The second Riverbend Romance shares the town with Secretly Yours, but with the exception of an obscure mention of the mission trip can be read separately and therefore in any order. It’s a very different story as well, with the challenges having more to do with parenting and previous failed relationships than any existing bond between Kelly and Ian prior to the story. I’ve had trouble before with reading the books in a series all at once because the patterns start to stand out. This is not the case here at all. There are no patterns beyond the very basic ones of faith and love, allowing me to experience each character as a unique person, which is Valerie Comer’s strength.
This story starts with parenting. Kelly and Ian first meet over their daughters’ heads as the two girls pronounce themselves twins thanks to a teacher’s comment about their shared birthdays. It’s bad enough that this comment forces them together, but then Kelly discovers Ian is her new boss as well, making her own interest, and that of her daughter Elena, even more complicated.
It’s not enough to deal with a workplace romance and pressure from two young girls eager for a complete family, though. As the novella progresses, Ian has to examine his own life and to recognize how his first marriage failed before he’s ready to hear how God is answering his prayers in Kelly for all he prays about the question. Kelly has her own hesitations as well, knowing not just her heart is at risk in this, fears Ian’s behavior plays into all too well.
The character growth within the story is strong and the characters are endearing. Still, while I loved the ending, this one felt a little rushed to me. There is easily enough story for a longer work, but at the same time, I enjoyed the story I got so maybe I just wanted more time with them. The character nuances are strong, the girls are delightful and realistic, and I loved both the inclusion of the extended families and how their parents had very different reactions to the possibility of Kelly and Ian falling in love. I think, of everything, my favorite part was Ian’s realization of his own flaws because it’s a real growth point.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this novella, and I’m eager to read the next one, if only to see what other distinct stories Valerie Comer has to tell about this town.