Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Fans of the hurt/comfort trope are going to really enjoy this book! When I first started reading, I was prepared for it all to be fairly shallow, but I was pleasantly surprised by the end to find there was more to it than that.
Jordan Thorndike was the middle child of a wealthy, conservative family, treading the path that his father had laid down for him, ivy league law school and all. The book opens with Jordan driving away from his home with a few suitcases the only things he has left of his previous life of privilege, after he came out to his parents and was cut off from the family. He had never been on his own before, had no idea where to go or what to do, when a reminder popped up on his cell phone about a planned visit to the B STAR ranch – Better the Second Time Around – a shelter for abused and neglected farm animals that was one of his mother’s favorite charities, and a place Jordan remembered fondly from childhood visits. It seemed like as good a place as any to retreat to, and his plan was to work for bed and board and try to figure out what to do next with his life.
When he arrived at the Texas ranch, he was welcomed by Phyllis, the owner, but not so much by her foreman, Russ. To Russ, Jordan was just a spoiled rich kid who wanted to slum it for a while, a nuisance rather than a help to a busy ranch. Jordan didn’t tell anyone why he was there, and spun a tale of “taking the summer off” and kept up a charming facade to put off any unpleasant questions. His truth couldn’t be kept a secret forever, and when it did come out, the response was better than he could ever have hoped for: Russ really saw him, their walls came down, and they got together even though they both expected it to be only temporary until Jordan healed enough to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
Jordan’s own healing process was nicely reflected in the work they did with the neglected animals, especially the horse that had to get worse before she could get better. He seemed very shallow and immature in the beginning of the book, but that made sense given his sheltered background and the emotionally stunted family he grew up in. The preoccupation with food, his looks, “good” coffee, all made sense to me eventually, and I liked that although he did mature and start seeing the real world a lot more clearly after a few weeks at the ranch, he didn’t miraculously lose all of those bad habits just because he was in a relationship. Russ was “over 40” – his actual age was never mentioned – but the 20 year age gap wasn’t really addressed at all, which I thought was a little strange (in my mind, Russ was 34, which made more sense to me given how he acted alone, and how he behaved with Jordan). The suddenness of the two of them getting together was a bit jarring, Russ’ change of heart being a complete about face over the period of a few hours, but after that it seemed believable. Mostly. I’d call the ending more of a “happy for now” rather than HEA because I still felt their relationship needed a lot more growth to be permanent.
Not a book to knock my socks off, but definitely a nice relaxing read. I did most of it on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I would recommend this as a vacation read.
Cover art by Adrian Nicholas incorporates a lot of the scenes from the book, but wasn’t particularly eye-catching.
ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: September 11th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press