Riley Callahan’s plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend are ruined when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.
Watching the love of his life falling for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.
But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.
Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances he’s adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. He has nightmares and mood swings, and his unwavering independence keeps him from accepting help from anyone, including her. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up the money needed to save it.
As the weeks wear on with the two in such close proximity, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into unchartered territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his corded arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?
About the Author
Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including A December Bride and The Convenient Groom, which have been adapted into original Hallmark Channel movies. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Carol Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking green tea, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are rapidly approaching an empty nest. You can learn more about Denise through her website DeniseHunterBooks.com or by visiting her Facebook page, AuthorDeniseHunter.
Read an Excerpt
Just A Kiss
A Summer Harbor Novel
By Denise Hunter
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Denise Hunter
All rights reserved.
Paige Warren checked her watch, then peeked around Miss Trudy's silver head for the dozenth time. Riley's plane had landed, and the steady stream of passengers moving toward Bangor Airport's baggage claim had begun to dwindle.
Beau and Zac Callahan, Riley's black-haired brothers, stood just alike a few feet away, muscular arms crossed, broad stances, faces set as they scanned the unfamiliar faces.
"Shouldn't he be here by now?" Paige fiddled with the ring hanging from her necklace.
"Stop your worrying," Miss Trudy said. "He'll be out soon."
Stop her worrying? She'd done nothing but worry since the midnight call three weeks ago. Beau's words had sent her heart into palpitations, and it hadn't stopped racing since.
Miss Trudy grabbed Paige's hand, stilling it. Only then did she realize she'd been frantically zinging the ring on her necklace back and forth.
"You're about to drive me up the wall with your fidgeting."
"I can't help it. I won't feel okay until I see he's okay."
"He's coming home," Miss Trudy said. "It's going to be fine."
"Yeah, but —"
"Don't borrow trouble. Beau said he was in good spirits, and we should thank the good Lord he's coming home at all."
"I know. I know you're right."
Who would've thought when Riley left for Afghanistan fifteen months ago he'd be coming home in June? And like this? There'd been so many decisions and arrangements to make since the phone call, and Paige had taken on the lion's share. It had soothed her to be doing something.
Riley was a strong man — always had been — but she couldn't imagine anyone taking this in stride. There were big adjustments ahead, but she was determined to be there for her best friend every step of the way, just as he'd been there for her through every difficulty she'd faced since she was fourteen — especially the death of her father. Riley had spent many nights just listening as she tried to untangle the knots of unresolved anger.
"Where is he?" Beau wandered back over. In his shadow was Zac, towering over them all.
"Y'all are starting to make me nervous with all your fidgeting and pacing," Miss Trudy said.
Beau slipped his arm over his aunt's shoulders. "Everyone's out. He should be here."
"Maybe he didn't make the flight," Paige said. The thought made her stomach sink like an anchor. The past few weeks of waiting had been torture for all of them. Beau had wanted to fly to Germany to be with his brother, but Riley insisted he stay.
"He'll be here." Zac ran a hand over his tightly trimmed beard. He looked almost out of place without Lucy at his side. The two had been joined at the hip since their fall wedding.
Between Zac and Lucy's recent nuptials and Beau and Eden's engagement, Paige was feeling a little fifth-wheelish lately. It'd be good to have her Riley back home. Nothing had felt quite right since he'd left. She had girlfriends, sure. But no one who knew and understood her like Riley.
It might be touch-and-go for a while, she reminded herself. She couldn't expect the old Riley to come strutting around the corner. She'd done some research and, despite what Beau said about his brother's spirits, she expected some fallout. It was time for her to be the strong one.
* * *
Riley Callahan gave the attractive brunette his most charming smile as she pushed an empty wheelchair down the Jetway toward him. She was tall, slender, about his age, and heck, the sight of any female was a treat these days. She reached the bottom of the Jetway where he waited in the onboard wheelchair.
"Mr. Callahan? I'm here to assist you." Her professional tone matched her bland expression.
His lips drooped at her flat-eyed smile.
Reality check, idiot. Girls don't dig guys in wheelchairs.
A month ago her response would've been different. She might've even flirted with him. Maybe tried to slip him her number. All that was different now. People saw the chair first and then him. And the him they saw was the same him he saw in the mirror.
She wheeled the chair beside him and set the brakes. "Need some help?"
