Can’t Hurry Love
by Molly O’Keefe
Book #2 in the Crooked Creek series
Victoria Baker, the penniless widow of a disgraced financier, is ready to stand up, be counted, and make a new life for herself and her beloved son in Texas. She’s taking over Crooked Creek ranch, her birthright, and turning it into something special. All that stands in her way is Eli Turnbull, a rugged, too-handsome cowboy who wants the land just as badly.
If Victoria wants a fight, Eli will give her one. He’s devoted his life to Crooked Creek, and he’s not about to let some pampered city girl—even one as brave and beautiful as Victoria—turn it into some silly spa. But Victoria’s and Eli’s burning anger and frustration only fuel heat of another kind: uncontrollable passion. And soon they each realize that the person standing in their way is the one they can never do without.
Victoria Schulman, half sister of Luc Baker, returned to Crooked Creek Ranch in Texas just before the death of her father, hoping that she would receive a healthy part of his legacy so she can pick up the pieces of her life. Her late husband left her destitute and shamed following the discovery of his illegal Ponzi scheme and subsequent suicide. Now she's been left the ranch and is ready to learn how to manage it so that she and her seven-year old son, Jacob, can move on with their lives. However, Eli Turnbull, the ranch foreman who has been waiting to recover the property taken from his family many years ago, has a different plan.
I must admit I dragged my feet a little bit in starting this story because Victoria wasn't very likable in the first book. While I was sympathetic to her plight, I found her shallow, desperate and a bit self absorbed. Fortunately, the story starts right off with her discovery of Eli's duplicity and the impact of his actions. Victoria grew up pretty quickly, developing a spine and determination. This doesn't happen overnight but the story of her transformation was really well told and her ever evolving relationship with Eli was a major part of that change. His story was also pretty tragic, keeping me from throwing him under the bus as his motivations were understandable and he, too, was in the midst of his own evolution. These were two very damaged people who, despite their actions sometimes, were very likable because of their circumstances. It is a tribute to the O'Keefe's writing skills that you could both be disgusted and empathetic to Victoria and Eli. I really wanted them to succeed, not only in their relationship but in overcoming their pasts.
There were also secondary characters who played instrumental roles in the story, specifically Celeste Baker, Luc's mother. Her relationship with Victoria, who is the product of Celeste's ex-husband's affair with another woman while they were married, couldn't be more complex. She treated Victoria pretty badly as a child and is consumed with guilt and shame because of her actions. She's a former super model who is still beautiful and a quite daunting. But, Celeste and Victoria formed this odd partnership that was also intriguing to see unfold.
I loved the romance, the conflicts and the wacky relationships brought about because of so many tragic circumstances. It all seems to work to create a very good story. I'm glad I didn't drag my feet too long in starting this book because I would have missed something special.
(I received an ARC from NetGalley)