Would he still love her
if he knew?
Tanner Hayes smashed Claire's life to pieces when he chose the rodeo over her ten years ago. And now he'd wrecked her truck! Fantastic. She'd lost her husband, the family ranch was mired in debt, her father was recuperating from a stroke and her son was being bullied. Why not throw a reckless bull rider into the mix?
All she'd wanted was a safe, stable life. But with Tanner back in townand staying on her ranchnothing was safe, or under control. Not the feelings she'd fought so hard to forget. Not the son she was determined to protect. And certainly not her long-held secret
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"Happy Anniversary, darlin'," Claire murmured as she drove past a Route 36 sign just outside of Coltrane, Texas. A car's lights flared in her rearview mirror.
She adjusted the mirror, the only thing she ever changed in the vehicle. Everything in her husband's vintage truck stayed as he'd left it. All but the paint job. She'd added the teal body coat when he didn't return from Afghanistan to finish its restoration or take her on that promised first ride.
Her eyes stung and she cranked the volume dial on her radio. An old country tune played and Claire hummed along, feeling as if she knew the heartbroken singer or, at least, what she'd gone through. The years since her husband's death had been tough, and she still felt the need to commemorate their wedding anniversary and talk to him, strange as some might think her.
"Can you believe this would have been nine years?" She twisted her wedding ring then picked up her coffee thermos.
A sports car flashed its brights then sped past. Her gaze dropped to the speedometer. Thirty miles per hour in a forty-five zone. Slow, but not slow enough to make this annual trip last as long as she wished.
The countryside loomed gray wherever her headlights touched, bluebonnets waving in thick clusters from the roadside, their sweet fragrance carrying on the warm March wind through the open windows. The road unrolled in front of her and she felt its thrum in her bones.
"Jonathan's doing well. Got all A's in home-school. He's smart, like his daddy."
Her voice cracked at the end, evaporating in the back of her tight throat. She recalled Jonathan's hushed voice when he'd admitted to being bullied and had begged not to return to public school. To spend his days on her father's ranch, the home they'd moved to after she'd been widowed. He'd always been small for his age and she'd hated thinking of him being pushed around by the bigger boys.
Would Kevin have handled it as she had? Let their son stay away, even after the bullies were punished? Jonathan had grown so withdrawn after losing his father, and she was concerned that the lack of social interaction with kids his age kept him from maturing the way he should. He was different from the rambunctious child Kevin had left behind.
A night bird ghosted over the Chevy Apache's hood and vanished. Outside the windshield, the full moon ran wild with streaks of cloud, its light pouring down thick enough to drench her on this humid night.
"Dad's got his speech back but his left side's still troubling him. Can't get around like he wants and won't use the electric scooter. But he's dragging his foot less, so that's progress. Right?"
Silence unfurled in the space and she imagined Kevin nodding, his hand dropping from the wheel to cradle hers. He would have known how to help her father accept his post-stroke limitations with that quiet self-assurance that had once steadied her spinning world.
"We finally got an offer on the ranch. Mr. Ruddell, the neighbor who's been helping us, said he'll take it off our hands. He can't afford much, but it'll be a quick sale so we'll beat the bank foreclosure. Just."
Her father's grim face and terse silences around her lately practically screamed "traitor." As if she'd engineered the proposed sale. Had twisted his arm to accept it
Well she had, but how else to avoid bankruptcy? A total loss on their generations-old ranch? With her dad's health failing, he didn't need extra pressure trying to save a lost cause. The doctor said more stress could kill him.
Ever since she'd intercepted a bank call and uncovered the horrible financial news, Claire would wake up each morning in a panic, sure that she'd run out of air. Then the breath would hit her like a horse's kick to the heart. She couldn't imagine selling her childhood home, but what choice did she have? Even her older sister, Dani, a horse wrangler who managed a Colorado dude ranch, supported the decision. Although, she'd never been as attached to the ranch as Claire. She'd preferred wandering on horseback to rocking on a porch swing as Claire did every night with her father.
If her dad passed away, leaving her as Kevin had The thought scared her so much she wanted to take it back, swallow it down in a great gulp and drive faster, flee the possibility before it caught her.