"I got it." Taking a deep breath, he made the awkward transition to the chair, his arm muscles tightening under his weight. He gritted his teeth against the pain as his body finally settled in place.
During the transfer his duffel fell, landing right beside his dignity. The bag he retrieved; the other was gone for good.
"You comfortable, sir?"
He'd slept two hours last night, his leg was aching like a son of a gun, and he was stuffed into a wheelchair like an invalid. Not to mention a woman was tending to him. Everything about that seemed backward.
She released the brakes on his chair and set it in motion, pushing it up the Jetway.
At least he was off the plane. The trip to the lavatory in the onboard wheelchair had been humiliating. In between, people thanked him for his service, for his sacrifice. He'd wanted to crawl under the seats.
As they reached the gate, the cool whoosh of air-conditioning brushed his skin. Good old US of A. He was home. Back in Maine. His family was waiting just down the way. His brothers. His aunt. Paige. For months he'd ached to see them — especially Paige.
But not like this.
His chest tightened, his breathing was as labored as if he'd just run a marathon. Ha. Wouldn't be doing that anytime soon. He'd be lucky to reach hobbling status, and not even that without months of painful therapy. His eyes dropped to his legs.
The trouser leg on his right side drooped into the hollow space where his knee used to be. Now the leg ended in a grotesque stump that alternately ached and itched. The past three weeks had been a nightmare. The surgery, the painful recovery. The nightmares. His emotions teetered on edge, dark thoughts pushing him deeper into the shadows.
Just coming home was an act of courage. He didn't want them to see him like this. Didn't want Paige to see him like this. Who knew when he left that he'd return half a man?
He tightened his fingers on the metal armrests, swallowing against the hard lump in his throat. A sweat broke out on his back and forehead. The bleak thoughts threatened to take him under, and he fought them with everything he had.
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
The words had been beaten into him for fifteen months. Had gotten him through some pretty bad stuff. But they did little to help him now.
Come on, man. Buck up. You can't let them see you like this.
His brothers had spent all this time worrying over him, all because he'd been stupid enough to enlist on the heels of their dad's death. On the heels of —
No. He couldn't think about that now. Suffice it to say he'd left for all the wrong reasons. But that was his own doing. His family had already been through enough.
The wheelchair bumped over something, jostling his leg. He winced, his hand moving over the left pocket of his trousers where he kept her picture. His heart thudded at the realization that he was about to see her, and not her image on Skype. It seemed like an eternity since he'd looked into her sea-blue eyes. Since he'd heard the feminine lilt of her voice or breathed in her sweet, flowery smell.
If things had gone differently, he'd be anticipating their reunion. He'd be strutting toward her on his own two legs, anxious to tell her the truth as he'd planned. But one IED had changed everything. Now his only plan revolved around figuring out how to put some space between them without hurting her feelings.CHAPTER 2
Is that your family?" the woman pushing Riley's chair asked.
His eyes darted toward the baggage claim entrance where his family clustered. He set his shoulders back, lifting his hand. Made his lips widen to a full-fledged smile, made sure his eyes crinkled at the corners like they were supposed to.
Beau waved back, his other arm curling tightly around Aunt Trudy. Zac grinned, a tall shadow behind them. Riley's eyes slid to Paige, and his breath left his body.
Man, she was even more beautiful than he remembered. Her silky hair was blonder and longer, and he'd forgotten the way her subtle curves softened her athletic build. The sight of her tanned legs stirred up thoughts he had no business thinking.
She cupped her hand around her mouth, her eyes tearing up as he rolled closer.
When he was still a car's length away, she leaped forward, falling onto her knees. Her arms came around his neck, and the soft weight of her melted into him.
He held her close, his eyes falling shut. In an instant it was just the two of them. Old times. Kindred spirits. Callahan and Warren. Man, he'd missed her. He pulled in a deep breath of her. Flowers. Sunshine. Home. He buried his nose in her hair and soaked her in, remembering every night he'd lain in his rack staring at her picture, longing for a moment just like this.
His throat emitted a choking sound, and he disguised it with a hearty laugh. Forced energy into his voice. "Hey, now. What's all this, Warren? You're not crying, are you? You know you go straight to the ugly cry."
Paige leaned back, swatting his shoulder as she surreptitiously wiped her eyes. "I missed you, you big lug. Are you in pain? Can I get your meds for you?"
