If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. - Oscar Wilde
We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. - B. F. Skinner
No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. - Mary Wortley Montagu

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Country Nights by Winter Renshaw / @ArdentPRose

Title: Country Nights
Author: Winter Renshaw
Author Links: Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Newsletter
Publisher: Winter Renshaw
Release Date: June 25, 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
ARC Received From & Reviewed For: Ardent Prose

Sixty country days and sixty country nights—that’s all I wanted.

I needed to get away from the city, away from the hot mess that had become my life.

When I stumbled upon my childhood home on RentBnB.com, I took it as a sign, cleaned out my life savings, and hightailed it to the only place that ever meant something to me, a place I hadn’t seen since a lifetime ago.

Only when I arrived to the familiar South Dakotan farmhouse, I was met by a brooding, we-don’t-take-kindly-to-strangers cowboy by the name of River McCray, who insisted this was his house and most definitely not a rental property.

I’d been internet scammed.

And that cocky, smart-mouthed stranger had the nerve to make me a humiliating offer: I could stay in his house for the next two months rent-free, but I had to work for him.

He’d be my boss. And my roommate.

With no money and nowhere else to go, I agreed. But nothing could have prepared me for the tension, the attraction, and the bombshell revelation that changed … everything.

Hm... Okay. Where to start?

This story isn't spicy or hot or anything remotely close to either of those. It's sweet, slow, warm, and uplifting. I have no idea if Ms. Renshaw writes all her stories like this but I hope so.

Leighton's ex is a self-serving, cheating jerk with little care or thought for anyone besides himself. He isn't below threatening her employer or her family to try to convince her to come back to him. Does she? Doesn't she? Leighton's really firm on never going back to him, even before he tracks her down. I like her resolve there. Rode that train, never getting on it again.

Being back in Bonesteel Creek, SD, reminds her of the life she had pre-ex. It was simple and fulfilling. She reacquaints herself with old friends, makes new ones over the hill. She unknowingly befriends a bad man and almost pays for that relationship. She's reminded of a man she loved and lost, her father taken too soon when she was younger. And she finds herself in constant company of a man that intrigues her.

River's a loner by choice. Tragedy, twice, stole his willingness to open up to anyone. The first incident was a fuzzy memory lurking in the back of his brain, a noose waiting to close if anyone ever found out the truth. It took the entire story (good play, Ms. Renshaw) for this memory to become clear, and it took a moment longer for the dots to be connected between it and Leighton. The emotional upheaval that revelation caused was spot on. My heart clenched then ached when the truth was made known, and I desperately wished for it to not be true.

The second was more recent and remained an open wound because he refused to let it close. To lose his wife, child, and unborn child in a freak accident turned him into a walking zombie. He went through the motions, kept to himself, because what was the point in really living? It meant letting people in, letting them get close, opening himself to the very real possibility of losing them and being left empty once again. He wasn't taking that chance, not again.

That might have worked if Leighton was anyone other than Leighton. She was persistent, nagging and pushing him to let her in, even just a smidgen. He'd give in, a little, but it wasn't enough for her. Oh, she apologized for nagging, for trying to push him past his comfort zone, and the dynamics of their relationship changed because of this. She accepted his silence and refusals, letting him just be until he was ready to talk about himself.

The chemistry is super, super slow. It seems to jump straight into love. Not insta-love because there isn't even insta-lust. But the love is heartfelt and deep. And so very real.

The tragedy I mentioned earlier involves Leighton's father. He died far too young in a car accident that remained unsolved for years. River's perceived role in his death produced a gap larger than the Grand Canyon between him and Leighton. Her grief returned tenfold; his guilt intensified a hundredfold. A diligent friend to both set them straight and revealed the true culprit, a man both knew all too well.

In that moment, when Leighton and River stand on opposite ends of the earth instead of together, their love remains strong and pulls them back towards each other. It grows in leaps and bounds when the truth of that night is made known and that black cloud no longer hangs over River's head. In a way, it's offered the ultimate wave of forgiveness that he desperately needs.

This is a strangers to friends to lovers story. There's plenty of bickering, stubbornness, persistence, and discovering in it. I enjoyed every word of it. I hope to read more by Ms. Renshaw. Her story telling is on point, especially with conveying emotions. She's an author I'll look out for, and this is a story I'll definitely read again.

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

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