Narrator: Johanna Parker
Series: The McKinney Brothers #2
Published by Loveswept on February 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
When a McKinney brother falls in love, powerful emotion and overwhelming desire are never far behind. Two hearts locked away . . . Hannah Walker spends her days coaching children through injury and trauma, one therapeutic horseback ride at a time. She knows all too well how violence can change a child and leave scars that never heal. It’s easy for her to relate to the kids; what isn’t easy is the thought of facing her own harrowing past. Millionaire playboy Stephen McKinney could use a little coaching himself. Five years ago he encountered his most horrible nightmare—and the nightmare won. No matter what he achieves, nothing can make up for that awful night . . . or so he believes. Both desperate for a second chance . . . Stephen is used to getting what he wants. And he wants Hannah. So when she turns him down, he’s intrigued. What he doesn’t know is that her secrets will lead him to a place he never wanted to go again . . . to a side of himself he’s tried to forget . . . a side that would scare Hannah away from ever loving him. Now his only chance to win her trust is to bare his soul, risking everything he tried so hard to protect. Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Warning – This may get a little ranty.
My god. I just cannot with this book. I fully admit that I may just not be in the right head space for it, but I don’t think so. I think this book would have royally pissed me off no matter when I read it.
Hannah Walker works as a physical therapist specializing in injured and traumatized children. She helps them recover, physically and emotionally, using horseback riding as a therapy technique. She experienced a pretty horrible trauma herself as a teenager, and horses helped her heal, so she enjoys passing that on. Stephen McKinney is a millionaire playboy (of course he is) who went through a different kind of trauma five years ago and hasn’t fully been able to move on.
Good lord, these are some damaged people. Look, I am not going to tell anyone, fictional character or not, how to get over some of the stuff these two went through. But I need to connect with at least one of them in order to enjoy a book. I need a heroine with a little bit of fire, a little bit of spine. I don’t need them all to be Lara Croft, but have an opinion. Own your opinion. Speak up once in a while.
Because of what she went through, View Spoiler »When she was 14, Hannah met a man, presumably online, who told her he was 14 also. She willingly went to meet him, he held her captive for 42 days and tortured her. He did not rape her, but did do a lot of evil shit that left her with a lot of scars, both physical and emotional. « Hide SpoilerHannah’s four older brothers are understandably protective of her. But, my god. They almost literally won’t let her out of their sight, even now. Stephen invites her to a family BBQ for his niece’s fifth birthday party, and not only do they insist one of them drive her there, but once they’re there, the brother, Luke, decides he doesn’t like the look of it (the look of what, the grill? The balloons? The pinata? The dozens of children running around the yard playing?) and tries to force her to leave. She’s twenty-six years old, at this point, by the way. They’re so over the top with her that I can’t understand how she hasn’t just taken off and left the state and all of them behind. They barely let her leave the house without one of them. The house they’re still pissed off she lives in, by the way. They all think she should live with one of them. At one point, in a rare show of spine from Hannah, she tells her brothers that every time they treat her like she’s too stupid or weak to so much as decide what to eat for dinner herself, all they’re doing is reminding her of what she went through. It seems like maybe it’ll get through to them, but nothing really changes.
Obviously, Hannah still has a rough time trusting herself to read people. She doesn’t trust her own ability to know if someone is lying to her. She blames herself for what happened, believing that at fourteen, she should have been able to outsmart an adult predator. I think that logically, she realizes that’s not true, but that doesn’t change how she feels about it. She’s been in therapy for a long time, trying to deal with everything, which she obviously needs. Anyone would, that’s not a slam against Hannah. And I even understand why Hannah is still a virgin. (Although, on a personal note, I am really tired of reading about women who are virgins because they were traumatized in their past. Sometimes traumatized women sleep around. Sometimes women who have never been traumatized remain virgins for their own reasons. There doesn’t have to be any reason, horrible or otherwise, for someone to have made that decision.)
But because of all of her self-doubt, she takes everything anyone says to heart. She reads too much into things and defaults to assuming the worst of people. It was just exhausting to read. She really needed to see her therapist more than once a month. No matter what anyone said to her, she just stood there weeping, then walked away. I just wanted to see a little bit of fire with her. I know she went through a horribly traumatic thing. And because of that, I wanted her, just once, to stand up for herself. Even if it was in a small matter. Just take a little bit of herself back and make a stand about anything. I don’t care if it’s just someone cutting in front of her in a line. Just say something out loud to someone. Start there. But she never did. And everyone around her did their damndest to do all of her thinking for her, so she never had to. And it pissed me off. She survived what that guy did to her. She’s strong. She got through it, she got her GED, went on to college. She’s started her own business, she helps traumatized children heal from whatever they’re going through. She didn’t need her brothers, or later Stephen, telling her that she was weak all the time. Acting like she couldn’t figure out to come inside out of a hurricane. I wanted them to encourage her. Yes, she should be careful. We should all be careful. But don’t drill it into her that she has to spend her entire life hiding alone on her farm, making no friends, dating no one, and being alone. Her brothers were, let’s see, an FBI agent, a firefighter, a cop, and something in the military. You’re telling me that none of these men could teach her some self-defense? None of them could teach her how to be aware of her surroundings? To be out in the world being careful but still interacting with people? Teach her how to take care of herself and not feel like a victim? For the record, walking everywhere with your head down trying not to make eye contact with anyone is about the worst possible way to be aware of your surroundings. Good job, brothers.
