Review – Defending Hearts by Shannon Stacey

Posted April 12, 2016 by smutmatters in Contemporary, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Defending Hearts by Shannon StaceyDefending Hearts by Shannon Stacey
Series: Boys of Fall #2
Series Rating: four-stars
Published by Jove on October 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 279
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Barnes & Noble

The New York Times bestselling author of Under the Lights presents a novel of past triumphs, present challenges, and future happily ever afters…
They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again…
Globetrotting photographer Alex Murphy returns to Stewart Mills for a football fundraiser, but stays to document the football team and the town’s changes. Since his project includes photos of the Walker farm, he rents a room there.
Needing money to save the family farm, Gretchen Walker doesn’t have time to deal with the sexy photographer in her house. After all, Alex is a man with no sense of home, and to her, home is everything. But when she finds herself falling for him, she’ll be forced to decide where her dreams really lie…

Full disclosure on this book, I did buy a paperback copy of it, but my dogs ate it because they are jerks. When I tweeted about it, Shannon Stacey was kind enough (and probably laughing hard enough) to send me another one. So the source is technically both “Purchased” and “Provided by awesome author”.

So – this is book 2 in the Boys of Fall series. I love Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series. I stopped reading romance for a while a few years ago, and that was one of the series that initially brought me back. So even though I don’t read a ton of small-town romances anymore, I will always read Stacey’s work.

I liked Alex Murphy from the first time we met him in Under the Lights. I liked Gretchen a lot in that book, too, what we saw of her, but it took me a little while to warm up to her here. She was just so… prickly, I guess is the best word for it. Unnecessarily so, most of the time. She has really great friends in Kelly and Jen, and I could tell she was probably equally great. But it was really hard to see that at first. But I had faith, and it was well rewarded.

Alex and Gretchen were so great together because on the surface they were so different, but once you dug a little deeper, they had a lot in common. Gretchen has never left Stewart Mills, never been on a plane, never stayed in a hotel, and has never felt like she was missing out on anything. Alex, on the other hand, is a celebrated photojournalist, traveling all over the world for photos that tell the rest of the world what’s happening. His life has been one long adventure, while Gretchen’s biggest challenge has been keeping her grandmother’s dog out of the chicken coop. (Which is very challenging, as anyone with a dog can tell you. I don’t mean to imply that Gretchen’s life has been less important or less… just less than Alex’s, just that they’re very different)

But at their core, they’re both really lonely. Alex is getting older, and all the traveling is taking a toll on him, physically and mentally. It’s a solitary life, as he learned in his first short marriage. It’s hard to get close to anyone when you can be called out at a moment’s notice to cover a war in another part of the world for an unknown amount of time. Technology is changing, too, and he’s finding more and more often that the photos he’s taking are being overlooked for a quick picture someone snapped on their phone and posted on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. He’s starting to feel like maybe it’s time for his career to go in a slightly different direction, and feels Stewart Mills calling to him. Going back there for the events in Under the Lights planted the bug in him, and it’s finally coming to a head here.

Gretchen is lonely in a different way. She was abandoned by her parents, her grandfather died a few years ago, and it’s just her and her grandmother and the dog for the most part. She has Jen and Kelly, but Kelly got together with Chase in Under the Lights, so she’s around less. Gretchen is satisfied with her life, but she’s ready for someone to share it with. One thing about Gretchen, she may be prickly and hard to get close to, but she genuinely loves her farm and loves the work she does to keep it running, even though farming is becoming more and more financially challenging.

This was a slow burn book. Alex and Gretchen took a long time to act on their feelings. I didn’t really buy Gretchen’s insistence that they couldn’t get involved because he was technically their tenant. I see that it could be a little awkward in some circumstances to sleep with someone who’s paying you rent, but I don’t really think so in this instance. It wasn’t really rent that Alex was paying as much as… a hotel bill, I guess. He wasn’t living with Gretchen and her grandmother, he was just renting a room from them for a few weeks. Alex didn’t have any complications like that. As far as he was concerned, the only issue was finding a place for sexytimes where Gretchen’s grandmother wouldn’t walk in or hear them.

This was a really good story. I really liked seeing Alex and Gretchen find each other, and deal with their complicated lives as they tried to be together. They had to work hard at it and figure how to make everything work, which just made it so much better when they figured it out.

About Shannon Stacey

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Shannon Stacey lives with her husband and two sons in New England, where her two favorite activities are writing stories of happily ever after and riding her four-wheeler. From May to November, the Stacey family spends their weekends on their ATVs, making loads of muddy laundry to keep Shannon busy when she’s not at her computer. She prefers writing to laundry, however, and considers herself lucky she got to be an author when she grew up.