Don't Let Go
Brady Connors had no intention of living the rest of his life in sleepy Hope, Oklahoma. After a family tragedy forces his hand, he sets up a temporary custom motorcycle shop and hopes to fly completely under the radar. Bakery owner Megan Lee is determined to foil his wallflower plan and tempts him into community involvement through pastries and persistence. As he finds himself drawn to small town life, is he willing to confront the reasons he came in the first place? Or will avoidance, of both his past and his feelings for Maggie, be the name of the game?
Ms. Burton’s Hope series is about an intertwined group of friends and their quests to find success and happily ever afters. The town provides charming side characters that add authenticity to the group’s lives and definitely make it seem like I could show up for a barbeque at any given moment and find them all there. Don’t Let Go provides a great addition to the series and fans will be happy.
Additionally, this is absolutely a series that people can dip in and out of because Ms. Burton deftly explains the world and its connections. I have read this series (although I think I accidentally missed the previous instalment) but have a fairly awful memory for book details. I remembered liking this series and feeling comfortable in the world, but prior to opening this novel, could not have told you any details about things I had read. Within pages, I had been re-introduced to this world and was ready to enjoy this story.
As said above, Don’t Let Go is about Brady and Megan – but it’s also not. We spend a lot of time at baby showers, parties, dinners, functions, so the book feels like a finale, even though I can’t tell if that’s intentional. There are a lot of other voices in this novel besides the central couple and I think it’s a good thing, because it’s not just Megan that Brady has to learn to commit to or learn to interact with, it’s the entire town. His wall of grief, which I’ll get to in a minute, is so thick that it’s caged him off from the rest of the world. He lives a small, quiet, lonely life until Maggie starts pestering him with baked goods and forces him to engage with her. As her energy and love draws him out of his shell, she’s also drawing him into the wider world. His interactions with his friends, his family, and even himself – evolve throughout this book.
Some readers may find that slow and frustrating, but I didn’t. I can definitely how some people might feel as though the progression of Brady’s relationship with Megan takes a backseat to his relationship to the town, but I’m not sure his story could happen any other way. In order for Brady and Megan to live happily ever after, he has to arise from his self-imposed emotional death and that’s a slow process. Additionally, it can’t just be Megan who convinces him to do that, or the transformation would seem hollow. Instead, she introduces him to the tribe and lets them welcome him in and slowly show him what it’s like to live again.
I’ve mentioned Brady’s pain a few times, so allow me to explain. This isn’t a spoiler; Ms. Burton is upfront about why he’s back in town. Several years earlier, Brady’s brother died of a drug overdose. It was a long addiction, full of secrets and lies as these sorts of things often are. The family reaction to that death was to freeze their lives and seal themselves off. Brady’s parents have turned their home into a shrine to his brother, making it painful for Brady to even step in. He’s in town to take care of them, but has no idea how; has no idea how to deal with his grief and theirs and so he doesn’t. He just builds bikes and stews in pain.
Megan knew his brother, even dated him briefly, and that small connection is what serves as the first crack in the wall. Combine that with Megan and Brady’s insane sexual chemistry, and that wall of pain eventually comes tumbling down.
Now, the trade-off to the careful, detailed process of Brady’s healing is that we spend less time with Megan and she’s a little bit less developed. I wish we could have spent more time with her, as opposed to her as she served as a motivator in Brady’s story. It’s a small, but significant, quibble.
I would absolutely recommend Don’t Let Go to anyone who like small town romances with the emphasis on the town, anyone who doesn’t have a problem with addiction storylines or the emotional fallout thereof, and anyone who likes stories about people finding healing where they least expected it.