Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden, after much soul searching and separations, have finally decided to give their relationship another try. Now living apart, they have just had their first date on the path to a newer, more healthy future and things look promising. Then Jeff gets a call from his ex wife and business partner that will change everything. She says she’s pregnant and that Jeff is the father. One late booze fueled hookup while Brad and Jeff were separated results in a pregnancy that threatens Brad and Jeff’s relationship on every level.
Brad has always feared that Jeff would leave him for a wife and kids and now his worst nightmare seems to be coming true. Brad has never felt like a priority to Jeff because of the time Jeff spends on his business. Now with a child on the way, what time will Jeff have left for him and their relationship?
For Jeff, his carefully created plans for getting back together with Brad are falling to pieces. Even worse is the announcement from his ex wife that she will be leaving Tucker Springs and returning to Denver with their child. If he wants to be a part of the baby’s life, and he does, he will have to somehow juggle her part of their business while traveling to Denver to see their child. Or move everything to Denver, including himself. Neither plan seems reasonable or even possible if his and Brad’s reconciliation is to work.
Everything has gotten so complicated. What happens when sometimes not even love is enough to hold a couple together?
It’s Complicated explores the decision that separated couple Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden, friends of Nathan, made at the end of After the Fall (Tucker Springs #6). In After the Fall, Nathan listens to the problems Brad is having with his relationship with Jeff and it impacts Nathan’s rationale about the events occuring in his own romance. It’s a secondary element but we gather that the constant fighting between Jeff and Brad has caused them to separate after years together. By the end of the story, Jeff and Brad have decided that their love is deep enough that it merits one last effort to stay together and that’s where It’s Complicated starts. And its also where it almost immediately starts to fall apart again.
This conflicted and deeply in love couple have just gone on their first date towards a new healthier relationship, It went well even with both of them on their best behavior and ended up in bed at the end of the night. Jeff and Brad’s sex life has always been fantastic, its everywhere else in their relationship that the couple has problems. Most readers, no matter their current romantic status, can relate to this couple because they have been there or know people who have. The stress, the communication problems, the prioritizing of time between business and family and above all the insecurities…these are issues that plague many a modern couple. And from the caustic comments and arguing to the tentative steps back towards each other, L.A. Witt’s couple travels a realistic and well worn path.
Tucker Springs and its inhabitants have a way of growing on you as you travel through each of the Tucker Springs couples stories. People pass in and out of each others lives much as you would do in any small town. And whether or not they are germane to the story at hand, the reader absentmindedly takes note of who and what is trying to get together or who needs a new romance in their lives because we know they are sure to surface later on in the series. So I was prepared to meet up with Brad and Jeff to see what had happened since After the Fall and the answer is nothing less than a couple melting down under the pressure and stress of their lives and not knowing how climb out of their relationship rut.
Every bit of dialog, every painful argument and painful silence feels authentic. L.A. Witt knows how to write relationships and real people in trouble. It feels every inch as stressful and sad as a couple who you happen to be acquainted with would look if they weren’t going to make it. You feel extraordinarily bad for them, wish you could help them in some way and you would hope for the best. I just am not sure you would want to be there for the daily struggle, the disheartening conversations and the hair pulling when nothing else is working. Only your affection for this couple will keep you reading through the mess they have made of their relationship and their own personal well being.
I do like that Jeff’s ex wife is not made out to be a cardboard villain here. She has her excellent reasons for moving away from Tucker Springs and yes, she wants her family back together. All reasonsible, all very realistic. Jeff too is believably human. He is being pulled in every direction by his obligations, his wants and desires as well as the people he loves. Did I want to give him a shake every now and again? Sure, but you could relate to Jeff as he tries to balance things in his life too weighty to be neatly boxed up and compartmentalized. It doesn’t work and he ends up paying for it.
And then there is Brad, everyone’s last priority, even for himself. Brad has finally realized that he deserves more but what he wants is Brad, a conundrum to be sure given the current circumstances and overwhelming issues. Here is a character who cries out for your compassion and gets it. His is the character most people will relate to as he questions just how much he is going to endure to keep Jeff in his life. He asks the toughest questions here. And Jeff’s answers to those are sometimes problematic, making Jeff a less than sympathetic character. The angst swirls mightily here as does the love. But do you really want to be in the middle of it? That’s a question each reader will have to ask for themselves because there is some truly heartbreaking aspects to this story.
What pulled it all together for me and made this a read to recommend? In addition to the wonderful writing and characters? That would be the Epilogue. L.A. Witt’s epilogue does what every great epilogue should, Pull together the final story elements and let the reader in on how it all turned out. It is here that many of the satisfying and happy parts of Brad and Jeff’s relationship that I wanted to see earlier in the story are displayed. Where all we had before was strain and unhappiness, now we get to see why they were so great together and what made them a couple worth saving. And it was after reading the Epilogue that I could then go back and reread parts of the story with a new perspective that gave me a great appreciation for this couple and their story. It made everything work and let me enjoy the re-coupling of two more of Tucker Springs uncoupled inhabitants. Tucker Springs is a wonderful series and this story is just one more example why.
Cover art by LC Chase is gorgeous and pertinent for this story and series.
ebook, 196 pages
Expected publication: April 28th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
seriesTucker Springs #7
Here are the stories in the Tucker Springs series in the order they were written, and is recommended that they be read:
Where Nerves End (Tucker Springs, #1) by L.A. Witt
Second Hand (Tucker Springs, #2) by Heidi Cullinan
Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs, #3) by Heidi Cullinan
Covet Thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs, #4) by L.A. Witt
Never a Hero (Tucker Springs, #5) by Marie Sexton
After The Fall (Tucker Springs #6) by L.A. Witt
It’s Complicated (Tucker Springs #7) by L.A. Witt