Hold on Tight
Want a cute second chance romance where the hero and heroine loved the person they were with before long and hard – but are willing to try for love again? Shelly Shepard Gray does a good job of successfully bringing a realistic working class blue collar romance to life in Hold on Tight.
Jackson Koch is fairly new to Bridgeport, Ohio. He’d once been happily settled with his family in a coal mining community in West Virginia, but they moved when he was laid off after twelve years of service at his job. Now struggling to support his family, he tends bar at the Corner at night and lives in a small apartment with his young daughter, three-year-old Kate. Kate and Jackson have been alone ever since his wife Beth passed away of cancer, and Jackson hasn’t been out on a date since. With his busy life, Jackson is incredibly thankful for his close-knit group of friends, specifically his neighbor, Dani, who keeps watch over Kate while he’s working.
Danielle (Dani) Brown has her own problems. Her fourteen-year-old son Jeremy needs structure in his life – which is why she moved to the quieter environs of Bridgeport four years ago. She too, lost her spouse – her husband Brian died in a car accident a little while after the move – and to make ends meet she works as a maid during the day while taking online classes in the hope of opening up a daycare center. When Jeremy gets the chance to try out for the Bridgeport Bats, a local junior league team, Dani knows they won’t be able to afford uniform or registration fees and starts working herself to the bone to cover costs.
Jackson and Dani are only friends. Well, that is, until he learns about the possibility of Jeremy being on the Bats. Jackson has frustrated baseball dreams of his own, and when his boss Gen points out that “Someone has to give a damn, and it might as well be me and you” about Jeremy’s possible future as a player, Jackson approaches Dani with a plan. He and the rest of his ex-miner co-workers are members of the Bridgeport Social Club, and they have decided to hold for a charity poker tournament in order to help pay for Jeremy’s gear and fees. But is Dani willing to accept their help? And can Jackson and Dani find a way to love one another under the looming shadow of their past loves?
Shelly Shepard Gray is mostly known as an author of inspirational romance, but Hold on Tight is not a faith-based story and definitely falls squarely into the contemporary romance category. It’s warm and realistic at the same time; honest about how hard it can be to fall in love when you’ve loved deeply, how exhausting it is to maintain a living and try to have some sort of love life at the end of the day. I’ve read plenty of blue collar romances and plenty of second chance romances, but most of those have featured a rescue from lower-class living or plenty of assurances for the audience that the new spouse is better in every way than the previous marital partner. But neither thing happens in this book.
Jackson and Dani are two good people trying to raise their kids and deal with the void their late spouses left behind. Though they’re individualists who want to take care of themselves, they need their community – and their relationship – to make it through life.
The secondary characters are good; I particularly enjoyed Gen, Jackson’s fiery co-worker, who has a secondary romance with her on-again, off-again flame, Seth. Both Jeremy and Kate feel like realistic kids, and neither of them deal well with Jackson and Dani’s new romance.
There’s a solid subplot involving Dani dealing with sexual harassment in the workforce that makes a sharp and salient point about how the rich can abuse the poor in multiple ways.
The only real negative I can call to mind is that sometimes Jackson and Dani feel a little too nice to be believed; in fact everyone but the kids and the evil harassing client come off that way. The power of the story prevents this from being boring, but those who like more high-conflict romances may not enjoy this one. Also, obviously, the book holds some pro-coal mining sentiments, a notion some may not like, but I accepted the characters’ opinions as a necessary part of who they were.
Hold on Tight is a very good story about two normal people falling for each other. It’s the kind of romance the genre could use more of.