Natalia Puccini has spent her entire life playing by her overbearing but well-intentioned Italian family’s rules…except the one time she took a chance on a bad boy and fell hard. She’s worked to get her life back on track so when Aiden McCann comes sauntering back into town with his heart-stopping smile, Natalia vows not to fall for him again. There’s no way she’ll let him mess with her perfectly planned life…and there’s no way she’ll let him near her heart again…
Now reformed and a self-made success, Aiden is tormented by regrets and secrets. He left Red River years ago filled with anger and resentment and a promise to never come back. But when his ill father needs help, Aiden knows it’s time to face the mess he left behind, and face the one woman he never got over. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or intriguing she is, though, because he’ll never be able to give her what she needs. As soon as his father is healthy, Aiden is leaving Red River…for good.
The Rebel’s Return is a second chance romance story between high school sweethearts Natalia and Aiden. He had always believed he was too good for her, but the two of them had made forever plans anyway…until Aiden revealed to her that he’d cheated on her with another girl and then promptly left town with his older brother (the older brother who clearly needs his own book, BTW–subtle hint), not to return for ten years.
Until now, when he loses the coin toss to said older brother and has to spend seven weeks back at home with their estranged father, helping him get through his radiation treatments (whether he wants said help or not. It often seems more on the “not” side of the equation.)
Being that it’s Red River, it isn’t long before he’s thrown right into Natalia’s path, something she’s way less than enthused about. It definitely doesn’t help that his return coincides with her cousin’s wedding–to the ex-boyfriend that Francesca slept with before he was an “ex” thankyouverymuch, and in which Nat was acting as maid of honor. Because her cousin is apparently that brand of evil.
Yeah, things could be looking better for our heroine. She decides to conquer at least one part of her out-of-control life by downloading the “Couch to 5K” app (which really exists! We’ll see if I’m inspired enough to try it on time for this year’s Turkey Trot–check back in a few weeks). But dealing with her first and only true love and her miserably vindictive cousin? If only there were an app for that…
I love both second chance stories and this series, so it was a given I was going to be reading this story ASAP. Nat and Aiden have great chemistry together, and it’s clear from the very first chapter that these two have by no means moved on from their ten years ago split. They’re thrown together early on and often, and every time the sparks are flying like mad, though Nat’s doing all she can to shut Aiden’s every attempt down as soon as he makes it if not before.
We learn early on that Aiden hadn’t really cheated back then–he’d just said he had, for an unknown-for-most-of-the-book reason–and it takes a really, really long time for that truth to be revealed…a bit on the “too long” side. Nat begins to suspect (with the help of a well-meaning but nosy townsperson) earlier, but her confrontational style with Aiden for much of the book is swoop in, strike fast, and leave ASAP before he has a chance to respond. Not that he seemed anxious to reveal all anyway…but it did seem like the not-talking-to-each-other-honestly-about-our-past portion of the book stretched out much too long. She angrily held a grudge, he stayed frustratingly mum on the truth, they danced ever closer to doing…something. Rinse and repeat. Again and again.
When he does finally get his head out of his butt, though, Aiden does it in spectacular–and extremely public–fashion. His grand gesture is absolutely wonderful, and made up for a lot of the frustration he gives us earlier. (The fact that this is a short and sweet read makes it easier not to dwell as well.) There’s plenty of continue-the-series fodder here as well, with both the hero and heroine having unmarried–and determinedly bachelor–brothers. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Aiden: “No one enjoys being a bachelor. That’s just what we tell ourselves so we don’t have to go through the painful process of getting our heads out of our as$es.”
And he would know. 😉
The Rebel’s Return is fourth in the series, but would work fine as a standalone (and gateway to the series!) if necessary. Though if the teaser about how Aiden’s former partner in crime Jake and Claire got together doesn’t at least tempt you to look up The Best Man’s Baby , I don’t know what will!
Rating: 4 stars / B
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Florist Claire Holbrook has always played by the rules her entire life, but breaks them to spend one night with sexy lone wolf Jake Manning, a man she’s adored since she was a teenager. Six weeks later things get complicated when she discovers they created a bond that will last a lifetime…
Jake has never played by the rules. Getting Minister Holbrook’s daughter pregnant wasn’t part of any life plan, but he won’t run from his responsibilities. He’ll step up and be the best man he can, even if he doesn’t have a clue where to begin. The more time he spends with Claire, though, the more he wants her, and the harder it is to get close because that would mean sharing the one thing he hasn’t with anyone—the truth and his heart.
Victoria James is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance.
Victoria always knew she wanted to be a writer and in grade five, she penned her first story, bound it (with staples and a cardboard cover) and did all the illustrations herself. Luckily, this book will never see the light of day again.
In high school she fell in love with historical romance and then contemporary romance. After graduating University with an English Literature degree, Victoria pursued a degree in Interior Design and then opened her own business. After her first child, Victoria knew it was time to fulfill her dream of writing romantic fiction.
Victoria is a hopeless romantic who is living her dream, penning happily-ever-after’s for her characters in between managing kids and the family business. Writing on a laptop in the middle of the country in a rambling old Victorian house would be ideal, but she’s quite content living in suburbia with her husband, their two young children, and very bad cat.
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