Stay With Me Forever
Stay With Me Forever is the sixth book is Farrah Rochon’s Bayou Dreams series, but it stands very well on its own. Characters from previous books make cameos, but the primary story is very self-contained. I am a sucker for second chance stories, and I adored Paxton and Sawyer.
Paxton Jones and Sawyer Robertson both grew up in Gauthier, Louisiana and both left to pursue career success elsewhere. Now well into their 30s, both are back in Gauthier working on a flood prevention project. Paxton walks into her temporary office as a project manager, and discovers that the civil engineer sent to her by the state is none other than Sawyer. Needless to say, it rocks her world – and not entirely happily at first. Paxton shared a passionate night with Sawyer three years before that left her with plenty of conflicting emotions she doesn’t want to deal with.
And it turns out that Sawyer has some conflicting emotions of his own as well. Ms. Rochon does a fantastic job of setting the stage of her story. I could feel both the professional and personal tensions between the leads right away. Paxton and Sawyer have a shared childhood and a history that brings them together in some ways, but the shadow of that past romantic encounter looms. In addition, we see pretty quickly that these two occupied very different places in the social hierarchy of the town. Sawyer has money, and he came from a prosperous family whose business employed many in the region. Paxton, on the other hand, grew up with a loving single mother and they often just barely scraped by. Her financial situation is more secure now, but it’s made very obvious that Paxton had to work and sacrifice quite a bit to get to where she is.
The romantic tension between Paxton and Sawyer jumps off the page, and it’s obvious from chapter 1 that these two have unfinished business. I loved watching their relationship develop because we could see the foundation laid by their shared history in Gauthier, but it was also clear how much each of the leads had changed and grown over time.
Throughout the story, we see Paxton revisiting old assumptions about her life(such as Sawyer’s opinion of her in high school) and reexamining them with Sawyer. Her openness to addressing the past and moving on gives her a great character arc and also draws the couple closer together emotionally. I’ve read more than a few category romances that mention baggage from the leads’ high school days, but few that use that effectively.
However, while Ms. Rochon uses some of Paxton and Sawyer’s old memories to great effect, there was one theme mentioned repeatedly throughout the story that just didn’t work quite as well. Paxton mentions several times that her mother faced rejection for having a child out of wedlock and that people looked down on the family for it. Yet this is never shown in the story. A good portion of the backstory focuses on Paxton’s mother opening her own bar and restaurant which she purchased with her daughter’s help, and we see the townspeople rallying around to support the business. The class difference between the leads growing up provided plenty of tension on its own and since the ostracism Paxton references doesn’t get shown, that part of the story didn’t work as well for me.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that, as in all the books I’ve read in this series, the town of Gauthier stands out very much in this book. The town feels like a distinct place in Louisiana, and after reading this book, I could almost visualize the people and businesses there. The secondary characters don’t overwhelm the story, but they do give readers a sense of where Paxton and Sawyer come from and why this place would be beloved and important to them.
If you enjoy small town romance, I highly recommend that you check this series out. This novel, and all the books I’ve read in this series, feature strong, likable characters, and I love the feeling of community one finds in this series’ setting.