Great, more fussing. "Naw, took some on the plane. I'm good. Wicked awesome."
Beau reached in, edging out Paige. He grasped Riley's hand in a bro-grip. "Good to have you home, brother. You had us awful worried there."
"Good to be home. Man, is it ever."
Zac ruffled his hand over Riley's high and tight haircut. "Can't even tousle your hair anymore. What fun is that?"
"Hey, Zac." Riley smiled up at him. "Good to see your ugly mug. Gotta say, though, you're practically a giant from down here."
"All the more reason to get you back on your feet."
"Hello ...?" Aunt Trudy said from the back. "I know I'm just the lowly aunt, but do I get a turn?"
Riley aimed a smile her way, reaching out. "Get over here, Aunt Trudy."
She slipped between Paige and Beau and embraced him. She smelled like lemons and starch. Her narrow shoulders and thin arms felt frail, but her size was misleading. She could stop an army with a mere look.
"Lord have mercy, you're wider than the chair. Did your muscles grow muscles?"
"Something like that," he said as she pulled away.
"How was your flight?" Beau asked. "Get any rest?"
Riley glanced at Paige as she dabbed at the corners of her eyes again. "Little bit." He shot Aunt Trudy a look. "What I could really do with is one of your big ol' roasts. Sooner the better."
"Lucky for you, I've got one in the Crock-Pot at Paige's house."
"And corn bread, mashed potatoes, plus Paige's pecan pie," Zac added.
Riley palmed his stomach. "Oh, man, you're killing me. Between the MREs, the hospital food, and the airline chow, it's hard to say which was worse."
"Did you check any bags?" Aunt Trudy asked, moving behind his chair and releasing the brakes.
"Just my chair. I gotta give this one back." He clapped his hands once. "All right. Let's get this show on the road. I can't wait to get home, eat some good chow, and sleep in my own bed." He rented a room at the back of the Roadhouse, Zac's restaurant. It wasn't much, but it was his.
Zac and Beau froze, trading glances. Paige shifted, and Aunt Trudy started rooting through her purse for something.
A cloud of unease bloomed in his gut. "What? What am I missing?"
"Um ..." Zac didn't quite meet his eyes. "Your old room isn't exactly there anymore. I expanded the kitchen over the winter. Lucy and I were planning to let you have our guest room upstairs when you came home, but ..." His eyes bounced off Riley's leg.
Yeah. Not on one leg. Sure, he might be able to manage on his crutches, but moving was painful and cumbersome, and the last thing he needed was a nasty fall to set him back even further.
His stomach deflated like a week-old party balloon. So much for the privacy of his room. "Guess I'm staying at the farmhouse then. That'll work just fine."
Their aunt had broken her leg a while back, and they'd made the formal dining room into a bedroom. He tried not to let the thought of being fussed over 24/7 bleed into his expression.
"Um, yeah ..." Zac rubbed the back of his neck. "The farmhouse is kind of under construction at the moment." He gave Riley a look that made all kinds of red flags wave.
"We just started renovating," Beau said. "Aunt Trudy's wedding gift to Eden and me. The whole downstairs is a wreck at the moment."
"It won't be finished for a month at least," Aunt Trudy said.
"No worries, though." Paige patted his shoulder. "I told them from the beginning I wanted you at my place. I've got that nice master suite on the main floor. It's perfect. The old doorframes are nice and wide, and your brothers have already built a ramp and put in handicap bars ..."
Everything faded as his thoughts spun. He was staying with Paige? His eyes flew to Zac, who was sending him some kind of telepathic apology, then back to Paige, whose words died off — probably at the look on his face.
Her eyes clouded with confusion. "Is — is that not okay? You want to stay someplace else?" A flicker of hurt flashed in the blue depths, but she shut it down quickly, covering with a smile he'd known her too long to buy.
Darn it. He was trapped. He forced a smile, crinkle lines and all. "Yeah. I mean no. That's great. Wicked awesome. But I can't take your room. I'll sleep on the couch or something."
She straightened. "You will not. I've already moved my stuff upstairs. It's a done deal."
His eyes flickered off Zac before returning to Paige. He held the smile, not an easy feat with his jaw knotted as tight as a dock line on a cleat. "You're a pal, Warren. Hey, why don't you guys go get the car, and Zac can help me with the chair. We'll meet you out front in a few."
