Review by Helyce
I was really excited to read Walker’s story after the teasers shared in book #1. I’d kind of imagined his story in my head because I knew that it had something to do with his music. I thought it would have been interesting to see how a guy from a ranching family, who also participated in rodeo events, would handle it if he found himself discovered and was offered an opportunity to be a musician/singer. But I have to admit to being a little confused about his whole situation initially. I thought that the issue he was having with the panic attacks was heading toward being something along the lines of a serious medical condition (it isn’t) but for me clarity on the subject was introduced a bit late.
I also didn’t remember Ivy, but she may have just been mentioned in passing as two of her sisters own a bakery/coffee shop in town. Ivy is back home after being away for 11 years. She’s taken a job as a teacher at the local elementary school. She apparently has or had some sort of problems with her immune system but again, it’s really unclear and in my opinion, not explained well.
Ivy and Walker were together in high school and they were each other’s first everything. But when Ivy decided to go away to school, Walker was supportive and encouraged her to do it even though he wanted her to stay. It took Ivy a long time to get her degree and teaching certificate. Though it wasn’t clearly explained, Ivy must suffer from some immune disorder. If she caught just a little cold, chances were that she would get so sick, she’d be incapacitated and unable to attend classes. This happened a few times over the course of her time away, so what would take someone 4 or 5 years took Ivy a lot longer.
Walker Stone is home in Heart Falls after he experiences a panic attack while riding a bull at a rodeo competition. He’d felt it coming on, and when it takes over, he gets thrown off the bull. He was disoriented and slow to move. Lucky for him, those rodeo clowns did their job and he was able to finally scramble away without injury. This was a wakeup call for him; scaring him enough to take a break from the circuit and try to figure some things out. I struggled a little with this part of Walker’s background. The way it’s written or the way I’d interpreted it, was that it might be something neurological. I kept thinking ‘when is he going to the doctor?’ We finally learn the supposed reasons for the attacks, when Walker opens up to Ivy about what he’s going through and she helps him work through it. I can’t adequately explain why this just felt odd to me and made my mind question so many things. Ivy is a grade school teacher, but she apparently has the tools to question, diagnose and then give Walker the tools he needs to overcome this in his life.
On top of that, Walker is dealing with the guilt he feels about not pulling his weight where the ranch is concerned. The fact that money is a problem was raised several times. He’d like to contribute financially and he’s trying to figure out the best way to do that. This is where the connection to his music is explained. His possible music career would bring in money that would definitely help, but he’s afraid of what would happen while on stage if he should experience another panic attack. I thought this part of the story was underwhelming and while I see how it fit in with Walker’s fear of freezing up on stage, it was a huge opportunity to Walker to contribute financially–something he wanted to do. This particular storyline just fell flat for me. It goes nowhere.
I enjoyed the back and forth of will they or won’t they between Walker and Ivy. Ivy is all in from the get go, but Walker’s issues and the decisions he needs to make are weighing heavy on him, causing him to balk at a rekindled relationship. But those very things are exactly what push them together in the end. When they have their heart to heart and reveal some very personal secrets with each other, while touching and reminiscent of true love, I felt it was just too unrealistic. They’d been apart for 11 years…..so yea, I wasn’t buying it.
The secondary characters carry this story and fill in the spaces with love, humor and that sense of family and community that I’ve come to expect in Arend’s books. It’s the reason that I keep reading her. While Ivy and Walker’s story may not have given me all warm fuzzies, the second chance love comes through strongly. The how and why of how they got there might have been a bit confusing, but in the end their love is real and true.