A secret teenage crush or was it something more? That is the question that has plagued the minds of Leah Manning and Cal, the foreman of the Thunder Creek Ranch. Leah was always the princess, baby girl of the ranch and her desire to see the world, spread her wings and hopefully become a dancer was stronger than her need to discover just what her relationship with Cal really was. But that hasn’t stopped her from wondering about it ever since.
Her life away did not turn out as she hoped and after too many dumb blond moves to count she finds herself in the worst possible situation. Her charming rich boyfriend is in fact an evil crime lord and after seeing him murder his best friend she goes from girlfriend to prisoner forced to do whatever he wants. After 4 long years, she manages to escape and return home hoping that the ranch will keep her safe. Which is where the story begins.
The story is moving tale of Leah having to swallow her pride and ask for her family’s help and shelter from the mess she has gotten herself into. But in returning she has to see Cal and face the feelings that have never died in her heart regardless of what she has felt for another man in the interim.
Cal has also never forgotten what they shared and has yearned for her return home. But his image of her is of the sweet innocent girl that stole his heart. He has his own battle with pride to face when he is confronted with the truth of just what Leah has been doing the past four years. It is a heart felt battle for him to try to come to a level of acceptance and see the strength it took for her to do what she had to do and to not only survive but also come out sane on the other side.
So let me say that this is the first in this series that I have read. So if you are a fan of this series then you may have a different take on this story then I did. As a stand alone – it is very well written. I was impressed with Ms. Nelson’s talent and her ability to tell a really well written suspenseful story in such a short number of pages. However, I really felt like I needed more back-story on Cal and Leah for their romance to make sense. Cal was hired while they were friends in school and has worked his way up to foreman since. But he has never been allowed in the main house or treated as part of the family. And since their relationship as teenagers was a secret this behavior continues when she gets home. Therefore, the interaction between them is very limited and he spends most of his time spying on her from afar. The scenes where they both reminisce about their past seem more sexually based than based on a true mental connection. So when they do get together and Cal is looking for an immediate “pick up where we left off” instant supper hot connection and complete emotional commitment it feels like the reader has to take a big leap of faith that they were ever that serious. Which left me feeling like I was missing a piece of the back-story especially given all that Leah has been through in the past four years. In reading the blurbs about the other books it doesn’t look like they were in them much, if at all. So again if they were and this is the piece that I’m missing then I’m sorry. As I mentioned I’m reviewing this as a stand-alone piece. I also wished she had given a bit more detail on why Leah thought the ranch was so safe. The characters kept making comments about how the place was tighter then Fort Knox but never went into details. Again, maybe that was discussed in previous books. All though this is set on a ranch it doesn't have a overly western feel about it. It is winter time and the weather is harsh really limiting their time around the horses and ranch itself.
All in all – this was a very nice book. I really enjoyed it. The suspense and mystery involved in stopping her ex was very exciting. And the chemistry between her and Cal made for some very hot scenes.
RATING: 4 chocolate dipped strawberries.
Many thanks to Evernight Publishing and Lorraine Nelson.