~ About the Book ~
Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.
Fear holds Raegan’s future captive.
Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?
Series: #4 Walker Family Series
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release date: 28 September 2017
Publisher: Larkspur Press
~ Excerpt ~
Bear crouched down in front of her. “Well, hey there.”
Were his eyes actually twinkling or had she hit her head too hard on the stairway wall? She shifted, wincing when she straightened her right leg. “Are you going to help me up or what?”
“Or what.” His gaze roved over her limbs, stopping at the rug burn on one bare knee. “Are you hurt?”
Try mortified. “I’m fine.”
“You landed on your ankle kind of weird.”
“I’m really okay.”
He ignored her, warm fingers brushing over her skin as he studied her ankle. “You might’ve sprained it.”
She pressed both hands to the carpeted stair behind her and started to stand, but the second she rose, the stab of pain in her ankle told her Bear might be right. Great, she was humiliated and injured.
“See? You should listen to the former paramedic. I might know what I’m talking about.”
She balanced her weight on her left foot, one hand clamped onto the railing. Shoot, her ankle really did throb. “That’s not very gentlemanly. Laughing at a girl when she’s hurt.”
“So you admit you’re hurt? And I’m not laughing.”
“You are. You’re just not showing it.”
“Well, I’m about to make up for it by being a perfect gentleman now.”
“What do you mean by—”
Before she could finish the question, he’d swept her off the floor with one arm under her legs and the other around her back. “Bear!”
“What? I’m not about to make you hop up the stairs on a sprained ankle. We need to get some ice.”
“You don’t even know if it’s . . . I could’ve . . . you . . .” She couldn’t finish a single spinning thought. Not pressed this close to the man. Not when he smelled like mint and spice and felt as rock solid as a cement wall.
Bear started up the steps, and at the jostling movement, she instinctively clasped her hands around his neck. Mistake. Because it made him smile. Didn’t even matter that it was a smug smile. The effect was the same.
She looked away, training her attention anywhere—everywhere—but his face. The framed family photos on the wall. That stupid shoe she’d tripped over. The front door leading in from the porch up at the top of the stairs.
“This is so completely unnecessary.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“I think you might just be showing off.”
His chest rumbled with his laughter. “Yes, Raegan. I’m carrying you up the stairs solely because I want you to see how strong I am. Next, I will fell a tree and then lift it over my head.” He stopped at the top of the steps. “Why were you coming down here, anyway?”
She made the blunder of looking at him again—right into those marble eyes with the dark lashes and the crinkles at the corners.
And in an instant, the quickening of her pulse eradicated every lie she’d ever told herself about being over Bear McKinley. She wasn’t over him. Probably never had been. She’d simply grown adept at ignoring her stubborn heart.
~ Review ~
I can’t believe this is the end of the Walker Family series! *sob, sob* But if all good series must come to an end, then this is the book to go out on. It showcases Melissa Tagg’s signature warmth, humour, and knack for creating thoroughly enjoyable dialogue, but it also tells a story that grips the heart, particularly as Bear struggles to care for his niece (Erin, 5) and nephew (Jamie, 11) and overcome a past that seems to follow him wherever he goes. Maybe it goes with the name, but Bear is just so huggable, and this story only made him more so—but I should probably leave the hugging to Raegan… 😉
Bear and Raegan’s relationship has played out in the background of each of the novels in this series so far, so if you’ve read those, you know that Bear hasn’t pursued anything more than friendship with Raegan because he felt called to the mission field in Brazil and she’s firmly rooted in Maple Valley. But there’s so much that lies beneath those reasons. For Bear, it goes all the way back to his childhood—growing up in a family embroiled in the world of drugs, and the price that has been paid as a result. For Raegan, it’s crippling panic attacks and the triggers and fears that lie behind them.
Bear and Raegan may tell themselves there is no possibility of a future together, but the heart doesn’t always listen to the head, and there is a beautiful inevitability to the way their friendship deepens into something more through this novel. But those real-life issues don’t go away, either, and they even add a thread of suspense as Bear tries to work out what has happened to his brother and sister-in-law, and why trouble seems to be following him, too.
But when all is said and done, it’s their inner demons that must be overcome if Bear and Raegan are to move forward together, and it was here this novel was at its most touching. For Bear, in particular, who has been holding on to guilt and shame, it means letting go of burdens he was never meant to carry and accepting grace—both from God and others—even when he feels unworthy.
This story is everything you could want in a contemporary romance. Authentic characters, beautifully deepening friendship, gentle humour and wit, heartfelt soul-searching, and a family that makes you wish you never had to say goodbye.
I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Previous Books in the Series ~
~ About the Author ~
Award-winning author Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant-writer and total Iowa girl. The second book in her popular Walker Family series, Like Never Before, was named to one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Spring 2016 Top Ten lists. Her most recent releases include Keep Holding On (Sept 2016) and One Enchanted Eve (Nov 2016). Melissa has taught at multiple national writing conferences, as well as workshops and women’s retreats. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever–not that she’s biased–watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book.