A Not-So-Perfect Past
A Not-So-Perfect Past is the sequel to Beth Andrews’ first book, Not Without Her Family. I read that one when it came out and was impressed with it, and this book proves that Beth Andrews is no one hit wonder. This is the kind of series romance I like.
Dillon Ward is an ex-con. He’s a social pariah in Serenity Springs where he rents an apartment over the bakery owned by Nina Carlson. Dillon is working construction remodeling a bar owned by Allie Martin, the only person in town who is friendly with him. Nina’s over-protecting family and her overbearing ex-husband have been pressuring her to evict Dillon, so Nina, who has a spine of purest jello, gives him his walking papers.
That night before Dillon leaves, Kyle Fowler, a foster kid living with the Roberts family steals their SUV and plows it right into Nina’s bakery, causing some serious damage right at the Christmas season when she expects a lot of business. The only contractor in town can’t get to her for over a month, so Nina asks Dillon to do the work. He agrees, on the condition that Kyle works under his supervision to make restitution for his little joy ride. When her family finds out that Nina has hired Dillon they object, but for the first time in a long time, Nina stands her ground.
Normally, Nina is a pushover and she runs from conflict. Having married her first husband over the objections of her family, she feels obligated to do what they want her to do and tamps down her feelings in order to keep the peace. Her children manipulate her by fighting and whining while her former husband, Trey, is a verbal abuser. During their marriage, he hit her, a fact Nina has kept from everyone. The children are now beginning to balk at spending time with him. Nina can’t say no and can’t stand up for herself and as a consequence she is overworked and under severe stress – and her children are too.
Dillon can’t help but notice the dynamics of Nina’s situation. He grew up in an abusive house himself, and he is by nature a protector. His drive to help and protect was the reason he served time in prison, (see Not Without Her Family for the details) and now he tries to keep distance between himself and others. But Dillon can’t deny his nature. He becomes a mentor of sorts to Kyle (tough love is his specialty) and a protector to Nina, and as things turn out, she needs all the help she can get.
Nina and Dillon’s path to love is about as rocky as it can be. They are both fundamentally kind and loving, but their past experiences cause them to put up high barriers against intimacy. They go two steps forward and one step back again and again since they want each other, but are afraid of being vulnerable. At the end of the book, they have come to a realization of their problems and have a firm resolve to work on them. As individuals, they have their weaknesses, but as a couple they are strong.
With this book, Beth Andrews goes on my list of auto-buy series romance authors. I liked the story, I liked the characters and hours after I had closed the book, they were still on my mind. That’s a good read in my opinion.