Moving behind him, Zac edged Aunt Trudy aside. "Sooner we get home, sooner we get a taste of that roast."
"That's what I'm thinking," Riley said.
The others headed toward the exit, and Zac set the chair in motion. Riley rubbed his mouth with the tips of his trembling fingers, trying to calm the rising storm. How was he going to spend the next however many weeks cooped up with Paige?
But what choice did he have? Wasn't like he had a pile of cash in the bank for his own place. And even if he did, he was nowhere near ready for total independence-much as he'd like to deny it.
Just the thought of her fussing over him, helping him with clothes and all the other things he still needed help with ...
God, are You trying to kill me here? Can't I have just a little dignity? Would that be too much to ask?
So much for his plans to put space between them. He'd be trapped in the six hundred square feet of the bungalow's main floor. With Paige.
This was all Zac's fault. He squeezed the metal armrests until his hands ached. He worked to get himself under control as he watched his family exit the building. Then he turned to Zac.
"What the heck were you thinking? I'm staying with Paige? Do you have any idea what you've done?"
"Whoa, now." Zac stopped in front of the moving baggage carousel. "First of all, it was a group decision, so it's not like —"
"But you're the only one who knows. I thought you had my six, man."
"It's not like there were so many other options, Riley."
"Any option is better than this!"
"All right, calm down. I get it, this isn't what you were expecting." Zac set the brakes. "But maybe you could look at it as an opportunity, you know?"
"An opportunity for what? To have Paige help me with my gory dressings, help me get in the shower, take care of me like a flipping invalid? Is that the kind of opportunity you had in mind? Because I'm pretty sure my pride's already in the toilet, but maybe if we try a little harder, it can sink even lower."
A curtain of guilt closed over Zac's face. He grabbed the folded wheelchair from the moving carousel and set it up. "You've been through a lot, I get it. But she's your friend, and she wants to help. Shoot, actually being able to help feels a lot better than having you hurting thousands of miles away and not being able to do a thing. Maybe this could bring the two of you closer together. Maybe this is your chance."
Riley gave a humorless laugh. "Yeah, just what she always wanted. A cripple."
Something flickered in Zac's eyes. "You're the same person you've always been, Riley."
Not even close. Not on the outside, and sure as heck not on the inside. He pressed his lips tight before it came spilling out. Nothing would ever be the same. Paige deserved the best, and that sure wasn't him.
Excerpted from Just A Kiss by Denise Hunter. Copyright © 2016 Denise Hunter. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book. Couldn't put it down! Sweet and charming!
Loved this book! Love everything Denise Hunter writes!
Great book! Riley has trouble when he comes home from service as an amputee, he is putting on a brave face but he struggles inside. Paige is Riley's best friend, who actually dated Riley's brother for a bit. She takes on the role of caregiver to help Riley out when he get's home...but she has her own troubles trying to save the animal shelter. This is a sweet book. I really enjoyed it and if you love a sweet, wholesome, contemporary romance this is a book for you!
I've really enjoyed reading the Summer Harbor books. The connections between the Callahan brother's and the shared history between the characters made it really easy for me to fall back into their lives. This time, Riley Callahan gets his story. After enlisting in the military in order to escape unhappiness at home, he's back in Summer Harbor with an amputated leg and a broken spirit. His longtime best friend Paige is unsure how to handle this changes in Riley, but she knows she wants to be there for him, while he just wants to be able to ignore his feelings for Paige. I've come to expect sweet, romantic stories, grounded in realistic events from Denise Hunter, and I have to admit, I enjoy them for the escape they provide, as well as the endearing family dynamics that take place throughout the story. This one even has some closure for a couple of secondary characters, so that added an extra layer of satisfaction to the ending. I appreciate how there is no plot twist that comes from left field just to amp up the action. There are some surprises, yes, but they flow well in the story and add to it, rather than distract. Of course, there is a little bit of stubbornness on Riley's part, but it doesn't feel too off, considering everything that he's been through prior to the story's beginning. Solid romantic contemporary - I look forward to reading more from Denise Hunter soon! I received a complimentary copy of this novel, which I chose to review - the thoughts expressed here are my own.