"Do you remember the time you stopped by to help Dad fix one of the tractors and caught me sleeping in it?" She took a sip of her cooled coffee. "I was such a mess then. You knew I was."
She could imagine her husband's firm head shake. He'd built her back up when she'd been breaking down. Restored her as he repaired everything else, like this 1959 truck. Not content there, he always improved on the original. Even her.
"I miss you, babe." And she did, the stabbing loss as deep as the day the Army broke the news. "But I'm doing okay."
She envisioned the skeptical, downward slant of his eyes.
"Want to hear our wedding song?"
A yellow light in the near distance caught her attention. She attempted to replace her thermos in its holder, missed and grabbed for it before it spilled on the reupholstered front seat. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the top edge of the traffic fixture as she entered the intersection.
Everything happened at once and in slow motion.
A crushing jolt shuddered through the truck. Her wheels skidded sideways. She smacked against the window when her pickup rolled down an embankment, as if punched by something large and lethal. Glass rained deadly sharp. The earth tumbled around her, her truck in spin cycle. When a massive tree loomed, the Chevy slammed into it then stilled.
Winded and stunned, she hung upside-down in her lap belt, blood, metallic and warm, on her tongue, a rushing sound whistling in her ears. Her heartbeat changed and grew slow and rolling in darkness. Something hurt, a long way away. Then nothing.
"Ma'am. Ma'am. Are you all right?" A man's voice shouted, rousing her. She tried turning her head but pain held it in place. When she opened her mouth, silent panic flew out.
"Hold on. I'm getting you out of there."
Acrid smoke pierced her consciousness. She closed her eyes against the billowing grit.
This wasn't happening. It was a dream. No. A nightmare.
A tugging motion jerked her right and left, followed by a ripping sound. Large hands halted her sudden fall.
Her rescuer cradled her against his chest, his breaths heaving beneath her ear. After carrying her some distance, he lowered her slowly to the ground. Grass scraped against her stinging cheeks and she opened her eyes.
"What?" she croaked, then swiped at the trickle leaking from her mouth. A man wearing a cowboy hat hunched over her, his features blurred.
"You've been in an accident. We have. Our trucks collided in the intersection."
"My truck!" She bolted upright and clutched the swirling ground.
An arm snaked around her back and eased her down. "I called the dispatcher. The fire department's on the way."
She heard a wail in the distance and wanted to shriek with it.
Her special day. Her anniversary. Ruined. No. Demolished by this this
She squinted upward and focused. A dark swirl of hair brushed across the tall man's forehead; a light scar zigzagged down his square jaw.
It couldn't be
"Hello, Claire." His mouth went up, just a fractionthe same ready-for-anything smile that had once undone her.
She closed her eyes, heart thudding. Ten years since she'd vowed never to see him again and now here he stood, two for two in wrecking her life.
They were three miles outside of town. Tanner Hayes knew it was unlikely another car would be passing for a while. He peered anxiously down at Claire. The lines of her face, turned up to the sky, nearly broke his heart.
"What are you doing here?" she rasped, winded. Was she having trouble breathing? Punctured a lung? His pulse sped.
"I'll tell you later. Where are you hurt?"
"I'm fine." Long lashes swept her cheek and the paleness of her skin blurred its edges like watercolor. But her green eyes flashed the way he remembered, her delicate features still arousing his protective instincts. Was she going into shock?
He shrugged off his jean jacket and draped it around her shoulders. She looked frozen to the bone, too cold to even shiver.
"Wear it," he insisted when she shook it off.
Her hand rose when he made to resettle it on her. "No. Thanks." She pushed to her elbows and held her wrist.
"Can you move that?" He hunkered beside her.
She winced slightly when she flexed it and edged away. "Just a strain. Bruising I'm guessing."
"Anything else?" Headlights illuminated the night and his eyes ran over her lithe form, taking in the fiery hair that seemed to grab the color from her porcelain skin. She looked smoothed, luminous, as if her flesh had been stripped away and she were made out of something so clear it was almost glass, something that could shatter. She looked beautiful.
She jerked from his touch and his pulse raced at the swelling lump on her temple, the red slash through her full bottom lip. He stuffed unsteady hands into his jeans pockets, assuring himself she was okay. In one piece. Not seriously harmed.
