Stephen McKinney is a pro at maintaining his emotional distance. After losing his fiance in a brutal crime, and then finally crawling out of the self-destructive rut that followed, he' thrown himself into work and one night stands. He's disconnected from his family and doesn't bother with anyone else, so when he asks out a sad and shy but beautiful woman he sees in the grocery store, even he isn't sure what he's up to.
Hannah has lived through hell and come out on the other side — but just barely. An introverted physical therapist who doesn't dare dream of romance, she fills her life with rewarding work and horses. So when a handsome man at the grocery store tries to talk her into a date, she's completely unprepared and unwilling to trust him. But she wants a life of her own, something more than she has now, and she'll never get there if she doesn't take a chance.
The Verdict: I loved Worth the Fall so much that I grabbed this second book in the series without even glancing at the synopsis. And that meant I was in for quite a surprise when I was introduced to these characters' dark pasts.
Hannah was kidnapped and tortured when she was just fourteen, an event that's left her covered in angry scars on the outside and filled with fear of just about everyone but her brothers. Her trauma was so severe that she remained quiet and closed off for long after her rescue, and she first began to find solid ground again with horses. Since then, she's become a physical therapist, using her horses to help disabled children, and while she's found meaning, in many ways she's not really living.
Stephen is intrigued by the overly cautious woman who is far too sweet for him, and before he even realizes what he's doing, he can't stay away from her. Consumed by a dark rage since his fiance's murder, Hannah forces him to be patient, to care about someone other than himself, something other than revenge.
While I was certainly shocked by how dark their back stories were, I have to say it was written well. Just enough was explained to make their issues understood without going into excessive graphic detail. Hannah was incredibly naive, having never had the courage to find friendship, much less a relationship, but underneath that was a strong and determined survivor who, despite her damage was willing to stand up for herself. She lived with caution instead of crippling fear, and while she certainly had things to work through, seeing her come out of her shell and begin to believe in herself was wonderful.
The drama at the end was heavily foreshadowed, and I figured out who was behind the whole mess long before it was spelled out in the story, but the way it was resolved was just brilliant. Too often the hero's grand gesture is miraculously without real sacrifice, but with Stephen, he was truly willing to give up everything to prove himself to Hannah and ensure her happiness.
While an emotional read, certainly, Worth the Risk didn't go overboard on the angst and focused more on the possibilities. I still prefer Worth the Fall, but this one is definitely a very close second.