I voluntarily received an ARC of Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter in exchange for an honest review. Just a Kiss is a sweet and classic romance. Riley has been in love with his best friend Paige for years, but has never told her due to fearing she won't feel the same way. Although not for some readers, the Christian aspects of Riley and Paige's story were by far my favorite. I found it refreshing to have prayer and scriptures included in a new adult romance. The scenes that did include references to scripture or prayer flowed seamlessly without seaming overbearing. I really enjoyed how Denise Hunter incorporated the physical and emotional struggles men and women experience after returning home from war into the story. Denise Hunter did a great job showcasing Riley's hesitancy to accept professional help, even though in the end counseling helped Riley overcome his demons.
Recommended! This is a well written story of how situations can change suddenly. Two brothers like the same woman -- one openly, the other younger brother staying in the background because he didn't think he should via for her love against his older brother's public announcement. That decision changed his life for years as well as the woman he loved.
This is my first book by Denise Hunter. I enjoyed the plot itself.- Military hero comes home as an amputee, struggling with his inner self. After an explosion rocked his world and he lost his leg, Riley doesn't know how to cope. His tough guy persona is just an act. He moves in with best friend Paige (here I have a bit of a conflict because in my personal opinion that doesn't portray the best Christian testimony, even though they are just friends) since his family currently has some remodeling going on and there is no spare room. Riley has been Paige's best friend forever, and since she has no family of her own, he has adopted her into his. His family members have done the same. Riley is struggling with PTSD and the emotional scars of battle. Here is where I struggled a little with the book. I understood his point of view, worthless feelings etc, yet I kind of wanted him to get over his poor-me-syndrome and she-deserves-so-much better attitude and move on with his life. She cared about him, but he just kept pushing her away. But isn't that just like life... sometimes it takes longer than we think for people to come around. Maybe it was just too close to reality - and real life can be painful. Paige is also dealing with insecurities of her own due to some past history with her family. She feels like everyone in her life always leaves. The story was good it just felt like the back and forth, "I love you" - "I love you not", drug out a little too long. Since the book is fairly predictable, it was like, get-it-together already! I did not read the previous two books in the series, but was able to follow this one just fine, even though most of the characters stories play out in the previous books. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
Another wonderful ending to a wonderful series! The Summer Harbour series couldn't have ended better. I did find it interesting in the introduction that this book was written as a stand alone but is still apart of the series. Good news for anyone starting from this book for sure! Riley's story is sort of heartbreaking and sweet. He's loved Riley for so long but having to deal with her dating his brother, it became too much and he enlisted in the military forces to escape, runaway. Now he's back but a little less for wear. After an IED leaves him an amputee, he was prepared to relax in the comfort of his own apartment, but turns out his family and friend Paige already have everything planned out and it's not what he was expecting; not thrilled would be to say the least of Riley's reaction. Paige has been in love with a Callahun brother before and it was hard getting over the first one, but why now are feelings stirring for her best friend Riley? Or have they always been there? Paige is a sweet character, I loved her throughout the series! The chemistry between them is no longer deniable! But the constant back and forth, not talking (JUST TALK ALREADY) I found myself screaming at them a few times to just talk! I loved every word of it! Fill with faith, hope, and love you can't get a better book than this. :) I give this book a 4 out of 5! I received this book for free from the publisher’s in exchange for this honest and unbiased review as part of BookLook Bloggers program.
With a title and cover like that, how can a reader not be drawn in, right? This story held everything I enjoyed about the last one in the series – unique story line, strong relationships, humor, and even heartbreaking depth at times. Just a Kiss proved to be so much more than just what meets the eye, giving the reader a beautiful glimpse into lives that are hurting and longing to start over, but don’t know how. By the end of it, you’ll find yourself rooting for Riley and Paige as if they were your best friends. I love stories where two good friends fall in love. Their tale doesn’t fall into place easily, though, let me tell you. There are misunderstandings – past and present. There are insecurities and fears, pressures and expectations, and so much more that dear Paige and Riley have to face inside this book. My heart broke for both of them at different points as I followed them along and hoped for their happily-ever-after. Their story is so much more than a simple love story. They have to learn to trust and forgive and be there for each other no matter what. I won’t deny I was a tad frustrated with our hero for a few decisions he makes, but the pain he’s going through can’t be denied. The lessons he learned along the way added to the beautiful, perfect ending. I’m becoming a big fan of Denise Hunter’s stories. The way she weaves complexity and tenderness into her character relationships leaves me always wanting more. I hate to say goodbye to every couple she introduces us to. I’m really looking forward to what she’ll be writing next! I received a free copy from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan’s Fiction Guild. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.
