Wasn't what I was hoping it would be. Boo. :( There were one too many forced contrived things that made the story fall flat and got in the way of my enjoyment of it. There was nothing natural or realistic about this story. Call me cynical, but the idea of a grieving widower falling for a young woman in 2 days of meeting her just doesn't really work for me. Given the circumstances surrounding both characters it was incredibly hard to grasp the idea of these two or I should say Rafe falling so quickly for Maggie. They both come with some serious heavy baggage, Maggie with her awful abusive history with her stepfather and Rafe losing his wife and kids in an accident. The author makes a point in the beginning to address how Rafe has been living like a bum, drinking into oblivion not caring for life or anything for 2 years straight then he has a dream where his wife tells him it's time to move on. Boom! He opens his eyes and there is Maggie. Literally. <__< Meeeh. He's still clearly in mourning yet here I'm supposed to believe he falls head over heels in love with a complete stranger in 2 days?? Try again. And the idea of Rafe easily accepting & claiming Maggie's little boy Jamie as <i>his child was just too much. Not even half way in he starts referring to Jamie as his son which gave me some serious whiplash. In theory it's sweet and I would have believed it more if Anderson slowly built up the relationship between Rafe and Jamie, he's a grieving father for crying out loud. Any man in that situation would have had serious reservations and fears and even anger but oh no, Rafe steps right up as the new father like a piece of cake. They become an instant perfect family with Rafe going all out buying them everything and wanting to move them into his place right away. Say whuuut?? If the story opened up with Rafe picking up his life slowly after slumming and meeting Maggie by chance it would have made more sense, but no. We find our hero in the beginning of the story neck deep in liquor living like a homeless drunk in a boxcar wanting to be left alone and not caring for anything and wanting to die. So to go from that to magically flipping his entire life around for Maggie 2 days later, a virtual stranger, just didn't jive with me. Grief doesn't work that way. It was like stepping into a Disney story where everything is magically fixed, healed and absolved with flowery words and overly grand gestures. Eeeeh. And you sure as hell can't magically replace the babies you lost with someone else's child which is exactly what the author did here but tried very hard to disguise it as something miraculous & 'meant to be'. Ummm yeah..no.
And speaking of contrived things, Rafe, the self-proclaimed alcoholic being able to give up heavy drinking (he's been drinking for 2 years straight) in a matter of 2 days
and drinking wine with no issues was ballsy yet very unrealistic. I mean seriously, come on. lol And I'm not even going to get into the fact that he slips into his old life so quickly and easily after being away for so long. Going from boxcar drunk to Kendrick millionaire who can call in a Cessna to come pick him up with no hesitation is a nice fantasy but I'd like a little more realism. The transition was jolting and just comical. Everything just seemed too perfect and too good to be true on the Kendrick ranch, I almost felt like it was robotic. The perfect doting husband, sprawling ranch, perfect overly affectionate grandparents who accept their 'new' grandchild' with open arms and everything in between. I sound like a complete cynic. I'm honestly not, I just like a little more room for realism or at least actions that make more sense. I felt this had a lot of potential of being a powerful sob-worthy story but the overall execution and rushed pacing fell very short. All of it seemed very gimmicky and dishonest. And Maggie's history is tragic and heartbreaking but I didn't really connect with her like I wanted to. Anderson did a good job of showing her fears as far as sex and relationship with men. But I did think her shy personality did veer into prudish sensibilities sometimes with her out of control blushes and gasps over having sex in broad daylight--"what will people think?!" (seriously
Anderson? What year are we in??) *cringing*. Also both characters had the habit of falling into martyr territory with all the shouldering of blame for stuff that was out of their control. I love any man who's as considerate as Rafe but seriously having him on the verge of ripping his hair out for not doing every. single. thing. right became a little bit much and in some cases overboard obsessive. Calm down dude.
I don't know overall I was expecting a lot of angst and a dark edge to this given Rafe's tragic loss but half the time he came across as a caricature. With his repetitive mushy 'honey' and 'sweetheart' nicknames and lopsided grins...there was nothing natural or real about him. And the poor guy's eyes must be exhausted from all the nonstop winking he does in here. That drove me freaking insane above everything else! Like every other line there is a wink that follows right on cue, it became very distracting. He started to come across robotic and not real. I felt Anderson made him a cliche gimmicky character. I read Ryan's story before this and I felt more connected to him and his story than I did with Rafe's which is a shame. This had a lot of great potential but it just didn't work for me and left me feeling disappointed, underwhelmed and tempted to skim to get to the end. :(