Series: One and Only Texas #2.5
Published by Swerve on October 25th 2016
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Paul Savage loves Christmas at Briscoe Ranch Resort, when he gets to take a break from being a back country guide to play Santa in the resort’s lobby and talk to kids about toys. The last thing he expects is his high school crush to come waltzing in as his new assistant photographer, wheeling a suitcase that's more naughty than nice.
Kelly Walker is a disaster. All she’d wanted was spice up her life by saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity, which is when the universe started pelting her with ‘no’s. So when she comes across a job listing for a holiday photographer working with the sweet, scrawny boy whose advances she’d laughed off in high school, she jumps on the chance to turn her bad Karma around by giving Paul a second chance.
Trouble is, Paul’s anything but scrawny anymore, and his cowboy swagger throws her grand plans for a loop—especially when he tempts her with a red hot proposition of his own. Kelly’s in way over her head, but as she gets swept up in the magic of Briscoe Ranch’s holiday charms—and Paul’s—could Kelly’s year of ‘no’s be leading up to the ‘yes’ of a lifetime?
It’s great coming back to Briscoe Ranch, but I’ll have to admit that it’s not a story I’d recommend, for the sole reason that the characters irked me past my own tolerable limits, particularly it’s employed as a trope of contemporary romance fiction for the bulk of the tale—festive or not.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those stories where deception and a relationship based on false premises form most of the story and the eventual conflict. And it was all I could not get past rather than revel in the reunion of 2 long-lost high school supposed sweethearts who never were.
While it was hard not to question if both of them Paul Savage and Kelly Sawyer loved the idea of each other being the lost chance that never materialised or if they did love each other at all, it was Kelly’s deception for most of the book that was frustrating to the point of me wanting to give up the story completely. In fact, I hated her from the very beginning: showing up out of the blue to take a chance with a man she’d all but tossed aside many years ago, then continued to treat him atrociously by lying to him about the shambles her life had become and then walking out of him twice without the bloody balls confess it all face to face (after driving away with his truck). If Kelly was afraid of the pedestal Paul had put her on, I hated that she continued using this particular explanation as an excuse to play happy house and not do a thing about it, for the fear of losing it all with him. Yet knowing it was an inevitable loss underscored that much of a lack of intelligence that I couldn’t stomach. That Paul took it upon himself to ‘stop playing the victim’ outraged me further, giving her that chance which I felt she didn’t deserve at all when all Kelly had done was to lead him on.
But because this is specifically written as a Christmas story, perhaps this is testament to the season of forgiveness and second chances. Perhaps it’s about rewarding the underserving. On the contrary, it hits all my uncharitable notes despite the festive season values the story wishes to espouse and I couldn’t wait to put it aside.