Because I loved the first three books in this series – those Sterling brothers stole my heart each time – I was really looking forward to this new release. However, this time around, while we still get to interact with a couple of the Sterlings, it’s Tanner and Crystal who are front and center. Unfortunately, even being the engaging people they are, their story drags until the last quarter of the book, and the usual pulled heartstrings are left by the wayside. Very unusual for a Catherine Anderson book.
Tanner makes deliveries in a nearby town, his schedule down pat so he can spend more time with this two kids. When he discovers his friend Tuck is now in an assisted living center in Mystic Creek, he visits to get the lowdown on Tuck’s accident and resulting injuries. Tuck also asks Tanner to smuggle in contraband to help the older man’s time there go a bit faster, especially when it comes to the holier-than-thou administrator of the place. Tanner agrees, but then all hell breaks loose and Tanner ends up demoted, now delivering in Mystic Creek, which will curtail that time with his children.
It’s Crystal, Tuck’s granddaughter, who puts Tanner’s demotion into action. She finagles the mysterious delivery person’s info from Tuck and reports to the administrator, who then insists and basically blackmails Crystal into making a complaint about Tanner. She does so only because she has no backup if Tuck is ousted from the center when he’s still unable to live on his own. She’s got so much going on in her life with her own successful business to run and Tuck’s Blue Heeler Rip, a dog who is out of control when it comes to making people pay a toll to reach the front door of her house.
And that’s the biggest issue for me for the first half of this book. We do get a prologue about how Tuck comes to have Rip in his life, so we know years later they are as close as any pet and owner can be. But the antics of this dog go way overboard for me. An example: though Tanner and Crystal have met once before, they don’t realize who each other is in respect to being in Tuck’s life. Trying to keep Rip contained in her yard, she buys equipment to remedy the situation and, of course, Tanner delivers it. Because he doesn’t have the proper amount of treats on him to get past Rip, coming and going, Tanner ends up with a ripped-up uniform and stranded on Crystal’s porch for hours until she comes home at the end of the day. Now, I realize that some animals can be a bit trying and frustrating to people, but for a romance book, this is over the top. And that’s just one example of what this dog does. Just too much focus on him for me.
This does bring Tanner and Crystal closer together so they realize they have feelings for one another. I’m thinking because I was so wrapped up in not caring for the Rip angle in the story that Crystal’s past didn’t hit me with the usual emotion I’ve come to expect in a Catherine Anderson book. Because Crystal’s past is very emotional. I feel for her, of course, but her story doesn’t move me as I expected. That past is the reason she can’t move forward with Tanner when he’s ready for the next level in their relationship. Which is unfortunate, because she’s found exactly what she’s missing in life with Tanner and his kids.
We also get a secondary romance with Tuck and his new lady love, Essie, who has moved into the center. While I enjoyed most of their growing relationship, it does feel as though there’s too much focus on them throughout, taking away from Tanner and Crystal. But Essie does add a new layer to the story, especially when it comes to how seniors are treated by people in their various worlds.
A heck of a lot goes on in this book. I’ve scratched only the surface in these few paragraphs. We do get to meet the next Sterling brother, Jonas, and I’m hoping his book is next up. I’m also hoping more Sterlings will show up somehow. Mystic Creek is the Sterlings and doesn’t need to be muddied by extraneous folks around town.
When a favorite customer on his delivery route needs a favor, Tanner Richards agrees to help without a second thought. The last thing he expects is to face off against the man’s spitfire granddaughter.
Crystal Malloy is near her breaking point. Her beloved grandfather constantly skirts the rules at the retirement center where he’s recovering from surgery. She’s caring for his escape artist dog, even if it means abandoning her salon customers, and she has no time for a romantic attraction to the handsome new stranger.
After Tanner’s reassigned to Mystic Creek, Crystal can no longer ignore how much she misjudged the man’s good intentions. She has known too much sorrow to easily open her heart, but she can’t deny that Tanner and his children could gift her with a happiness beyond compare—if only she can forgive herself for the past and accept that she’s deserving of such a love.
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Other books in this series: