Sheriff Brock Cooper's life is in the toilet. His son is gravely ill with a mystery ailment, the medical bills are piling up, and he is working two jobs trying to make ends meet. This was a far cry from where he thought his life would end up after being a hometown football hero, then a pro player until he washed out. But it is what it is and he's dealing with it, because he's desperate to find help for his son.
Melanie Fox hated everything about her hometown whose only claim to fame was it was situated in the same Georgia county where the movie Deliverance was filmed. When she was delivered from that red clay hellhole and the bullies who harassed a nerdy, bookworm at eighteen, Melanie swore she'd never go back. But when she gets a call from the town's new sheriff to tell her that her crazy mother's antics have put her in the hospital, Melanie knows she has to go. But this time, she's going back as Dr. Melanie Fox who no longer wears half-inch-thick glasses, carries around extra fluff or needs anyone's approval. She can't help but wonder, though, what her secret first love, who crushed her sixteen-year-old heart, would think of her now?
Really good book. I was hooked on it from the start. It opens with Melanie getting a call from her hometown that her mother has been picked up for bizarre behavior, and then a second call that she's in the hospital. As much as she hates the idea, she knows she'll have to go home to Georgia and deal with it. She hasn't been home in twelve years, happy to get away from the miserable memories there. The first person she runs into is Brock, the new sheriff, and the guy she had a crush on when she was sixteen. That encounter didn't go well, as she was still holding a grudge from when she was in school, and mouthed off a bit too much. There were some words exchanged before they each cooled off a little. There were also a whole lot of sparks flying.
It took me a few chapters to warm up to Melanie, as she came across as a bit of a bitch at the beginning. She was a bit harsh to the nurse at her hospital, and not very nice when dealing with Brock when he stopped her. But she redeemed herself pretty quickly with her concern about Brock's son. Melanie is determined to deal with her mom's crisis and then go back to Dallas as fast as she can. She didn't count on the intense attraction she had to Brock.
I liked Brock, and I also felt really sorry for him. He had gotten tangled up with Lucy when he came back to town after the end of his football dreams. She had gotten pregnant in an attempt to coerce him into marriage. He avoided that pitfall, but he shares custody of their son with her. Currently, she is driving him nuts with her neediness, and he is consumed with worry over their son Brady's illness. Now he's trying to be sheriff and run his ranch to pay his bills. He's stunned by the changes in Melanie, and his attraction to her takes him by surprise.
I really enjoyed the development of their romance. Once they got past that initial encounter, they discovered that they could get along very well. The time they spent together to get to the bottom of Brady's illness, brought them closer physically and emotionally. They tried to pretend that they could give in to the passion while keeping their emotions out of it, but that didn't work very well. Brock had been burned by Lucy and has trouble trusting women now, but finds that being with Melanie makes a huge difference in his outlook on life. Melanie still suffers from the effects of her treatment by classmates and is afraid to put herself out there again in her hometown, but the thought of leaving Brock and Brady behind is increasingly hard to consider. There were some really wonderful scenes of the two of them together, as their feelings grow stronger. I loved the way that Melanie took care of Brock in a way that no one else ever had, just as Brock could see that Melanie had insecurities that he tried to overcome. There was some trouble at the end where Melanie ran up against one of Brock's blind spots, but that came out okay. I loved the epilogue and seeing that, although the romance was a bit rushed, they took the time to be sure it was right.
The mystery of Brady's illness was really good. It was something different and I enjoyed seeing how Melanie worked to figure it out. I had a feeling about what was causing it, I just wasn't sure about the details. The final resolution of that was pretty intense, and though I wasn't surprised by who, there was still a twist that I didn't see coming.
I also have to say that the secondary characters were pretty great. I loved Melanie's mother and her whole attitude "I'm not crazy, I'm eccentric. And I'm old enough to do as I please." She and Aunt Jane were quite the characters, and I enjoyed their attempts to get Melanie to stay. The other character, Lucy, was a real piece of work. I could easily see that she was using Brady to get to Brock. I really wondered what was going on with the trips to all the different doctors and suspected she was up to something. I never could have imagined what it was though. Brady himself was great. I loved his enthusiasm and excitement just to be doing things with his dad. The fishing and camping trip was hilarious.