In the tense silence, the siren grew deafening and a fire truck thundered by and jerked to a halt. An ambulance and police car sped behind it then pulled to the opposite side of the road. Blue, red and white lights illuminated the velvet night.
EMTs raced their way. Tanner refused their help and moved aside, watching closely as they checked Claire's vitals and examined her. One wound an Ace bandage around her ankle and handed her an ice pack. Less than twenty yards away, firemen hosed down her smoking truck, their walkie-talkies squawking in the still air.
"Talk me through what happened." A young, heavyset police officer flipped open a pad and clicked the end of his pen.
When Tanner finished, the trooper continued scribbling and asked, "So, you're sure the light was green when you passed through the intersection?"
Tanner opened his mouth but another voice answered.
"It was yellow on my end." Claire limped their way, pain tucked in the corners of those determined eyes.
"When it's your turn, I'll take your statement." The officer lowered his gaze to Tanner's license.
"Are you the Tanner Hayes? The bull rider?"
Tanner nodded curtly. This wasn't some meet and greet. Plus, the man had been rude to a lady. To Claire. That didn't go down so good in his books.
The official pocketed his pad and thrust out a hand. "What a heck of a surprise. Can't wait to tell the boys I met the PBR world champion. We watch you on TV every week. Say. Can I get an autograph?"
A throat cleared behind them. "I'd like to give my statement now."
Tanner narrowed his eyes at the fawning officer. "Happy to oblige once you've gotten Claire's statement."
The cop glanced between them. "You two know each other?"
Claire's head bent and her red curls obscured her face. "Once," she whispered. "Not anymore."
Her words stung. She had it about right, but Tanner wished otherwise. That things could have gone differently. That there'd been another path. One that hadn't left her behind and him full of regret.
After she gave her statement, she refused further medical treatment and wandered closer to her damaged truck. Tanner trailed her, stretching his steps to catch up. Pebbles ground together.
The passenger side of her pickup was crumpled and her windshield was smashed. His lungs burned as he imagined the worst. He'd heard from her father that she had a son. A nine-year-old who depended on her. Why the hell had she been running a red light in the dark? And why hadn't he spotted her in time?
He eyed his own truck with the experienced eye he'd gained helping mechanics on his rodeo crew. A crushed bumper. Smashed headlights. Pushed-up hood. Otherwise, drivable. At least, he supposed so. Someone had moved it to the other side of the road.
"I'm sorry, Claire."
Her shoulder bones moved restlessly under his touch. "This was my husband's truck." Her admission went through Tanner like the punch of an electric fence. He knew she'd moved on. Married. Yet hearing it from her trickled cold oil down his skin. His pained gaze flew to her truckher spouse's truckagain. He could see it now. What he'd done Sorry wasn't enough.
"I need to get it fixed back to the way Kevin wanted." Her last words ended on a watery gulp that made him step closer.
The officer handed them both tickets. Tanner scanned his. Driving without insurance. He winced. Rodeo travel. Road work meant irregular mail. His renewal must have come last month when he'd been laid up in a hospital, unable to remember his name and sure his career with the top thirty-five elite was over. His future a black hole ready to crush him.
"Running a red light?" Claire's voice rose and Tanner glanced up at her. She was all patches of black and white, like an illusion. As though one blink would turn her into moonlight and grass.
The cop looked at Claire and pointed to a motorcyclist donning his helmet. "Got a witness statement. He rode up behind you and saw the red."
Confusion sharpened Claire's features.
Tanner moved, restless. He didn't want Claire ticketed. "Might have been a mechanical failure, officer."
The uniformed man slit his eyes at Tanner. "Are you taking back your original statement? The light wasn't green?"
Tanner shifted in his boots. He wasn't a saint, but he was no liar, either. "No," he admitted, then glanced at Claire's pained expression. How many wrongs would he do her before he'd make it right?
The cop's face relaxed into friendly lines and he held out a pad and pen. "Now, how about that autograph?"
"Sure." Tanner scrawled his name without looking and turned at a metallic squeal. A tow truck's chains hoisted Claire's pickup. It was beat up. Had some mechanical damage given the small fire but it wasn't totaled. Could be fixed.
Her small exclamation had his gaze swinging her way, his concern growing. She looked scraped right out. When she swayed, he slipped an arm around her and held her tight. She could squirm all she wanted, he wouldn't let go.
