Skylar has spent her entire life moving from town to town, following the circuses and fairs at which her father worked. But now that he’s passed on, she’s on her own, and putting down roots seems like the next logical step. Her attempt at stable living finds her in a little house on an out-of-the-way property, right next door to a man who can’t seem to stand her. He won’t say hello, complains about the noise from her music students, and seems bound and determined to keep her out of his life. If only he didn't need someone just like her.
The Verdict: Oh, how I love these Lawson brothers! Unlike other series I've read, the guys in these books have some rather serious flaws. There was the one who went to prison for fraud — of which he was absolutely guilty — and now we meet Mason, the wounded veteran suffering from PTSD, overwhelming guilt, and enough anger to scare away everyone who tries to love him.
Skylar isn’t your typical romance novel heroine, either. She’s led a somewhat free-spirited life, and while there are some family issues in her past, they don’t really seem to define her. She did move to Jessamine to be nearer to Holland Springs, where her mother’s people are from, but aside from idle curiosity and maybe a certain sense of belonging in that area, she’s not on some mission to reconnect or right the wrongs of the past. She’s simply trying to settle herself somewhere, make an honest living sharing her passion for music with children who want to learn, and then maybe see where life takes her. Her last long-term relationship fell apart when the man she was with was more interested in achieving the highest financial and societal success with music, never really understanding why Skylar, extremely talented and educated at Julliard, would choose to spend her time as a small-town music teacher.
Mason’s got all the issues you'd expect for a wounded vet. He was the only one from his group to survive the attack that permanently disabled him, and he’s consumed with guilt and anger. He’s also not sure what to do with himself now, since being a SEAL absolutely defined him, and now he’s lost that path. He’s angry with everyone, incapable of being around crowds or loud noises, plagued by nightmares and constant pain, and tired of the pity he sees in everyone’s eyes when they look at him. And being even halfway civil to the pretty music teacher next door is next to impossible, especially since it’s the noise coming from her practicing students that has him cringing.
The moment Mason and Skyler really meet for the first time is sweet, sad, and funny all at once. But as unreasonable as he may be, she doesn’t have it in her to turn her back on someone who so desperately needs understanding and kindness. The way she shrugs off his rudeness and doesn't let it show when his comments get to her is just enough to make her stand out to him, even if that’s not exactly what she was going for. As coincidence combined with a little effort on her part brings them together more often, Mason begins to let go of the darkness that’s been holding him back and let himself enjoy spending time with the woman he can't help but be attracted to. Things quickly heat up between them, and before too long, they're stepping into relationship waters.
While the plot itself is pretty standard, the characters are not, and the emotion jumps right off the pages as they navigate a relationship that neither of them were necessarily looking for. Skyler is patient and giving for as long as she can be, and Mason navigates the hurdles in his own heart as best he can. His “grand gesture” late in the book is both sweet and heartbreaking, knowing just how difficult it was for him to even attempt such a simple thing.
Of course, my favorite moment in the book was his deal with Tristan there toward the end. Sure, it didn't have a whole lot to do with Mason and Skyler, other than making him get off his butt and chase down what he wanted, but it just goes to show how invested I am now in the Lawson clan! I simply can’t wait to get the next story and see Lemon get the happily ever after she so deserves!