Reviewed by Helyce
When Allison Parker inadvertently learns from a trusted friend that her mother is sick, she decides to move back to Rocky Mountain House to be there for her Mom. Only she needs a really good excuse. Something so out there that her Mom won’t suspect why she’s dropped everything to move home. Allison decides that the only thing that would make sense is that Allison has come home because she’s in love and wants to settle down.
Gabe Coleman has a lot on his plate. He continues to butt heads with his father, who will not even begin to listen to some of the forward thinking ideas Gabe has to help the ranch get back on track. Gabe wants to move forward with turning part of the land toward ranching organically, a process that does not happen overnight. But at every turn, Gabe’s dad shoots down his ideas to the point where he just doesn’t listen anymore. This does not stop Gabe, though. He continues to research and learn, clear in the knowledge that this is the way to go to save the floundering ranch.
When Allison approaches Gabe with her proposition of acting as her fiancé in order to explain her abrupt decision to move home, and in return providing him with her ample knowledge and contacts to further his stance on making the ranch organic, Gabe agrees. He’s always been attracted to Allison so he doesn’t think it’ll be difficult to pull off the fake romance and what he’ll gain will surely be worth it. But neither of them counted on the fact that their ruse would impact them in a way they could never have expected. While each of them deal with their own family troubles they find themselves looking to each other for comfort of a different kind.
We’ve come to know Gabe a bit in the previous Six Pack books. He’s a cousin to infamous Coleman brothers and we’ve had a bead on his family troubles since the early books. In fact, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen him and Allison together. Though their prior meeting was one of chance, we were tuned in to the fact that Allison would be part of his story in one way or another because of the job she’d held and the fact that she’d be able to help Gabe with his bid to try and convince his father of the benefits to ranching organically.
This friends to lovers trope is not one that is new to us, but in this the author spins it in such a way that it felt completely natural and exactly how it should happen. Gabe has always found Allison attractive, so it’s no hardship to pretend that she’s his fiancé. In fact, they pull it off so well, they have everyone quite convinced before they even hit the sheets together.
What really comes through in this story is the sense of family that Ms. Arend does extremely well. Gabe’s relationship with his father has always been strained, but it’s never been clear why. We get the back story in this book and it is tragic and heart wrenching, but so not a valid excuse for Gabe’s dad to treat him in such a way. Parents should love unconditionally and Gabe’s dad holding him responsible for past events was just wrong and his unwillingness to let go of the past made him a bitter old man. We see everything in a different light after learning this and love Gabe even more for rising above it all and sticking with the family ranch business because he loves it so in spite of the constant bickering and negativity he receives from his father. How he stuck to his guns and found a way to move forward with his plans when he finally realizes that he’ll never convince his own father was the right move for Gabe and this turn of events had a very satisfying outcome. While Allison has her own family drama to deal with, she finds the strength she needs in Gabe and while their relationship may have started under odd circumstances, it is clear that these two are a perfect fit.
Ms. Arend cruelly teases us with a small side story about Travis Colman (Gabe’s cousin) who continues to be a contradiction to me. Just when I think I have solved the mystery of him, whether it be his sexuality or the secrets behind the carefully crafted hints that the author very stingily doles out, I find that I had possibly gone in the wrong direction. This frustrated me to no end, because I need Travis’ story. Right now would be good. What is his secret? Why does he continue to follow through in what seems to be such self destructive behavior? He has a loving, supportive family-yet he confides in none of them-save Gabe who he’s only shared one small part of his life with. But no, she leaves us hanging big time as she introduces us to Cassidy, a friend of Travis. What kind of friend, I can’t even begin to speculate here.
I was surprised that the author moved away from the Colman brothers to give us cousin Gabe’s story at this juncture, but in no way was I disappointed. I love this series because the characters are interesting with real life hassles and conflicts that are dealt with realistically. I also love the strong family unit and the love and support that is felt throughout the story even during the conflicts. I should also mention that Ms. Arend writes her sex scenes brilliantly. Super hot, super sexy.