The story begins when Dirk and Janice are youngsters living on the rodeo circuit. Dirk is riding bulls, and Janice is working as the bull contractor due to her father’s illness. The two of them appear to have completely different ideas when it comes to romance, as Dirk is still with his high school sweetheart Rachel Carson (rodeo queen), and Janice is the tomboy who has no sexual experience. This all changes, however, when Dirk and Rachel grow apart, as she realizes Dirk is not ready to be a trained and perfect husband any time in the near future. After Dirk gets his first taste of defeat, and has nowhere to go after laying waste to his relationship, he looks to Janice for comfort.
In the process, the two begin a journey that despite time passed, leaves a mark upon their hearts. Dirk, unfortunately, is wary of settling down and is having difficulty accepting his feelings for Janice. So, when tragedy knocks at Janice’s door regarding her father’s health, she looks to where she can find comfort. Enter: Grady Garrison, who as a reader, you come to despise. This means that Victoria did an amazing job, because it is always refreshing to truly dislike a character that plays an important role in the story. Grady is crude, verbally abusive, and in every sense of the word, a womanizer. He wraps pretty lies in false gifts, and weaves promises into every word to gain Janice’s trust, only for his own gain.
Janice learns this much too late, and it leaves her alone and in need of the chance to find her own way again. During the ten years that Janice and Dirk are apart, they both change in many ways. Janice is now a widow, a mother, and trying to get back on her feet after moving back to her hometown (where Dirk is of course). Dirk, on the other hand, has grown into a man who lives simply and is shut off from the outside world. He is still fighting with his brother Wade over trying to save the Flying K Ranch, and also battling his own demons on the inside. Dirk, not only lost his chance with Rachel when she chose Wade (and then tragically died), but he lost his chance with Janice (or so he thought). Furthermore, he lost something even more personal; his leg. Dirk, has PTSD, like so many of our heroic soldiers, and he is not only still dealing with the nightmares of his past, but coping with his physical pain and loss in the present.
I suppose that for these very reasons, that this is why I loved Dirk and Janice’s story more than Wade and Nikki’s; the loss of self, heartbreak, and second chances was personal for me. Though Wade went through his own loss (losing Rachel), and had his own second chance with Nikki, it is more beautifully painful to read about a broken hero. This is especially true when you get to read the hero’s story over the course of many years; the pain, the love, and the wonder of the journey is even more palpable. So, naturally, when Janice comes back into Dirk’s life a decade later and she is lost as well, watching the two heal together is a blissful experience.
Janice, lost ten years of her life to someone who treated her as if she were nothing but a fly to swat and be done with, yet she remained strong for herself, and her son Cody. She is absolutely one of the best female characters I have felt a kinship with over the same matters of motherhood and responsibility. Not to mention, finding the man of your dreams after so long of waiting for him. Her and Dirk are undoubtedly and inexplicably perfect for one another. She is the woman who accepts Dirk for all his faults and sees them as strengths in their own ways once she gets past his defenses. Dirk, on the other hand, is the man she needed to give her back her hope.
Janice begins working for Dirk to help him save his ranch, and in turn is thrown back into the role she loves so much of working with bulls and ranching. Furthermore, Dirk becomes a role model to Cody, and as a mother who found the same, I can say that this aspect of the story spoke to me. I relish a story that can truly grasp the drama of certain situations that people have dealt with. To me, Victoria was able to bring to life very realistic dilemma’s that women and men alike experience in the real world. Therefore, I was more than enmeshed in this story from beginning to end!
I am not going to get into the juicy or the dramatic parts because I refuse to spoil such things. However, I can say that the sexual experiences and heart-wrenching parts are hot, devastating, and perfect in every way. As for twists, I can say that the biggest one happens near the ending involving a discovery that only makes Janice and Dirk’s life together that much better. Not only does this book have some action and high stakes, but there is romance, passion, and lessons to be learned. Of course, the book was even better because Victoria incorporated a few of the scenes from a different viewpoint from Slow Hand as well.
This is another aspect to love in my humble opinion, simply because these scenes really gave us a more in-depth look at the relationship between Wade and Dirk. There were some blanks filled in, so to speak, and because we were given the chance to understand these two better, it made their reconciliation sweeter. Not to mention, I enjoyed seeing Wade help Dirk with his decision making regarding Janice, as well as seeing them bond. Of course, without the sweet Donna Knowlton and the tough Justin Knowlton (the boys’ parents), the story would have been missing something as well. Truly, I think the familial strength was central to the relationships of each Knowlton brother.
So, ultimately, I can say without reservation that I was blown away by this book. I was turned on, I cried, I laughed, I cringed, and I smiled. Janice and Dirk are the type of couple I can not only relate to, but root for. I loved that familiar characters were brought it, that Victoria created such a wonderfully placed timeline, and that she brought realistic occurrences to the story. It made me happy to see Wade and Dirk let go of the past together, and to see Donna Knowlton have the chance to see her boy’s happy and complete. Most importantly, perhaps, I was elated to finally see Dirk and Janice find one another. I hope every individual who picks up this book reads this story with enthusiasm, as I have. Thanks Vikki for your lovely story!
**ARC provided by Publisher**