the few people who ever accepted Anzu for exactly who she is and encouraged her in every aspect of her life. Anzu’s heart breaks for Harley and she is determined to be there for him as he has always been for her.
The Bottom Line: As you can clearly see, the characters carried this read for me and were only enhanced by all the other bits like the plot. 🙂 There are a lot of characters in this read but Dawson has done such an excellent job of clearly defining each one that it is easy to keep everyone straight even in this first book that is launching the series. The plot most certainly revolves around Rafferty and Trace but their stories really couldn’t be told without the cast of supporting characters. This relationship really describes Laurel Falls as much as it does Rafferty and Trace. Laurel Falls is a small, united community that clearly comes together and takes care of their own yet is also open and welcoming to newcomers. I love this community and truly can’t wait for the other members to tell their stories. In all, I am pretty smitten with Laurel Falls and see a ridiculously bright future for the community and this series.
About the author and where to find her:
Zoe Dawson is the alter ego of Karen Anders, award winning, multi-published author. Her writing journey started with poetry and branched out into fiction. With a couple of college English courses under her belt, she penned a historical, then moved onto contemporary romance fiction. Today, she is happy producing romantic suspense, romantic mystery, urban fantasy and paranormal novels. The words feed her soul and the happily ever afters feed her heart.