The book warned me from the start in the front pages that it is only the first stage of the main love story, so I withheld judgment until the end. It is definitely the beginning of something solid, but has neither a “happily ever after” nor a “happy for now” ending for the main couple. Two secondary characters, each with strong ties to one of the main characters, do find their happy ending, though. That arc is a poignant story of Brenna learning to look beyond her image of herself and accept she has the right to a wonderful future with Marcus. The reader isn’t left hanging in every aspect.
I wanted to get that out of the way from the start, especially considering the note on my last review, but there’s no doubt Maggie and Griffin’s story has enough to fill three books. Theirs is a complex, tangled situation with personal and family history weighing against them.
It’s the Hatfield and McCoy or Capulet and Montague situation where a betrayal in the distant past has set the Spencers and Stones against each other, measuring success only as it reflects off the failures of the other. Their two families founded the town where Maggie has deep ties and Griffin rejected all the ways his heritage called to him long ago. Don’t think the feud a matter of history, either. It might not be played out at gun or sword point, but economics and town ordinances are good enough weapons to tear families apart. I enjoyed how the town’s history is mixed with the personal story and directly influences who they have become as adults.
Maggie and Griffin also have a personal history, one complicated by their reintroduction when Griffin returns home after a long absence as Maggie is literally running away from her wedding day and his kid brother. A school girl crush flares into something more from the moment he helps her escape, and it’s no longer one sided.
Nor are relations between the brothers anything to cheer about, making Griffin’s suspicions about the cause for Maggie leaving him at the altar even sharper. As far as character development, Trevor’s arc is strong, going from the petulant whiner to starting to take responsibility for his actions and making the first steps toward healing, though there’s a long way to go.
There’s a lot of tearing down and rebuilding in this novel, both metaphorically and in reality. Nothing is simple, but at the same time, the story doesn’t take shortcuts or focus on the malicious. This is even true when the potential exists and has come into play elsewhere, something I very much appreciated. Life is complex enough without evil rearing its ugly head.
I hope you have the sense of how real these people and the place came to be through the story. The characters engaged me and made me want to stick around to learn their full story. It’s a strong start to what I believe will be a worthwhile read.
P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I can see why the book had a warning in the beginning. Although I enjoy reality to a certain extent, I’ve learned through (finally!) watching the first season of Once Upon a Time that I only want reality in small doses in my fiction. Especially romance. You have a lot more patience than I do.
That said, I’m glad to hear that the plot was good and that it worked. Always good to see people taking chances with a genre. 🙂
The reality is why I read contemporary romance these days because it’s real people focused on working out their problems so they can overcome. It’s a reality I can get behind. In my spec fic, I tend toward grand adventures or exploring things that are out of reach in my reality, but romance is about the relationships more than any other aspect and demonstrates positive ways to address real things.
There’s a reason I read so many genres :). They each offer some aspect hard to find in the others. Well, that and even the most fantastical stories become repetitive if you stick within one genre because the themes are usually similar. It’s also why I read different subgenres within each genre. The nice thing about there being so much out there to explore.