Winning an all-expenses paid Colorado destination wedding might seem like a dream come true for some people—but Caron Hollister and her boyfriend Alex Madison aren’t even engaged. How is she supposed to tell him she’s won their wedding and honeymoon when he hasn’t asked her to marry him? Being “perfect for one another” seems like the absolute best reason to get married. But what if their supposedly faultless relationship is merely a safe place to protect his secrets and a way to keep their families happy? After quitting her job, Caron accepts her best friend’s offer to visit Colorado. She needs to catch her breath. Who knows, maybe visiting the destination wedding site will make a future with Alex seem like a reality.
Kade Webster just landed the biggest deal of his life with his company, Webster Select Realty, participating in the Colorado Springs Tour of Homes. He never imagined he would run into the woman who broke his heart—Caron Hollister—right when his career is taking off. Seeing her again, Kade can’t help but wonder why Caron walked away from him years ago, leaving him with no explanation. When Kade learns his home stager won’t be able to help with the Tour of Homes, he vaults past all the reasons he should stay away from Caron, and offers her a temporary job helping him on the project. This time, their relationship is purely business.
Spending time with Kade has Caron questioning everything. The man intrigues her—at times infuriates her—and reminds her of what she lost. Has she been settling for what everyone expects of her? Just because others believe she and Alex are an ideal couple, does that mean they should get married? And how can Caron say “I do” to one man when she’s wondering “what if?” about another?
“Kade. This is Caron.” Her tone was direct, businesslike.
“I thought about your offer . . . made my decision . . . and decided there was no reason to wait until tomorrow to call you.”
“Fine.” He could manage direct and businesslike, too.
And if Caron was going to turn him down, he appreciated that she told him now. He could start scrolling through the Internet tonight, rather than waiting until tomorrow morning.
“You’re . . . in?”
“Yes. It sounds fun.”
“You’ll stage the home?”
“Yes, I’ll stage the home.” A hint of laughter tinted her words.
“That’s great!” Kade stood, running his hand through his hair. “How soon can you get out here?”
“Well, you said this is urgent, so how about if I fly out to Colorado on Sunday and come to work on Monday?”
“That would be fantastic.” Kade sat back down. “Do you want me to make your flight reservations for you?”
“Why don’t I do that and you can reimburse me? And I’m staying with Margo – so no hotel costs. But per diem and a car-”
“Of course. Just pick up a car at the airport. I’ll draw up a contract tonight and email it to you. While I’m at it, I’ll include the floor plan of the house so you can start thinking about what kind of furniture you want.”
“Sounds good, but I can’t guarantee how much I’ll get done. I have some things to do here before I leave.”
“I would like to know what kind of budget we’re working with and if you have any furniture in storage we can use.”
“I’ll include that information, too.” No need to tell Caron that she was starting from ground zero on this project. He wanted her yes to stay a yes.
“Alright then. I need to get online and make a plane and car reservation.”
“And I need to start compiling some information.” Kade stood again, the up-down-up movements mirroring his emotions. “Thank you.”
“Glad to help.”
“I’ll see you in a few days.”
“Yes. See you in a few days.”
Kade turned his cell phone over and over in his hands. Caron Hollister would be here Monday morning. She was now the home stager for Eddie Kingston’s home.
There was no going back now. He’d made the call, and against all the odds, Caron had said yes. He was two years older, two years wiser, when it came to Caron Hollister. He knew she could stage the home. But he also knew he’d already given her the opportunity to break his heart. He wouldn’t let that happen again.
I’ll confess, my feelings about this story were a little up and down at first. I was drawn into the story from the beginning, but it took longer than I expected for Caron and Kade to interact in any meaningful way, and the characters and overall tone of the writing were less dynamic than, say, Melissa Tagg or Nicole Deese (two of my go-to contemporary romance authors). And so my enthusiasm began to wane…
But not for long.
The further I got into the book, the more I appreciated that Beth Vogt took the time to establish the status quo before upsetting the apple cart. She also gave the characters time to recognise and then work through the complex emotions involved in their situations, which gave an unexpected depth and authenticity to the characters’ personal and spiritual journeys.
The background to the story is that Caron and Kade parted ways a little over two years prior to the beginning of this novel, when Caron had to choose between Kade’s love and her father’s approval. A short time later, Caron began seeing Alex. Move forward two years and everyone (themselves included) sees them as the perfect couple. Their families have been friends for many years (even joking about them being ‘betrothed’ from their childhood), they never argue, and although they haven’t talked seriously about marriage, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion.
For Alex, there is the added comfort of knowing that the members of Caron’s family are the only people aside from his father and himself who are aware of his mother’s alcoholism; a condition she developed twenty years ago following the death of his younger brother, Shawn. It’s on his mother’s worst days that he realises just how much he needs Caron and the knowledge that she loves him in spite of his family situation.
But does all of this mean they are right for each other?
One of the great things about this novel was that Caron, Alex, and Kade were all point-of-view characters and equal partners in the story. As the story progressed it was easy to guess where things were headed, but I couldn’t predict, nor did it detract from, the journeys they took to get there. I also loved that this story wasn’t just about falling in love and finding the ‘right one’; it was about finding themselves and God’s direction for their lives first, and being brave enough to step outside of family expectations to follow that path.
There were some great secondary characters in this novel, too – Margo, Jessica, Mitch, and Lacey to name a few – who weren’t afraid to call things as they saw it and get their friends on the right track. Good secondary characters can make such a difference in a novel, and they really gave extra dimension to this one. There were times when Alex’s conversations with Jessica felt a little bit author prompted, but it was sweet watching this friendship develop.
All in all, this was a surprisingly satisfying read.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 28 June 2016
Publisher: Howard Books
Author’s website: http://www.bethvogt.com/