When Paige Warren’s best friend, Riley Callahan, comes back from Afghanistan as an amputee, she steps up to help her friend out and to help him through his recovery. What Paige doesn’t know is how Riley really feels for her. As her feelings begin to change, she begins to worry what it will do to their friendship. As Riley struggles to adjust he has all but given up on love, but can he suppress his feelings and stand the thought of Paige with another man? Will they be able to have their happily ever after? After reading the Goodbye Bride, I was excited to read this next book. Although it is the next book in the series, it is written to stand alone, so while there are references to the other book, you won’t be missing anything important if you haven’t read the others in the series. As usual, the book was beautifully written. I finished in just a few days. I couldn’t make myself put it down! I wanted to find out what was going to happen to Paige and Riley. The characters were very well developed and were very relatable. I loved Paige’s character. I love how it shows how she came from such a rough past and has turned out to be a wonderful woman because of God. I highly recommend this book! **I recived this book free from the publisher through the Fiction Guild program. I was not required to write a positive review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
4 stars- This 3rd and final novel in the Summer Harbor series wraps up the stories of the 3 Callahan brothers and their search for love. I have really enjoyed this series and couldn’t wait to read Riley and Paige’s story. From the first book, Riley has secretly loved his best friend Paige. In this book we finally get to see if Paige can finally return that love. This is another great story by Denise Hunter. Paige and Riley are both likable, believable, flawed characters that you can’t help but root for. They were at times so believable I became rather frustrated with some of their choices. I liked how Denise allowed the characters to grow and change making for a complete story that didn’t feel rushed. I also loved reading the conclusion to Aunt Trudy and Sheriff Colton’s story. This book has characters from the previous two stories but is completely a stand alone novel. I received this book from the publisher for an honest review.
It takes a special author to make the third book in a series shine a brightly as the first - but Denise Hunter does just that with Just a Kiss. We have been building toward this story for the last two books - but even if the reader hasn’t read them, the story would still be just a revetting and emotional. Riley has been in love with Paige since they were teenagers but the time just didn’t seem right. Then he had to endure the agony of watching his older brother Beau sweep in and take over boyfriend role. The only way Riley can see to deal with this is to enlist and is deployed over to Afghanistan. Returning to Summer Harbour a changed man - an IED has rendered him a amputee, Riley determines that any dreams of rekindling a love with Paige wouldn’t be fair to her. But he didn’t reckon on being looked after by his former love or where their mutual friendship could eventually lead. This was the perfect way to finish our time with the Callahans of Summer Harbour. And getting to see the conclusion of Aunt Trudy’s story too was an added bonus to sweet for words. Thanks again to the Fiction Guild for providing a complimentary copy for review - all opinions are my own.
What a wonderful story of finding where God wants you. Riley is returning home from war, not the man he left mentally or physically and his best friend Paige, whom he has secretly loved will be his caretaker. Hidden feelings, misunderstandings, faith, and finding your way in this messy thing called life is the theme. I love the characters and the return of old ones from the previous books in this series. I enjoyed the tying up of Aunt Trudy's and the sheriffs past. Denise Hunter has a way of drawing you in and not wanting to lay the book down. I received a complimentary copy of Just A Kiss from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Guild. The review and opinions are my own and not required.
Another great swoon-worthy romance from Denise Hunter! I've been waiting for this story since I first met Riley and Paige in Falling Like Snowflakes, the first book of this series. I always enjoy a great friends-to-lovers story, and this was the perfect conclusion to the Summer Harbor series. I adored having a physically flawed hero, even if it was heartbreaking to see what Riley had to go through. I love how the author always weaves in the inspirational threads as a natural part of the story. Plot: Riley Callahan has been in love with his best friend, Paige Warren, for a long time, even though she doesn't know it. He enlisted in the Marines just to get away when Paige was dating his brother. When Paige and Beau broke up, he was heading to boot camp, but now he's coming home an amputee. The Callahan family arranges for Riley to recover at Paige's house, which will make it very difficult for Riley to keep his feelings in check. Paige deserves better than a broken man. Characters: Riley's story has been heartbreaking from the beginning, and I loved getting to know him more. He's my favorite Callahan brother and quite the charming hero! Paige's love for animals and the shelter makes her endearing and I love her loyalty to her best friend. The chemistry between the two of them is so well written and I enjoyed every minute of their story. Recommendation: I'd highly recommend this book to those who enjoy great inspirational romance. It was the best of the series by far! While it can stand alone, I'd recommend reading the first two books, because you'll get a little more of Paige and Riley's back story. I'm sorry to see this series come to an end, but I look forward to seeing what the author comes up with next. Rating: 5/5 stars I received a copy of this book from the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild. This review is my honest opinion.
