What it’s about: (from Goodreads) From the balcony of his house, Mike Haines can see the quiet, commonplace beauty of the Holliday farm. But what he remembers is the little sister of his high school girlfriend, Dusty, who grew up there. As a teen, Dusty had gone off the rails but when she was a kid, she was sweet, she was funny and she had a special bond with Mike. But after high school, she took off and Mike never saw her again.
Then tragedy strikes Dusty’s family, she comes back to town and Mike thinks she hasn’t changed back to the sweet, funny girl he knew but instead continued to be selfish and thoughtless, leaving her family alone to deal with their mourning. So he seeks her out and confronts her in an effort to understand what went wrong and to force her to sort herself out.
He finds out quickly he’s wrong about Dusty Holliday. Very wrong. And right after Mike discovers that, the bond they had years before snaps back into place in ways he would never suspect.
But Mike Haines had a bad marriage then he played games of the heart for a good woman. And lost. In order to protect himself and his kids, he’s cautious, he’s careful to read the signs and he’s not interested in finding a woman he has to fix.
Then he learns what happened to Dusty and he thinks she needs to be fixed. He swings, he misses and in this new game of hearts, for Dusty, Mike just got strike three.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): When I read At Peace at while ago, I enjoyed the character of Mike Haines. Kristen Ashley has written a few books now where there has been a kind of love triangle. I say kind of because it is always clear who the prime couple is – In Mystery Man, the couple were Hawk and Gwen, and Tack was the one who missed out. In At Peace, it was Joe and Violet and Mike was the guy who didn’t get the girl. Tack, of course, got his HEA with Tyra in Motorcycle Man and now Mike gets his HEA with Dusty. I liked Mike in At Peace. He was a nice guy who really cared about Violet and, if not for Joe, she probably would have had a happy life with him. They could have made it work and they had genuine feelings for each other. Generally, I’m not big on love triangles because either one of the guys (usually it’s two guys and a girl) is a dirtbag or both of the guys are great and one has to miss out. What I really like about the way Ashley does it is that I know that there will be a book for the other guy at some point, that he will get his HEA and that he is a good guy and the feelings he has for the heroine (and hers for him) are respected – even by the hero who ends up with the girl. This seems unusual to me and, apparently, it means that I can enjoy the love triangle as a way of showing more love for the heroine, as showing she is “worthy” of love and that she is in demand, without getting too bent out of shape that she will end up with the “wrong guy” or that the “other guy” will be pining away for the rest of his life/turn into a jerk. Also, the love triangles don’t drag on too long and that helps.