Series: Cattenach Ranch #2
Published by Smashwords on August 8th 2017
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As a child, Nakos Hunt left behind the familiarity of his Native American Arapaho tribe for time on Cattenach Ranch. Now the foreman, he's happily settled into his life, but the girl who befriended him all those years ago suddenly has him twisted inside out. He craves stability and purpose, and Amy Woods is anything but a calming presence. Though she's unbelievably gorgeous and about the only person who can drag a laugh from him, he's never been able to understand her. Then a moment changes everything, and an urgent need to protect her rises inside him. And doesn't let go. So does an aching desire and a bond he can't seem to control, no matter how hard he fights the need.
She's no one's version of ever-after...
Amy's not a stranger to disappointment. She's spent the majority of her life pulling up her bootstraps and flipping Karma the bird. Once, she may have dreamed of things like happiness and love, but those were for other people. Nakos has never been someone she deserves, yet the attraction between her and the meticulous sexy-as-sin cowboy is undeniable. And too tempting to ignore. Not only is he strong, patient, and respectful, he's showing her a kind of romantic passion she didn't think existed. But the secret she's keeping could shatter their perfect bubble, and when an old nightmare comes crawling back from the past, she realizes losing Nakos will be the one thing she can't recover from.
From the beginning, I knew I wanted Nakos Hunt’s story ever since he burst onto the scene at Cattenach Ranch. He was for me, the guy who got short-changed, who had unrequited feelings that weren’t returned the way he needed them to be, and the one who got left behind. I did feel more than a little sorry for him when it appeared that he would be a rare breed of a protagonist—sensitive, intuitive and perceptive.
Yet I wanted to see how he got over the woman he had a thing for (apparently, for years) and how his feelings managed to flip at the turn of a coin when he sees his other childhood friend finally getting out of an abusive marriage. Nakos’s love for Olivia and his developing feelings for Amy Woods when he’d never quite looked that particular way at her before would have otherwise made me uncomfortable, had Moran not so articulately explained his acceptance of the fact that he and Olivia would never happen and the way he had to reexamine what Amy did for him.
The friends-to-lovers trope is a tricky one which isn’t always handled satisfactorily, but I do think that Kelly Moran makes a credible case that a person can fall in love with several people and not compromise the depth of their feelings for any person. I didn’t exactly buy into the idea that he hadn’t actually loved Olivia enough all along—the first book seemed to show otherwise—though that this story seemed to be trying very hard to justify how he’d always seen Amy differently. I was frankly, alright with how his own sentiments had changed and how unflagging and stalwart he became once he got it in his head that he and Amy were going to be a couple.
Alpha Nakos, when he actually came out to play, didn’t hurt either and that went a long way in transforming my idea of that guy down in the dumps because he didn’t go after what he wanted in the first book.
I had a harder time with Amy, but that’s just me here with my preferences for somewhat ’stronger’ heroines: she’s a victim in every sense of the word, who has perpetrated her own misery, caught in a cycle that she can’t crawl out of because she has never thought better of herself. Most of the book has her unable to face her deep-seated issues and while I would have liked her to be a bit more courageous when it came to Nakos, I could understand where her self-esteem problems stemmed from.
Moran has such a way with words that can slay, tear down and build up. ‘Benediction’ is an emotional ride throughout; there’s this aching slow-burn and the delicious build-up that finally burst with spectacular sparks, but the HEA that was initially denied Nakos in the first book clinched it for me.