Watching the love of his life fall for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all. But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige. Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances Riley is adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up with the money needed to save it. As the weeks wear on, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?
Well, now it's time to for Riley Callahan to get the spotlight! Moving in the background of the first two books, here we get to know his story a bit better as he returns from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Through the earlier books in this series, the reader sees Riley struggling with the romantic relationship between his brother Beau and Riley's best friend, Paige. Riley himself has been secretly in love with Paige for years. To cope with his emotions, he chooses to enlist in the military. Almost immediately, he gets word he's getting shipped to Afghanistan. Now fifteen months later in Just A Kiss, Riley is returning home after surviving an IED attack that costs him one of his legs.
Prior to the explosion, Riley had plans to return home to Summer Harbor and finally reveal his true feelings to Paige. Now things sit a little differently, as he is moved into Paige's home for the recovery / physical therapy process and Paige takes on the role of caretaker. Not exactly what he had in mind. Riley struggles with feelings of only being half a man, still tempted to confess his love to Paige but also feeling like she deserves better than what he feels he can offer as an amputee. In response to his inner struggle, Riley begins to distance himself emotionally from Paige, thinking he's doing her a favor. But as these romances tend to go, as one pulls back, the other party involved leans forward.
Paige, when not helping Riley, has her own professional stresses. The shelter she runs is at risk of being shut down for lack of funding. On the suggestion of Lucy (Riley's sister-in-law you met in The Goodbye Bride), Paige puts together a bachelor auction fundraiser and, with a bit of a struggle, gets Riley to agree to serve as one of the bachelors. Seeing him in this light where many of Summer Harbor's single ladies going crazy at the chance to have a date with him, Paige is shocked at her own feelings of jealousy towards these women. Slowly the thought creeps into her mind that maybe, just maybe she herself feels something beyond the platonic for her best bud. But of course she takes the Riley approach to things, keeping her complicated emotions to herself. So as you can imagine it takes forever for these two to get anywhere fun with each other.
Author Denise Hunter offers a note to the reader right off the bat letting one know that any of the Summer Harbor books can be enjoyed as a standalone piece. With this closing book to the series, while it was cute I was a left a little disappointed overall. It's pretty standard romance fare, safe romance that was built a little TOO slowly for me, and closed on a pretty bland ending.
Though this is technically a Christian romance series, the religious element is pretty light through most of the books. This one though, there is a pretty heavy dousing of religion near the end, which felt a little odd... like it was getting jammed in there real quick before the doors closed... when the rest of the series was so light on it.
That aside, decent light summer fluff you can have fun with on a chill-out day without too much mental commitment required.
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.
My review for Falling Like Snowflakes (Summer Harbor #1)
My review for The Goodbye Bride (Summer Harbor #2)