Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.
Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.
“Weren’t you warned never to lean over railings?”
The cool words were in direct contrast to the warmth feathering the hollow of her neck.
Rayne spun toward the husky baritone and blinked him in, breath seemingly trapped in the same unknown location as her voice. The man before her, the man who drank her in like duty-free liquor, wasn’t the same dusty-blond farmhand she’d spoken with two days ago wearing worn Wrangler jeans and work boots.
No, this man looked far, far more devastating.
In a three-piece suit that could have been taken straight out of a politician’s closet, Levi emanated status, prestige, and danger.
Heavy on the danger.
Words failed to form quickly enough, her thoughts breaking through like the faded dash lines of an old county highway.
Lazily, his gaze traveled the length of her gown. “I told you I cleaned up nice. I just wish you would have given me the same courtesy warning about you.”
She sidestepped him. “Why are you here?” The question came out sharper than she’d intended, but her every nerve felt exposed under his shameless scrutiny.
“Your memory can’t be that bad.” He angled his head, raised an eyebrow. “You’re the one who gave me the ticket.”
An exasperated huff leapt from her lips. “But dinner started nearly three hours ago. So why are you here now? It’s over.”
“It’s not over for me.” He gave her a sly wink. “Make an impression at cocktail hour and they forget you by dessert. Catch them in the mingle at the end of the night . . .” Two bold parentheses indented each side of his mouth.
“Please, this isn’t a game.” She pressed two fingers to the center of her forehead, closed her eyes for half a beat, and recalculated. “This night means everything to me.” Despite herself, panic broke through her rationale. “If Cal catches you here-”
“He won’t.” Levi shifted closer. “Because my word means everything to me.” In the span of a single heartbeat the man’s arrogance morphed into amusement. “How’d those gift bags turn out anyway?”
She swallowed. “Nicely.”
“Good, that’s what I like to hear.” After a smug nod, he reached for her hand, brought it to his mouth, and planted a warm kiss just above her knuckles while he stared at her through hooded eyes.
For the briefest of moments, Rayne lost herself in those sea-green eyes, in the resoluteness of his voice, in the air of his unshakeable confidence. The same way she’d lost herself on an August night long ago at the Falls.
I have long been a fan of Nicole Deese’s novels. There is so much vitality in her writing; no matter the characters, no matter their personalities, and no matter the mood. But in The Promise of Rayne, she has definitely outdone herself. I felt every moment of Rayne’s struggle, I fell in love with Levi for his loyalty, his patience, and his love for Rayne, and I was inspired by the strength, wisdom, and humility of a man who refused to allow bitterness or anger to corrupt his character.
Rayne is such a beautiful, compassionate person, but she’s imprisoned by the need for her family’s approval. Her entire life has been defined by three words: You’re a Shelby. But unlike the rest of her family, her ambitions have less to do with personal or professional success, and more to do with recreating the sense of belonging that Shelby Lodge once provided, when her grandfather was still alive and the lodge was the hub of community life. All her dreams for the future centre on the lodge and her plans to once again make the lodge a place that will bring the community together, but all it takes is one little mistake and her dream is further away than ever.
Levi is the stuff everyday heroes are made of. He’s loyal, hard-working, patient, self-sacrificing. He’s already beginning to bring the community together through his farm-to-table co-op ‘Second Harvest’, and Ford Winslow’s farm is as much a part of him as it is a part of Ford himself. But he struggles to understand how Ford – a man who has given him more than he could ever repay in one lifetime – can continue to live under the lies the Shelby family have promulgated for the last eighteen years without speaking up for himself.
When Rayne approaches Levi to help her out of a spot of bother, he knows she must be desperate. He learned the hard way that if there’s one thing bigger than Rayne’s heart, it’s her fear of defying her family’s edict against having any association with Ford Winslow or his farm. And yet here she is – delightfully unpretentious and looking much more like the girl who once showed compassion to the new guy in town.
I found myself holding my breath (sometimes with a wry smile) as I watched Levi slowly chip away at Rayne’s resistance to his friendship. I swooned more than once (or twice, or thrice) as their friendship deepened into more – and I’m not just talking about the kisses! This is one of those books where there is a depth of emotion in the words and actions that will cause you to press a hand over your heart at regular intervals. But that same heart also ached as Rayne struggled to reach the place where her dreams could flourish. Most of all, I was caught by surprise at the beautiful picture of what it means to love your enemies.
Quite simply, this is inspirational fiction at its best.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Buy from US: Amazon
Release date: 1 November 2016
Publisher: Waterfall Press
Author’s website: http://www.nicoledeese.com/