May Contain Spoilers
When the author pitched a review of The Return of the Rebel, I was happy to accept. I love almost all Harlequin imprints, but with my other review commitments, I don’t often find the time to read one unless there is some outside pressure applied (a blog tour or a direct author request). I didn’t even need to know plot details beyond the primary trope, which is one of my favorites. For some reason, carrying a torch for your older brother’s best friend always pushes the right buttons for me. Adding in Jax’s understandable anxiety for the future, and you have a gripping read. I wish there had either been more attention given to his trial, or that that plot thread hadn’t been included at all. There’s actually a lot going on in the book, and I felt that the trial was short-changed, but that is a minor quibble.
Cleo has just been promoted, and she’s under a lot of pressure to not only succeed in her new position, but excel as well. She went over her supervisor’s head for the position, and he isn’t too happy with her about that. The hostess at a Las Vegas casino, it’s her job to ensure that her client has a wonderful time so that he drops a boatload of cash at the gaming tables. She gets off to a rocky start after discovering that her privacy-hungry client is none other than Jax Monroe, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks in her small farming community in Wyoming. Jax was her brother’s friend, and he was also her first crush. She’s still mortified that she tried to kiss him all those years ago. Soon after that embarrassing fiasco, Jax packed up and left Hope Springs for good.
Cleo has also relocated from Wyoming. First attending an Ivy League school in East, now she’s settled in Las Vegas. She’s desperate to make her mark in town, because her family’s ranch is deep in debt. Her brother blames her for the financial mess; her father paid for her very expensive college tuition, diminishing the family coffers. He was tragically killed in an accident, and her mother blames her for his death. Estranged from her family, Cleo suffers from guilt and is determined to help bail them out of their money problems.
Her reunion with Jax doesn’t go well, and her supervisor threatens to fire her if her behavior doesn’t change pronto. Jax, traveling incognito, doesn’t want anyone to know where he is. He’s the key witness in a money-laundering case, and there is someone out to get him. When Cleo is the unwitting victim of the attacker, Jax steps in to protect her by whisking her away to a friend’s mansion, where they both are forced to own up to their past, as well as contemplate their plans for the future.
I think Jax’s health concerns made this a winner for me. He is so afraid that he won’t have a future that he keeps shutting down his relationship with Cleo. His own parents died young, and he is terrified that he will, too. He doesn’t want to put a family through that, so he has decided that he won’t allow himself to fall in love, and forget having kids at all. There’s no way he’s going to put a child through the painful loss of a parent. He’s coming from a fragile emotional state, and even though he’s bested his disease this time, he’s fearful that it will return, and so he closes up and refuses to allow himself the luxury of falling in love with Cleo.
Cleo is dealing with emotional baggage as well. She regrets her last conversation with her father, and she has taken her mother’s blame to heart. If she hadn’t been such a disappointment to her parents, her father would still be alive. She hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and the loss of her family eats away at her. Jax recognizes how important her family is, and suffering from an unpleasant childhood, he urges her to make up with her mother. I thought each character had a convincing reason to avoid commitment, so it was gratifying as each overcame the past and their painful regrets and rediscovered the wonder of trust and caring.
The Return of the Rebel is a sweet read, and it’s a perfect read while you are lounging in the sun.
Review copy provided by author
The guy from the wrong side of the tracks…
Being promoted should be a dream come true, only it means working closely with Cleo’s childhood crush, Jax Monroe. Jax may no longer be the rebel she remembers, but he still gets her heart racing like no other.
Jax cares too much about Cleo to let her get too close—but keeping his distance is proving impossible! As Jax reveals the extent of what he’s been through, will Cleo show him that some things are too precious to put off until tomorrow?
Award-winning author, Jennifer Faye pens fun, heartwarming romances. Jennifer has won the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, named a TOP PICK author, and been nominated for numerous awards. Now living her dream, she resides with her patient husband, amazing daughter (the other remarkable daughter is off chasing her own dreams) and two spoiled cats.
Jennifer loves to hear from readers—you can contact her via her website.
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