Why I read it: When I listened to Rocky Mountain Rebel recently, I realised I had accidentally skipped this book. So I bought it and rectified the lack.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Allison Parker needs a convincing excuse to come home to Rocky Mountain House, a hopelessly romantic reason that won’t let her mother suspect the truth—that Allison has discovered Mom is keeping a terrible secret from the family.
Gabe Coleman is struggling with two of the roughest parts of ranching: dealing with his bull-headed mule of a father and making enough to pay the bills. When his old friend Allison offers to help him develop his ideas for organic ranching—in return for pretending to be her fiancé—it sounds like the perfect set-up.
Yet the deception leads them in an unexpected direction, where their shared daily hells are erased by nights of heavenly distraction. It’s not supposed to be real, but once the gates are opened, there’s no denying they’ve found in each other a little bit of paradise.
To break free of the past and face the future, though, will take more than temporary pleasures. It’ll take putting their hearts on the line.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I enjoyed this one and I say this fondly: the set-up is
a little fairly unbelievable. Allison’s mother is very ill but doesn’t want to tell the family. Someone has told Allison and she wants to come home but doesn’t want to let on that she knows. So, plan A is “pretend to be engaged to Gabe Coleman”. Not, “I got retrenched from my job so I thought I’d come home for a while” or something else a little more realistic. Because what we want is the two protagonists in close proximity so the business of falling in love can begin, I could overlook some of the logic problems here. Gabe, to his credit, does at least think about what the deception might mean for his relationships with his (very large) family. At base, there is a longstanding connection and attraction between the pair and the rest is just excuses. However, once the proximity begins, things progress a lot more believably. There was a definite chemistry between the pair and but for logistics (they lived in different towns, Allison wasn’t planning on coming back and Gabe is very tied to his land), they would have started dating a year before I think.
Allison’s mum is very sick and those bits were sad and had me a bit teary. Fortunately, I was in the privacy of my own home and alone when I was wiping my eyes or otherwise things could’ve been embarrassing. I am a bit of a sap – I will cry at ambulance ads when I’m in the right mood (or perhaps the wrong one?) but nevertheless, I felt both the writing and the narration – neither of which were overdone or played for the feels definitely lead me to the tears. I was very glad that the book didn’t get all morbid – I thought the story showed a deft touch in that respect. After all, it is primarily the story of how Gabe and Allison get together and the focus stayed firmly there.
Gabe has been struggling to win his dad over to the idea of organic ranching for a while. He has been trying to introduce new ideas and new opportunities to the ranch and he knows (as does his dad) that keeping on the same way they have in the past will inevitably lead to them losing their home and their land. Ben, Gabe’s dad, is a mean piece of work. He comes across as quite one-note for much of the book. Near the end, there was an explanation of his behaviour and what was apparently a significant character change for him. Maybe he’s always been stubborn but up until this thing happened, he wasn’t necessarily mean. While it didn’t excuse his behaviour, it did serve to make it something which gave his character some depth. I won’t his behaviour to Gabe was “understandable” because it wasn’t. There were aspects of his feelings which I could relate to, yes but there was nothing that made how he dealt with his son okay. I guess what I want to say here is that he had some depth to him. There was some thought put into why he was the way he was and it went beyond “he’s just mean”. It also went some way to explaining why Gabe’s mother stayed with him. (Although, again the story was about Gabe and Allison and not Dana and Ben so that was a question which wasn’t going to be answered directly anyway I think.)
Gabe and Allison are dealing with lots of crap in their personal lives but when it comes to them together, there is very little conflict. They like each other, respect each other and fit well with each other. They have great chemistry and, when they eventually give in to it, they have great sex. There wasn’t really anything keeping them apart. Which was fine for a novella length audiobook – the external conflict were certainly enough to carry the story.
One thing I wasn’t clear on was what Allison was going to do for a job by the end. Was she going to continue working in the family restaurant? Did she want to do that? If her mother hadn’t been ill, she would have stayed in Red Deer in a job she loved, so I would have liked some more clarity about that.
What I loved about this book was that the Bis Misunderstanding wasn’t used as a cheap plot device. Thank you thank you thank you.
What else? As usual, I enjoyed Tatiana Sokolov’s narration. While I don’t think this book was as dirty as others in the series have been I continue to appreciate her delivery of the sex scenes. Again, they’re not overplayed and there is no virtual “bow-chicka-wow-wow” music either. There is passion and emotion in the narration but the sex scenes don’t sound ridiculous. I think that’s a combination of the words used and the way they’re spoken.
Most of the characters are easily differentiated by a combination of vocal tones or dialogue tags but it is true that many of the Coleman boys sound very similar. I didn’t have a problem with it, but would recommend that the books not be listened to one after the other after the other. Even putting one alternative audiobook in between serves to “refresh” the aural palate.
I’ve had most of the books in this series on Mt. TBR for ages but for one reason or another, haven’t managed to get to them. I must say, I’m definitely enjoying the stories as audiobooks and they’ve become my preferred medium for the Coleman series.