The Return (Sunnybell #2)
By: Erin Knightley
Mack McLeroy's star was quickly rising in the professional rodeo circuit until a horrific fall from a bull nearly killed him. Faced with the loss of income and sponsorships, and unsure if he'll even be able to recover sufficiently to return to competition, Mack returns home to Sunnybell, Texas. If he can convince his old high school girlfriend, Ashley Montoya, to use her influence as the niece of his biggest sponsor to save his gig, he might just be able to salvage his dreams of rodeo fame. The only thing he didn't count on was Ashley's ability to hold a grudge...
Following the humiliation of discovering her boyfriend Mack cheating on her, Ashley Montoya was forced to set aside her teenage heartbreak and grow up fast when she became her ALS-stricken mother's primary caregiver. Despite the intervening years she was not ready to forgive Mack when he showed up on her doorstep asking for a favor, until the spark of an idea resurrects her long-cherished dream of becoming a competitive barrel racer. She'll help Mack with his sponsorship woes but only if he'll first use his contacts to help establish her career on the professional rodeo circuit. What neither counted on was the enforced proximity reawakening feelings each though long buried, calling into question the hard-fought dreams each holds dear.
Last year I read Learning to Ride, the first Sunnybell novella and Knightley's first foray into contemporary romance. While I enjoyed it, I had some issues with the unhappy career woman trope and the hook-up between the hero and heroine which felt forced, lacking the characterization I'd come to expect from Knightley's historicals. The Return is a much stronger and more enjoyable contemporary offering. If Knightley continues to pen contemporaries of this ilk I'll happily follow this line of her career trajectory with interest.
I love a good second chances romance, and Ashley and Mack are well drawn characters, sketched with Knightley's trademark warmth and nuance. I did feel that their ages were somewhat deceptive -- Ashley and Mack have each lived a LOT of life for early twentysomethings, and their respective voices often translated older and more world weary than their actual ages on the page. That minor issue aside, is a much stronger contemporary offering from Knightley. There is history in this romance, believable romantic tension, and organic conflict, making this short offering an entertaining, satisfying way in which to while away a few hours. While I suspect I'll always gravitate towards Knightley's historicals first, she's proving to be increasingly adept at penning enjoyable contemporaries, and I look forward to seeing this series continue.
About the book:
With beating hearts and bated breath...
Ashley Montoya was in love with Mack McLeroy in high school--until he broke her heart. When an accident brings him back home to Sunnybell to recover, Ashley's determined to avoid him, but Mack can't stay away. And the more she's with him, the more she can't help but to fall into his embrace...
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