The latest Goodreads giveaway this pedometer geek read was “Defending Hearts” by Shannon Stacey. It is the second book in the Boys of Fall contemporary romance series and follows up her novel, “Under the Lights,” which was previously reviewed. This is the extended review.
by Shannon Stacey
Published by Jove Books, 2015
an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC
As the back cover blurb on both novels states: 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…
This second book in this contemporary romance series pairs one of the “golden boys” of the football team with another of the women who planned the Eagles Fest fund-raiser.
While the fund-raiser was successful in re-instituting the football team, there are still some financial issues that are plaguing the citizens of the town of Stewart Mills, New Hampshire. For Alex Murphy, one of the “golden boys,” his time there feels incomplete. As a globe-trotting photojournalist, he wants to stay on and document the team and the town’s changes. Frankly, he is suffering burnout in his high pressure job of going into the world’s hot spots and returns to his home town for a brief respite.
Gretchen Walker is trying to hold onto her grandparents’ farm. She, along with her grandmother, known to all as Gram, have agreed to take on a boarder to help make the biennial tax payments as well as other farm expenses. Their first boarder is Alex, formerly a defensive tackle for the championship team and now an award-winning photojournalist.
From the moment he arrives and unpacks, Gretchen, acting aloof, tries to keep her defenses up and her heart intact as Alex all-too-quickly becomes a part of the family. Sexual tension between the pair is obvious from the beginning, but she tries to maintain a distance from him despite her Gram’s interference. Despite her trepidation, they do become involved. But can she bear it when he returns to his real life in Providence, Rhode Island? Can he return to the high profile life he leads?
Spicy scenes of the pair are interspersed with both the realities of trying to make a farm viable in a difficult economy and the importance of football to provide opportunities for youth. Characters like Coach from the previous novel (“Under the Lights”) play ancillary, pivotal roles, yet ultimately it is the love story of Gretchen and Alex; however, feisty Gram and her dog Cocoa round out a story that makes it worth a high five.
Having read the first two, this reader already has plans to read “Homecoming,” the next book in the series. While this is a series, all of the stories could be read as stand-alone stories since Stacey explains just enough so that a reader would not be lost and could easily figure out what came before.
One of the most refreshing things found in this series is that all the people seem realistic, the kind of people one would consider friends. Yeah, there are always one or two What-the-tuck trends seen, but none so blatant that are worth mentioning.
(For whatever reason, I could not use italics so all book titles within the review are set off with quotation marks. My apologies.)