Author: Molly O'Keefe
Publication: Bantam (June 26, 2012)
Description: In Molly O’Keefe’s captivating new contemporary romance, a woman with a past and a man without a future struggle to find a place where they belong.
A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Tara Jean Sweet knows that opportunity will never knock; she’ll have to seize it. Elderly Texas rancher Lyle Baker has a dying request: He will give Tara Jean a stake in his leather business in exchange for a little family subterfuge. All Tara Jean has to do is play the part of a gold-digging fiancée to lure Lyle’s estranged children home. The mission is soon accomplished.
Now Lyle’s gone—and his ridiculously handsome son, Luc, an ice hockey superstar sidelined by injuries, is the new owner of Crooked Creek ranch. He’s also Tara Jean’s boss. But being so close to sinfully sweet Tara Jean does crazy things to Luc’s priorities, like make him want to pry her deepest secrets from those irresistible lips. But when Tara Jean’s past demands a dirty showdown, will Luc stay and fight?
My Thoughts: This wasn't the easy romance that I was expecting. Both main characters are very damaged people and neither is over the damage. Tara Jean Sweet, as she is known now, began life as the abused daughter of a woman with bad taste in men who lived on the wrong side of every track. She got out by using her body and her ability to scam old, lonely men. She has tried to turn over a new leaf but the past she is running from is in danger of catching up.
Luc Baker is a pro hockey star who is holding on to his position on the team despite numerous concussions and the possibility of brain damage because hockey is the only place he has felt a sense of self worth. His elderly father abused him both physically and verbally as a child. Now the father is dying but a threat to marry Tara Jean brings Luc and his needy half-sister home to the ranch. When he dies, he leaves 40% of his leather goods business to Tara Jean, which was her incentive to fake an engagement, and the rest to Luc provided he runs the business for five months. Luc feels caught because his sister's inheritance depends on him taking the deal.
Tara Jean and Luc are attracted to each other but trust issues and secrets keep getting in the way. They hurt each other numerous times throughout the book. Tara Jean is particularly defensive and does everything she can to drive Luc away. It is the only way she can think of to protect herself and him. The story was filled with strong emotions as both characters struggled to put their pasts behind them and define the futures they want to have.
This was a very intense read. It isn't a light, fluffy beach read but an in-depth exploration of two damaged people who manage to overcome great difficulties to find a romance. The author really swept me into this story and made me ache for both of the characters. The one character I didn't have much sympathy for during most of the story was Luc's sister Victoria. She was so needy. She was used to defining herself through her husband but, when he was convicted of masterminding a Ponzi scheme and committed suicide, she didn't take advantage and learn to stand on her own feet but rather decided to lean on her brother for support. I thought it took quite a while for her to wise up. I'm curious to read the next book in this series which will be her story.
She could wallow in sex. swim in its eddies for days. Ignore the problems and mistakes that were growing like weeds in her life. And she could do that now. Luc could make her forget Dennis and the money and his threats about Victoria. He could make her forget how alone she was. How scared she was of failing. How success felt like something that happened to other people. Not to her. Never to her.I got this ARC from review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer's program. You can buy your copy here.