True Love at Silver Creek Ranch
By Emma Cane
December 26, 2012
Brooke Thalberg is a cowgirl, a real one who loves the ranching life. She loves her family too, but lately, even though she is living the life she always knew she’d grow up to leave, she has this nagging feeling of dissatisfaction. That feeling is intensified after Adam Desantis appears seemingly from nowhere to help her save the horses when one of the Thalberg barns catches fire. Her memories of Adam from high school are anything but pleasant. Still, there’s something about the quiet loner that he has become that makes him hard to ignore.
Adam Desantis was one of the bad boys of Valentine Valley until a high school football coach helped him turn his life around. After high school, he chose the military life. He left town a brash kid who thought he had all the answers. Now an ex-marine with battle scars on his body and in his soul, he has returned because he’s worried about his beloved grandmother, the only family he has. When Doug Thalberg hires him, Adam is happy to have something to do with his time, but he’s not sure it’s such a good idea for him to be thrown in the company of Brooke whom he finds himself thinking about far too much.
The more time Brooke and Adam spend together, the more difficult it becomes for them to control the attraction between them. Brooke tells herself that a relationship with a ranch employee is a bad idea. Adam tells himself that Brooke is out of his class and his stay in Valentine Valley is temporary, both good reasons for avoiding complications. But soon the two are involved in a sizzling, secret affair, and neither one is ready to admit that their hearts are involved regardless of all their heads keep telling them.
This is the second in Cane’s Valentine Valley series, following A Town Called Valentine (February 2012, Nate Thalberg and Emily Murphy’s story). For the first half of the story, I liked the town better than I did the romance. Brooke and Adam seemed likeable enough, but I didn’t feel as if I knew them well enough to be fully engaged with their story—not even enough to believe strongly that they belonged together anywhere outside Adam’s bed. The characters became more fully dimensional by the second half, and I ended up believing in them as individuals and as a couple. But the time it took to reach that point kept the book from being all I wanted it to be.
I was also bothered because I was aware from very early in the book that I was missing parts of the story because I had not read the first book. I found Emily and Nate an appealing couple, and I plan to read their book. Not every reader may be bothered by the shadow stories, but for me, True Love suffered as a standalone. I never lost sight of its being the second book in a series for which I had not read the first book.
What Cane does superlatively well is create a small town world people with warm, interesting secondary characters. Not just Nate and Emily, Brooke’s other brother Josh, her best friend Monica, and a few other characters who readers may expect to see front and center in other books, but also Brooke’s parents, the teenagers with whom she is involved, Adam’s old coach, and Adam’s grandmother are vivid, vital characters that give the story greater depth and meaning. Valentine Valley itself is just enough different from the run-of-the-mill small town to make in distinctive and memorable. So even though this book was a C+ read for me, its appeal is great enough to send me back to Valentine Valley for more stories.
This was a book that I might not have finished had I not been reading it to review. I’m glad I persisted, but it left me wondering if I sometimes give up too soon on other books. If a book is not working for me by the end of the third chapter, it generally is a DNF for me. How long do you give a book before you give up on it?