"Where are they taking it?"
Tanner read the side of the tow truck. "Bob's Auto Body. Not far."
As their small town's biggest repair shop, everyone knew Bob's. Tanner had even applied for a job there, but had been turned down when, like most of the townsfolk, Bob had been leery of hiring the fatherless child of a drug addict who'd caused his own share of trouble growing up.
Good thing he'd been hired at a local ranch. The job had helped him support his single mother until he'd caught the rodeo bug. Found an outlet for the jittering energy that roamed through him like fire ants. Proved everyone wrong who'd sworn he wouldn't amount to anything; that he'd turn out like his deadbeat dad and junkie mother.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 – rounded Second chance stories always intrigue me: characters are older, have more experience and often more baggage, and reinforcing the ‘it’s meant to be’ feel is nice. And Claire and Tanner now have that chance, even with the many obstacles in the way. Years ago, Claire and Tanner were a thing: but he also was obsessed with the rodeo and bull riding, and took his chance at a life chasing those eight seconds. Left behind, Claire did move forward: married and made a life. But now, widowed with a son Jonathan, her father having suffered a stroke and a ranch that is having financial issues, her plate is full. And while she has wonderful relationships with her son, father and the animals, OMG Claire – let go of the reins a bit. There is ZERO daring in Claire – perhaps she used it all up when she was younger but helicopter caretaker (not just Mom) doesn’t come close to her approach. Tanner is far more relaxed and matter of fact about life and unexpected events – but he’s also not particularly observant, and of course, he has issues. Perhaps some are from the guilt of leaving Claire, his need to ‘prove himself’ now as he did in the ring, but he wasn’t passively accepting everything Claire was handing out. And Oh Did They Fight. About everything. Constantly. I am not a fan of conflict carried to the point where I wanted the characters to STOP interacting: from hiding secrets and regrets and their inability to actually talk out a situation instead of instantly jumping to the wrong conclusions…repeatedly. It was that relationship that you can’t see the couple AS a couple, and find excuses to avoid dinners with them. And then, there’s the big secret (which really isn’t) and the moment where all the growth that the two had experienced went south with yet another conflict and plenty of harsh words. To be honest, I had just started to come around to liking Claire, and if not agreeing with her choices I could understand, and with a handful of harsh words and a retreat to her old patterns I was again wanting to Shake. Her. Silly. Yep – it only takes a moment. Rating this was incredibly difficult – I disliked Claire’s behavior for the majority of the book – she isn’t a mean person, but thoughtless when she’s scrambling to convince herself, and everyone else she’s in the right. And Tanner just sort of meandered through for me, clueless to the dynamics around him more often than not. I was intrigued and emotionally involved, angered and frustrated – I cared what happened and needed to know how the story would end. But the tension and discomfort from the repeated arguments and refusal to see what a blind man would have was more frustrating than I thought possible. If you are up for a read that challenges, this is it. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Rating: 3.5 I finally read Karen Rock!! I love second chance love stories and His Kind of Cowgirl seemed liked a good read. I read an excerpt and just wanted to find out how Tanner and Claire found their way back to each other. Ten years ago, Tanner Hayes and Claire Shelton were two teenagers in love. Both were very much involved in ranch life. Tanner was a bull rider and Claire was a barrel racer. Things for these two started to fall apart when Claire was in a very bad accident and then made Tanner choose between her and the rodeo. Tanner choose the rodeo, not knowing that Claire was carrying his child and not telling her why the rodeo was so important to him. Claire went on to marry and ultimately fall in love with a childhood friend and local mechanic. Tanner went on to become a PBR World Champion. Since he left Coltrane, Texas, the two have not spoken or seen each other. Of course he heard about Claire from time to time through her father Martin. Tanner even learned about the tragic death of Claire’s husband from Martin. Now on the nine year anniversary of Claire’s marriage to Kevin, Claire and Tanner’s worlds collide. Tanner has returned to Coltrane to heal from his injury and to help Martin save Denton Creek Ranch which has been in Martin’s family for a long time. This is news to Claire, who has already made arrangements to sell the ranch for next to nothing in order to avoid foreclosure. Claire wants Tanner to leave as soon as possible. She doesn’t want him to get her father’s