Having lived through her parents' endless string of "matrimonial bliss gone wrong," Cassidy Starr knows when the odds are not in her favor. Divorced and humiliated, her faith on rocky ground, Cassidy is through with love. She's been bucked off that horse far too many times. Instead, she returns to Wishing Springs, Texas, and the rundown farm she's inherited from her great aunt Roxie. She'll reopen the strawberry farm and a bed & breakfast and follow in her aunt's footsteps, remaining forever-independent, happy . . . and single. Rancher Jarrod Monahan's hands are full running the ranch, looking after his ailing grandfather, and chasing down a group of rustlers on the loose. He's pushed his longing for a family to the bottom of his list of priorities. Besides, he was in love once but ran scared and lost his shot at happiness. But suddenly, the biggest regret of his life has moved in next door with a wounded heart, determined to become a spinster ... and that's a challenge that Jarrod can't pass up. Jarrod sets his mind to breaking down the walls around Cassidy's stubborn heart. How can he show her that a cowboy's kiss lasts forever?
Divorcee Cassidy Starr comes back to her hometown of Wishing Springs, Texas to try to heal and rebuild her life after getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Burned by love, she has no interest in getting involved with any men ever again, only wants to run the farm and B & B she inherited from her great aunt Roxie. What she doesn't count on is her old friend Jarrod still being in town. Jarrod runs the Four of Hearts Ranch, raising cattle, fighting off cattle rustlers and helping take care of his grandfather who is battling Alzheimer's. Jarrod has his own reasons for having emotional walls up, but is willing to let them down around Cassidy. Cassidy is a different story though. She feels a pull to open up to Jarrod as well, but her past pain doesn't want to let her unconditionally trust anyone again. There's some past romantic history between them as well, a hint of something that got bungled up that drove them apart years ago. "Jarrod had a few regrets in his life and Cassidy was one of them." It's never made all that clear what all happened except that Jarrod gave her one kiss one time and then ran off spooked. I feel like there'd be more to the story to that, given Cassidy's slight iciness at the memory, but that backstory isn't explained too well.
There is also a smaller, secondary storyline regarding the relationship between longtime friends (and maybe almost old flames?) in their "golden years", Rand and Pebble.
This is #3 in the Four of Hearts Ranch series. I haven't read any of the others, but I feel like this can do perfectly well as a stand-alone since I didn't feel in the dark about anything while I was reading. The story here is not too bad, my trouble with it is I found it to be pretty formulaic and predictable. Jarrod as a character was cute and charming but after awhile Cassidy got on my nerves a bit (I give props for Clopton making her a redhead though!). I get why Cassidy wants to swear off men but the constant "I am woman, hear me roar" attitude -- I mean, even when some guy just wants to be neighborly and help her carry something -- got really old. Honestly, I found myself more entertained by Jarrod's brothers and sisters-in-law, with their country encouragements and sass.
"It's just going from point A to point B," she'd tell Cassidy. "You can do anything you want in life if you think about it like that -- and read lots of books." To prove that belief she had shelves and shelves of books on every subject imaginable.
The bottom line was her aunt Roxie wasn't afraid of anything. She'd lived fully and on her terms until she'd dropped dead in her garden. She was probably up in heaven right now with her big, floppy, brimmed red gardening hat and her oversized chambray shirt and her gardening gloves, telling the Lord where she wanted the strawberries, tomatoes, and marigolds to go.
And he was probably saying, "Have at it, Roxie. Things have never looked so good before."
Cassidy really lost my support after the first scene where Jarrod has to potentially face cattle rustlers that may or may not be armed. He's trying to explain how dangerous it is and she can't get past the "I don't need a man telling me what to do!" ranting. He wants her to stay back and when she refuses she claims he just can't handle her bucking his authority. As a woman I was wanting to scream NO! He maybe just cares about you and doesn't want you to get shot! UGH.
Jarrod was off his horse in an instant, and before she knew what was happening he reached up, circled her waist with his arm, and lifted her from the horse and into his arms. And he held her there. Her pulse shot to the sky and she stared into his eyes, stunned by his actions and the electrifying way she connected to the concern in his gaze as his eyes dug deep into hers.
Emotions tangled between them and she couldn't breathe. His eyes dropped to her lips and then yanked back to her eyes. "I can't stand to see you hurt," he growled. "I can't."
I also have to say the dialogue in this book drove me bananas. WHY does everyone in this town have to talk like their on that Hee Haw show?! I lived in Texas for a few years. There actually whole cities of people who don't sound like they stepped off the set of Lil' Abner.
So yeah, I'd have to say this had it's cute moments but overall it's pretty much your generic romance with the typical HEA you'd expect. Not bad, but didn't leave me all swoony either.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.