And Stephen. Where to start with Stephen. He had his own trauma. View Spoiler »Five years ago, he went to Vegas for a bachelor party after a fight with his fiancee. She went out with some friends to vent over their fight, and two men followed her home. They beat her, raped her, and murdered her. « Hide Spoiler Again. Traumatic. I’m not discounting that. I actually understood Stephen’s reactions to this more than I understood Hannah’s on a personal level. He was angry. He was furious. Even now, five years down the road, he wanted to kill these men. That reaction makes more sense to me than Hannah’s weepy apologetic reaction to everything in her life. He went the opposite way with his trauma, sleeping with anyone he could get his hands on and throwing himself into his work.
Two incidents from the book make me unable to root for him, though. One, at the birthday party I mentioned above, when Hannah holds a baby, he panics because…. I don’t know, babies or something, so he runs to the kitchen and talks to his sister, Lizzy. Their conversation consists of “So you’re not trying to keep her?” “Hell, no .” Stephen turned to stare at her, appalled she would even think that, that anyone would think that. He’d wanted a date, a diversion. Not a— “I was just being nice, for God’s sake. Does she look like the kind of woman I’d want to spend time with? Jesus, Lizzy.” Such a dick thing to say. Obviously Hannah overhears him. Right there – I wanted Hannah to have a backbone and tell him to go fuck himself. She didn’t, though. She just grabbed the brother who had insisted on accompanying her to the party and wept her way out the front door. And even though it sends all of Hannah’s brothers on a spiral about how they knew a “guy like that” would never want a “girl like you”, it’s never really brought up again. Stephen randomly shows up at her farm a few days later and basically says “Yeah, sorry about that. I didn’t mean for you to hear it” and that’s the end of it.
The other incident was even worse. The first time they go beyond kissing, Stephen gets a look at her scars and freezes up. This was understandable, because Hannah had never told him that she had scars, or anything about what happened to her. He doesn’t know what to say, she starts telling him about her past, he keeps flashing back to the crime scene photos of his fiancee and he’s having a mild freak out, trying to figure out how to react to this. Hannah’s still telling her story, and he starts yelling at her to stop talking. Then he leaves. I was fine with the freezing up, fine with not knowing how to react, but I was not fine with him actually picking himself up off the couch and walking out her front door after yelling at her. This was one time when I was fully on board with Hannah in a huddle on her floor crying. I don’t think I would have gotten past that and forgiven him, but Hannah does, again after a “Yep, sorry again” type of apology. An apology that doesn’t come for several days, by the way. He just walks out on her like that and leaves her for days.
There was a lot about these two that made me doubt their actual viability as a couple. Stephen named his company after the late fiancee, and when Hannah realizes this, close to the end of the book, it sends her into another self-doubting spiral about his feelings for her. Frankly, I’d be more worried about it if the man I were involved with claimed to have no feelings for a woman he’d been involved with who View Spoiler »died the way his fiancee did « Hide Spoiler. Of course he still loves her, in the same way we all love people who have died. Plus, he named his multi-million dollar company years ago. He can’t just change the name of it now because he has a new girlfriend. Come on. And Hannah never wants to confide in him or ask him any of the questions she has. She’s afraid that saying something like “Are we exclusive?”, “Do you still love her?” “Did you like the dinner I cooked?” “Have you ever gone sky-diving?” will make him leave her. If you can’t ask basic questions like that of a person, what are you doing with them? Yet, I could understand the initial attraction. Stephen needed to be a hero, save someone since he couldn’t saveView Spoiler » his fiancee. « Hide Spoiler Hannah’s been told for the last twelve years that she can’t do anything for herself, so she needs Stephen to be there to save her. Because sex is magical and fixes everything. (I know it was magical, because virginal Hannah, who has never so much as kissed a man or even held their hand, went down on Stephen for the first time and gave him the best blow job he’s ever had in his entire man-whoring life. Because that’s how life works.)
And yet. After all of that, I’ll probably read the next one in the series when it comes out. It’s about Stephen’s brother JT, who I’ve wanted to read about since he was first mentioned in the first book in the series. So I’ll read it. And I liked the first one. This one was hopefully an aberration.