hopes up about saving the ranch and she definitely doesn’t want him to discover that he is Jonathan’s biological father. So far, the set up for His Kind of Cowgirl is great. Tanner was a great hero. He may have his own personal reasons for wanting Martin’s ranch to succeed, but he does still want to help Martin. If Martin has to lose his beloved ranch, he wants to go down fighting and Tanner is willing to fight just as hard. Even more so, I loved Tanner because of the way he was with Jonathan. While he didn’t know Jonathan was his son, he still treated him with respect. He also helped him open up from the bubble Jonathan created for himself, which Claire allowed out of fear. Claire was my least favorite character in the whole story. Yes, life dealt her a bad hand or two, but she took it upon herself to try and control everyone’s life. She consistently wavered between wanting to tell Tanner the truth about Jonathan and keeping him in the dark. It was like she was punishing Tanner when he did something she didn’t like by keeping him in the dark. This went on throughout the whole book. If I could simply judge His Kind of Cowgirl based on the ending, it would get five stars. The story brought tears to my eyes in a couple of places. The moments between Tanner and Jonathan were heartwarming. But Claire is a part of this story, a big part. Her hot and cold attitude was irritating and made the story hard to read at times. Claire’s sister Dani has her own story of romance. Hopefully, she isn’t like her sister. **Received a copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed.**
Title: His Kind of Cowgirl Author: Karen Rock Published: 12-31-15 Publisher: Harlequin Pages: 368 Genre: Romance Sub Genre: Women's Fiction; Cowboys; Western ISBN: 978073367795 ASIN: B014D0UH82 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . It has been 10 years since Tanner Hayes walked out of Clair Shelton's life after he chose the rodeo over a life with her. Tanner's star has risen in the rodeo circuit and Clair has built a life for herself, a husband and a son filled her life with love and she is happy. That is until her husband dies and her once vibrant father is laid low with heart problems. While taking a drive through the town that she loves as a farewell gesture as she was having to sell the family ranch due to immanent foreclosure by the bank. As she passes through an intersection and is crashed into. When Tanner turns out to be the other driver she is shocked and angry. How dare he show up now when her life is in shambles. Tanner talks her into allowing him to take her home as her truck is not drivable. It soon becomes apparent that Tanner and her father have been in contact over the years. Tanner announces that he is there to save the ranch at the invite of her father. Claire doesn't care she just wants him gone before he discovers her secret and destroys what peace she has been able to establish since Keith's death. I cried my way through chapter one. Karen Rock grabs your heartstrings with her words and does not let go. Anyone with loved ones in the military knows of the dread of "the Visit". Karen uses compassion and care when laying the scene of Claire's reaction. There are emotional influences in many of the scene's and you will feel each and every one of them. Her characters are well developed and believable. I believe His Kind of Cowgirl is well deserving of a 4 1/2 star rating.
Format: Galley Copy Tanner absolutely stole the show throughout the entire story. He's loving, supportive and positive thinking through most of the book. He's one hottie mctottie that will leave you wanting your own cowboy just like him. Claire on the other hand was a bit unlikable, negative and stubborn. Jonathon, Claire's son, was a great escape with his fantasy. His Kind of Cowgirl is well written and a great story. I feel it is more women's fiction due to the lack of romance between Claire and Tanner throughout the book. His kind of Cowgirl doesn't give you the warm, happy feeling a typical Harlequin romance does throughout the story, but if you like a heroine with a strong personality and a cowboy who ropes her in then you'll like this book.
4 1/2 STARS! Such an emotional book! I cried for her loss, I felt sorry for her having so much thrust on her at once, I felt angry at her attitude towards Tanner, and most of all, I felt joy that they were all getting a second chance. Claire Shelton has moved back to her Dad's place to get things settled after he suffers a stroke. She's discovered that he's been hiding mountains of debt from her and the only option is to sell to get out from under it. Tanner Hayes broke Claire's heart 10 years ago to follow the rodeo. She's very unhappy to see him because she's afraid he'll find out her secret ... and once she hears the plans he and her father have to save the place, she's even more angry. Will Tanner be able to heal her broken heart and earn a second chance with her? And when he finds out what she's been keeping secret all these years, will he be able to forgive her?
