Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I could choose to be miserable or I could choose to be happy. I was going to choose to be happy.”
Isabelle (Iz) Martin has come home to Claremont, NC after leaving Duke University and her boyfriend. Her mother’s death and her father’s depression convinces Iz she is needed at home more than ever. When her father demands she get a job or get out, Isabelle applies at Sawyer’s Auto Repair; owned and operated by the Iron Horseman MC. Isabelle doesn’t care who owns or runs it, however she does care her high school nemesis is a mechanic is there.
Caleb Sawyer is on a fast track to nowhere. A legacy member of the Iron Horseman, he thought his life was all planned out until his girlfriend of five years suddenly announced she has accepted an internship in California. He can’t leave Claremont and she refuses to stay. When he hits rock bottom, he is shocked the person who picks him up is none other than Isabelle Martin. Despite his endless teasing of her in high school, being on Isabelle makes him feel better. She listens without judgement or pity but also doesn’t put up with any of his crap.
After a rocky start, Isabelle and Caleb slowly build a strong friendship that develops into something more as each has something the other wants and needs. But can two completely different people find common ground? Or will the past always come back to stand in their way?
When I was offered Carry Your Heart, I honestly thought I was getting an MC romance. The first few chapters reminded me heavily of SOA fanfic as we get the back story and set to the protagonists and the Iron Horseman. As the story developed, the SOA feeling gradually faded though it still remained in the background. The MC aspect is extremely low-key with the main storyline focused almost exclusively on Caleb and Isabelle. Alternating povs gives us insight into their emotions and actions about the situations they are currently dealing with, without recapping the previous chapter. It becomes a solid contemporary NA romance. This isn’t a stand alone. While no cliffhanger ending, Ryan does warns us this is a trilogy that spans eight years of Isabelle and Caleb’s life.
Caleb is at a low point when he and Isabelle reconnect. His girlfriend is leaving town and he knew nothing of her plans until they were set in concrete. With no time to prepare for what he sees as her betrayal, he spirals down a hole filled with alcohol, drugs, and random women. This inadvertently affects Isabelle as her father is slowly killing himself with alcohol; depressed over his wife’s death. Isabelle’s fears for Caleb going down the same path pushes her to tell him some hard facts about love and loss. Isabelle helps Caleb straighten up which in turn allows Caleb to be there when she needs him most. From that point on, they become each other’s shoulder to lean on and their friendship blossoms into love.
The friends to lovers plot line reveals gradually, allowing us plenty of time to get to know Caleb and Isabelle as individuals and to facilitate their romance. Neither one has ever had a best friend of the opposite sex and Ryan does a wonderful job of bringing their friendship to life. It’s an integral aspect of the story. Smooth writing moves the story along at a steady pace. Lightweight in terms of drama and conflict; self discovery is the theme that permeates the story. Emotionally and physically, the chemistry is there but when it comes to actual sex, the scenes are blurry and vague. As I have a fabulous imagination, this didn’t bother me. :P
An array of secondary characters plump up the story, allowing us to get to know the town, its inhabitants, and the role the Iron Horseman play in it. Here is where the SOA feelings were the strongest. There is much in here to remind you of Charming and the strong hold the MC held on it. I saw Jax, Opie, Gemma, Clay, Wendy, and more in the characterization and storyline dynamics. Ryan does make it her own by keeping her focus mainly on Caleb and Isabelle but I am very curious to see what the next two books in this trilogy holds as the ending hints at an overzealous agent looking into the club and it’s activities.
All in all, Ryan’s debut NA romance is an easy read that doesn’t add ridiculous melodrama or over the top posturing from the men or woman. It has a feel good element to it as you watch this sweet young couple overcome some adversity to find happiness in their lives. Any misunderstandings are dealt with swiftly as this couple knows how to communicate and neither plays games. And, color me shocked, there is no cheating which is almost unheard of for any story revolving around an MC. The only reason I did not rate this higher was the strong SOA similarity. I am hoping that this tapers off and the next book stands on its own two feet. Book two-Carry You With Me-is slated to release in September 2015. I have a feeling that is where the MC will grab a larger part of the storyline.