Gillian has spent her life barely getting by, just trying to protect her little brother Justin from their violent, drug-addicted father. So when she has to pull the trigger to save them both, the last thing she’s prepared for is an invitation from her grandfather to live a better life on his ranch, surrounded by the kind of family she’s always dreamed of. Slow to trust, Gillian finds herself with no other option, and she apprehensively begins to settle into a life without fear and violence. What she didn’t count on, though, was the sexy, patient cowboy who is willing to do anything to keep her safe and happy.
But... The character of Ken was not only unnecessary but also detracted from the story. Too often, romances resort to these two-dimensional, would-be rapists to add drama where it’s lacking or, as in this case, where it’s not even needed. There was simply no point to his part. Gillian’s past was plenty to overcome, and Blake proved himself time and time again. Ken served merely as an unneeded threat, and resolving his role didn’t do anything to further the plot. Without him, the story would have been perfect, and I don’t understand why the editor didn’t nix him at first read.
The Verdict: While I’m not too thrilled with the fact that Ken even exists, I have to say I’m still in love with this series.
Gillian is a tough girl, having survived a lifetime of fear and abuse at the hands of her father. She’s been doing odd jobs since she was fourteen to make sure her baby brother Justin has enough to eat and a roof over his head, but until one awful incident changes everything, she’s been unable to secure their escape to a better life. Her final moments with her father leave him dead and her severely injured, and if she doesn’t have help, she’s going to lose Justin to the foster care system.
Bud’s always wondered what became of his granddaughter, but she disappeared years ago with her father, leaving only her mother’s ashes behind. A fortunate twist of fate has Bud seeing news about the girl who killed her father in self-defense, and he immediately reaches out to help his long lost granddaughter. Gillian is, of course, reluctant. She knows nothing about her estranged family, and she’s wary of walking Justin into a situation even half as dangerous as the one in which they lived for so long. But she’s facing eviction and fees for property damage, is too injured to work, and has no choice but to take a chance on the man who leaves money with a simple note, Please come home.
Everything about Gillian’s reclaimed family was wonderful. Bud’s a gruff old cowboy, but it’s clear he loves his granddaughter, and Dee is simply amazing. They’re shocked to meet Justin, a boy they didn’t even know existed, but they welcome him just as easily as if they’d raised him themselves. The awful life that Justin and Gillian have lived is apparent, though, in their interactions with everyone around them, and while it’s heartbreaking to witness, it’s certainly understandable.
Blake is just wonderful, too. He immediately feels protective of them both and vow to make sure they are always protected and safe as they start their lives over. He’s attracted to Gillian from the start, but he’s not foolish enough to try anything except being a friend, and it’s clear his every word and move revolves around making sure they’re both comfortable and happy.
I thought the subject of abuse and recovery was handled really well throughout the story. Both Gillian and Justin were understandably affected by everything they’d been through, but it was made more their past than their present, and the book didn’t gratuitously throw in unnecessarily hard-to-read details. It was also made clear that despite their past and their general wariness of pretty much everyone, they weren’t really broken, and they both desperately wanted something more for themselves.
The romance that bloomed between Blake and Gillian was slow to develop, with good reason, but once it really sparked, they were on fire. It was great to see Gillian open up and let go of her fear — and finally get a chance to live the life she always wanted. Blake’s patience and consideration for her was admirable, and I loved the way Justin still had a central role in everything about their lives. In a pretty big way, it was Blake’s attention to and care for Justin that really revealed to Gillian just how worthy of a man he was, and it made any declarations from him that much more believable.
When It’s Right is quite a bit different from the first book in the series, At Wolf Ranch, but it’s no less entertaining. In this one, we get to see a lot more secondary characters, and they all (except that damned Ken) add something integral to the story. From Dee to Jeff to Uncle Lumpy, they add a great extra dimension to the story and keep Gillian and Blake from existing in an unrealistic bubble. Despite the initial dark premise, When It’s Right is a story about new beginnings, romance, and hope for a brighter future, so if you love your romance with a big dose of awesomely ever after, this is the book.