His Kind of Cowgirl is a very sweet second chance romance/secret baby story. It had some frustrating moments and at least one scene that felt fairly forced, but overall I really enjoyed this story. Plus--we've got a widow who found love again (or is it still?) without having to find out some horrible truth about her first husband that negates all their years of happiness--whoo hooo! Thank you, Karen Rock :) Ultimately, I liked both Claire and Tanner. Claire made it a bit tough at times--her past experiences have made her cautious, and she isn't willing to give Tanner even a millimeter of a chance at first. She's sure she knows what's right--for her father, for the ranch, and for her son--and she doesn't even want to entertain any other ideas. Especially if they come from the ex that chose the rodeo over her ten years before. I got where she was coming from, and though I didn't always agree with her, I understood why she was thinking and doing the things she did. What drove me crazy, though, was how gosh darn long it took her to tell Tanner the truth--and the whole time, she knew it was wrong to have waited so long, which made it doubly frustrating. Tanner was an awesome hero--confident, great with kids, supportive of Claire when she needed it most--though he too had his own issues to work through. His biggest one was needing to figure out who he could be if he wasn't a big rodeo star anymore. In the beginning of the book, he couldn't see himself living any other life and was practically counting the days until he could go back. He originally comes to the ranch to help himself, but ends up staying to help others...and finding more than he ever imagined was possible in the process. Jonathan, their son, was all kinds of adorable. He and his grandfather (Claire's dad) actually had my favorite quote from the book: "I'm good at being annoying. It's one of my superpowers" (Jonathan) "Never works on me. Always like having you around. Guess that means I'm your kryptonite." (Martin) All kinds of adorbs right there! So, yeah... I liked this one. Doesn't mean I didn't want to sit various characters down at times for a talkin' to, but in the end it left me with warm, feel-good fuzzies and a smile on my face. Rating: 4 stars / B+ I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
4 star I was pulled right into this story. The story has laughs, pain, secrets, grief, and heartbreak. This is Claire and Tanner’s story. Claire and Tanner were together years ago but he chose the rodeo over her. Now ten years later Claire is struggling. She is trying to take care of everything. Tanner is in town and working on the ranch. She has secrets that she kept from him what is he ever finds out? With Claire and Tanner both being stubborn about things will the secrets be the one thing that tears them apart for good? Or will finding out the secret bring them closer together? What is all the things Claire is being so stubborn about really just worry over not tying someone to a life they never wanted before? Can Tanner convince Claire that he is a changed man? The he wants to stay with her? I was able to connect with the characters and the story was a great read. I recommend this book and can’t wait for the next story from this author.
If you love the whole cowboy/rodeo/heartthrob illusion then this is for you. Claire and Kevin are happily married with a young son .. then one day the ‘military men’ arrive on the doorstep to break the news that Kevin has been killed in a roadside explosion overseas just a few days before his expected return. Their world begins to fall apart. On their wedding anniversary Claire is making the annual pilgrimage and while not concentrating on the road due to her grief she runs a red light and who does she conveniently crash her truck into .. an ex who broke her heart. She is devastated to see him and does all she can to prevent him getting back into her life and she especially wants to keep her away from her son …. yep, from this point you can see where it is going. Kevin was the doting husband who picked up the pieces all those years ago and reared Jonathon as his own .. but Tanner the ex is his biological father. He made the decision that the rodeo was his preference and left Claire without knowing she was pregnant. Fast-forward .. does she hold a grudge ? Hell yeah! But the old feelings begin to return and she finds herself falling for his charms again and I can see why .. he is one sexy dude. Poor Kevin seems to get forgotten pretty quickly. Not only is Claire a single mother but her father has a stroke and his/their ranch is in danger of foreclosure .. this is where Tanner can be the hero much to her disgust and raise funds to help out. There is a lot of distrust between them .. he doesn’t tell her about his money issues and she refuses to tell him he is the boy’s father .. will they be able to work together or will he break her heart again. I didn’t like the way she kept the truth from him but I can understand she was protecting her child .. there is a lot of emotion, frustration, love and twists and turns in this book and I really enjoyed it. You will keep going late into the night to reach the conclusion or is that just me lol. Thanks to the author, Netgalley and Tasty Book Tours for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest opinion.