She’s never had a true family Christmas….
As a child, Alex Woodson appeared to have it all, yet her life was an illusion. Now independent, Alex returns to the one place she was briefly happy—Marietta, Montana and starts an interior painting business. One of her first clients is the Keller Ranch. When Cade Keller unexpectedly arrives home, Alex promises herself she can ignore her former high school crush, who barely knew she existed. But the handsome cowboy is up in her business, flirting and tempting her with holiday activities she’s always dreamed of.
After leaving his job as an oil rig operator, Cade heads home to the family ranch for Christmas and to re-think his career. Seeing the former Woodson princess painting his family’s home is a distracting mystery he intends to solve. But the more time he spends with Alex, the more he’s intrigued.
Cade tells himself he’s just being neighborly by inviting Alex to join his family for their holiday traditions, but he’s lying. He’s falling hard—unfair with his uncertain future. Alex is wary, knowing life is never a fairytale.
Dear Ms. Watt,
Despite not having read the previous three books in this family series, I wasn’t worried about feeling lost. After a brief flurry of introductions or information and with only a few scenes spread across the book to allow the family to lightly weigh in on Cade’s life, the story stuck to Cade and Alex as they worked through their issues, solo and together.
So yay for a relatively angst free book. Not that there weren’t some things to be sorted through and life decisions to be made though. As these two knew each other back in high school (and Alex knew Cade was a relatively good guy because of how he treated the goat – no, I’m not going to explain that but it’s not kinky), the baseline of knowledge about each other’s character was already set. Also yay that neither had been dreaming of or grumbling about the other for the past ten years.
Alex and Cade didn’t date before. Alex tried to chat Cade up but he wasn’t mature enough to realize that she was interested. She was the rich girl, after all. Now she’s been burned in romantic trust as well as dealing with a lifetime of emotional neglect from her aloof parents who probably ought not to have had a child in the first place. Cade’s boisterous family has always been there for him but he’s facing his own crossroads about his job prospects. He’s curious about why Alex is back and running her own business.
Amazingly, these two actually talk. Alex finds herself thinking Cade looks hot in a Carhartt jacket and telling Cade little bits about where she is now in life and how she got there. She also comes right out and asks why he never paid attention to her despite her efforts which stuns him as he had no idea. He’s confident enough now as well as wise enough to know that he wasn’t ready then for any relationship – even a high school crush. He can also see that if he pushes too hard, Alex’s barriers go up so – yes! – he knows to back off and just wait.
Meanwhile Alex is trying to earn the trust of a dog which has shown up near her trailer. That Shadow is an echo for Alex’s own inability to believe that a man won’t end up leaving her isn’t hard to figure out but it’s a lovely growing relationship to watch happen.
The banter between the MCs is nice and straight-faced funny at times.
“You don’t want to be alone with me?” Cade asked in an amused voice after the door closed behind the foreman.
“I don’t want to fall prey to your lethal charm,” Alex said with an exaggerated sniff.
“Lethal, eh?” Cade’s eyes crinkled as he spoke.
“It’s a notch beyond disarming.”
“Ah.” Cade glanced down at his boots for a second or two before once again meeting her gaze. “You should know that I only use my charm for good, never evil.”
“You’re saying I can trust you to not misuse your superpower?”
His expression grew more serious. “That is exactly what I’m saying. I’m trustworthy.”
A physical relationship starts after some hot kisses – which both of them initiate – but it’s fade-to-black for those who want to know. I like the way they talk about their issues and thoughts outside of any relationship – Cade bounces ideas about what he wants to do off of Alex while she thanks Cade but firmly handles an unwanted suitor herself. Their slow journey to love and the willingness to trust in what they might have is sweet and refreshing while the series is topped off with a fun and heartfelt family Christmas – with knee-deep-in-crass homemade family ornaments. I enjoyed this one. B
Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.