Would he still love her…if he knew?
Tanner Hayes smashed Claire’s life to pieces when he chose the rodeo over her ten years ago. And now he’d wrecked her truck! Fantastic. She’d lost her husband, the family ranch was mired in debt, her father was recuperating from a stroke and her son was being bullied. Why not throw a reckless bull rider into the mix?
All she’d wanted was a safe, stable life. But with Tanner back in town—and staying on her ranch—nothing was safe, or under control. Not the feelings she’d fought so hard to forget. Not the son she was determined to protect. And certainly not her long-held secret…
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review
This is going to be a tricky review to write as on the one hand I really enjoyed this book and on the other hand I also had some issues with it. Karen Rock is one of my favourite romance authors and I am always excited when a new book by her is released and request them if I see them on netgalley without even looking at the blurb first. I like her writing style, how she can make me care and feel emotions alongside the characters. The first chapter of this book was like a punch in the gut and almost had me in tears.
Once I started I finished the book in a few days as I just wanted to keep reading. There’s a lot I liked about this book: Claire her relationship with her father, Claire her relationship with her son, Tanner his struggle and how he acted around Jonathan, the trouble with the ranch, the awesome ranch setting and ofcourse all the animals. Karen Rock really knows how to write animals and kids well and she makes em care about them quicker than I care about the other characters.
So I almost immediately liked Jonathan, Claire her son, and the animals, like Roxy the dog, the horses and even the bulls. The two main characters on the other hand took a bit more effort. Claire has been gone through a lot, she lost her husband and is now a single mother. She never told anyone that the kid is actually from her first love Tanner and not her dead husband. Tanner returns to the ranch where Claire lives to help her father try and save the ranch from foreclosure.
There are misunderstandings, secrets, things that don’t get talked through and on top of that Claire and Tanner are two of the most stubborn characters I ever met. Yes it was hard to like these two at first, especially as they both had done some stupid things. She never told the father of her son that he even had a son and he left the love of his life to go to rodeo as he though that would make her proud, while she just wanted him to stay with her. Claire is being so mean to Tanner while he comes to help and she instantly reject all his ideas, playing it over cautious and never giving him and his help a chance. Slowly though I began to see the good in them, how Claire just wanted the best for her son, was afraid to tie Tanner to a life he didn’t wanted to and was over cautious due to what happened in her past. Tanner was so sued to other telling him he wouldn’t amount to anything that he was constantly fighting to prove he could make something out of his life, while only later realizing that the only thing he wanted and needed was love and family.
The romance was off to a rocky start for me, these two could fight and fight and fight and maybe that’s because they cared too much instead of too little, but sheesh I just wanted them to stop fighting and making assumptions and instead would talk things through, explained their reasonings and bare their secrets. It took time and patience, but eventually I did see they cared about each other and how they brought out the best in each other. Tanner made Claire more confident and I think that’s worth a lot of an anxious and overcautious person. Claire made Tanner realize he was okay the way he was and that he didn’t have to prove anything. They made a great couple, but I just wished they fought less. There are some great romantic scenes between these two, especially the scene with the championship, where I really felt their connection and what these two meant to each other But there are even more scenes of fighting, pushing each other away, saying nasty things and lying.
There’s also this scene towards the end which just felt like an obvious plot device to throw some more conflict their way and have them jump to their old conclusions. It just felt off and unrealistic. They should know better by then and it just seemed weird how they could say such harsh things to each other and then bounce back. Yes people say things they later regret, but with these two everything felt like a battle. Maybe it’s also because a lot of Karen Rock her books follow this pattern that it’s become so predictable and I hope she proves me wrong with each book.
Then there were scenes that show the power of family, the sweet relationships between Claire, her father, her son and Tanner and the life they enjoy on the ranch that were heartwarming. I also loved the ranch setting, with the animals, riding lessons and the calm and peaceful setting of the ranch that was their home for so long and the danger they now faced of losing it. There’s also a scene at the championship later that I loved and it made me appreciate the live they had build there and how they fought to keep it if they could.
To summarize: This book has a lot of things that I enjoyed, but also some issues that bothered me. The story hooked me from the first page and I was so invested in the story that I didn’t want to stop reading. There is a lot I enjoyed like the relationships between the characters and Karen Rock writes the animals and kids so well you immediately care about them. I did however struggle a bit with the romance and the two main characters, Claire and Tanner have a bit of a past and know better how to fight than to lvoe eahc other. And it just got old how they kept fighting and pushing each other away and being nasty. Claire countered every idea Tanner had and they didn’t take time to talk it through. The romance was hard to feel as they fought so much, but later in the book they soften towards each other and I also realized how good these two were for each other. I wasn’t a fan of the twist towards the end which felt like a last ditch effort to introduce more conflict and which is pretty predictable for Karen her books. The ranch setting was awesome and it is a heartwarming book that left me with a smile on my face. It’s more a 3.5 stars rating, but I decided to round it up to a 4 star as in the end I really did enjoy the book despite my issues with it.