Carson Merrill loves only one thing more than Lone Creek Ranch - high school sweetheart Jessica Tate. He has plans to marry her, until one fateful night a devastating accident nearly kills her brother, James, and claims the use of his legs. Jessica flees to Nashville, blaming Carson for her brother’s paralysis. She avoids him - and James - for more than a year. Jessica returns to Lone Creek as one of the top producing land developers in the area, and she has one goal - to banish Carson forever from her memory while taking what he still loves - Lone Creek Ranch. But God has other plans - to draw the two together in a development project that will satisfy both their desires, and help them to reclaim the love they once shared.
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Despite the fact that it's less than 2 hours long, it took me 3 days to finish this story. Normally, I look for something to do (usually housework) so that I have an excuse to listen to a book, but not this time. I think the idea behind the story was decent and could have been pulled off well had the author given herself time to flesh out the characters. Instead we got little snapshots here and there that gave me no chance to become emotionally invested in their lives.
I found Jessica to be annoying from the very beginning. I didn't see why Carson would be in love with her in the first place and why he would still be pining for her after more than a year apart. That was addressed somewhat in the backstory, but I find it hard to believe that someone would change so drastically with the single event described (as her brother said, if anyone had a right to be mad at the world, it was him, not her). Maybe if we had been able to experience those circumstances with Jessica in something like a prologue, I would have felt differently, but the way the information was meted out over the course of the story didn't make me feel any sympathy for her at all. Instead, I thought it just made her come off as shallow, immature and self-centered.
I probably would have been able to overlook that issue had the story of Jessica's transformation been more exciting, or inspirational, or at the very least interesting, but it really wasn't. Instead, it fell flat in every potential area.
Most obviously this was supposed to be a story of a couple rediscovering their love for each other (it is a romance, after all), but the scenes between Jessica and Carson are stilted and unbelievable. There was very little chemistry between the two of them, and their ultimate reconciliation left me rolling my eyes rather than sharing in their excitement.
Then too, this was supposed to be a story of an estranged brother and sister rebuilding their relationship. They had several years' worth of hurt between them, but they dealt with it over the course of one conversation and that was it. We didn't get to see much happening between Jessica and James after that.
Finally, this was supposed to be a story of faith, but the only character that we see actively living out his faith is James. Even then, there are only a handful of places where that comes into play, and it seemed to be done more as an afterthought rather than being woven into the fabric of the story.
Ultimately, I think it all boiled down to the fact that we didn't get to see very much of the action ourselves. The majority of the scenes in the story were conversations between characters describing something that had happened (whether in the distant or recent past). I think this could have been a much more effective story of healing and forgiveness if the author had done more showing and less telling. Instead we are left with what feels like an outline of a story waiting for someone to come along and fill in the blanks.
The foundation was clearly laid for more books in the series (Carson has 3 younger brothers, after all). They sound good in theory, but if they're anything like the first one, I'm going to be skipping them. I'll be looking for something more engrossing to get my cleaning done in the future.