I have been waiting for Riley’s story. He enlisted in the Marines when his best friend Paige, was dating his brother and he was in love with her. The author did a great job of sharing how each of them started having different feelings for each other. It was very well done. Riley was planning to declare his feelings for Paige when he got home since she and his brother have broken up. However he comes home much sooner than expected with injuries from an IED. He is going to stay with Paige as he recovers (I did find this a little odd for a Christian book). I received this book from NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. You can see my full review at More Than a Review dot com where I rate the level of sex, violence, language and drug/alcohol use in books.
Denise Hunter is one of my favorite authors! I love her writing, and I've been anxiously awaiting Paige and Riley's story ever since I read Falling Like Snowflakes. If you aren't familiar with the Callahan family, jumping in with this book is not a problem, since it is written as a stand alone. Trust me though, read all three books! In addition to Falling Like Snowflakes, make sure to read The Goodbye Bride! Riley Callahan has loved Paige for years. It was incredibly painful for him to watch her love others, mainly his brother, Beau. Riley enlisted as a marine, and headed to boot camp. Over a year later, Riley returns home when an IED leaves him an amputee, and soon finds out he will be staying with his best friend, Paige, while he recuperates. As Paige cares for Riley, she begins to see through his facade, and realizes there are deeper issues he needs to deal with. In addition to the stress of walking the fine line of caring for Riley without being overbearing, her job is in jeopardy. Can she find a way to help Riley and keep her job? Can Riley find a way to help her in return? As the two team up, feelings begin to emerge, but is it safe for Paige to reveal those feeling to Riley as he fights his own battles? There is great chemistry in this book - it will take you from laughing, to tearing your heart out as Paige tries her best to help Riley. It is such a sweet story! I'm so thankful that Thomas Nelson sent me a free copy of this book to read and honestly review, but this is a book (along with any other Denise Hunter book) that I would not hesitate to purchase on my own. Hunter never disappoints!
I received this book from the Fiction Guild for an honest review. I love Denise's book and this is another one that was hard to put down. Second chances, when you care for someone for so long and don't tell them you realize that you make mistakes, you have Riley who has been good friends with Paige until she comes home from camp at 16 and see her a girl and not as just a friend. You help her with the loss of her father and finding out her mom is not her mom and then see her date one of your older brothers. You don't tell her you care for her and join the Marines and get injured. Paige loves Riley but she doesn't really do anything about it. The both of do find there way to each other and also help him heal from his injuries and loss of part of limb to find there way to true love.
A broken heart drove Riley to enlist in the Marines. As his tour in Afghanistan comes to an end, he plans to tell the now single Paige how he really feels about her. One IED changes those plans when it leaves him an amputee. With a missing limb, and a troubled mind, his new plan is to keep his distance from Paige, believing that she deserves better than the man he has become. But when he arrives home, he finds that his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige while he gets better. Paige wants nothing more than to help her best friend, but she knows he’s hiding how bad he really feels, and denying help he really needs. To add to her stress, her animal shelter is facing being shut down due to financial issues. Not to mention that her feelings for Riley are changing. Where she once saw a friend, she now saw an attractive man who made her heart beat faster. If only he would stop pushing her away. This is the third book in Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series. Each can be read as a stand alone novel, but the stories are all connected through the Callahan brothers. In comparison to the previous novel, The Goodbye Bride, this one felt a little lacking, but it was still a good read. I was a little frustrated by the total lack of communication between the two characters at some points, and this one also has those cliché romance novel moments, but the story is good enough to overlook that. I also had a little bit of an issue with the ending. It felt very abrupt. But overall, it’s a good, light, entertaining read. I received a copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for an honest review.
Denise Hunter is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors but I guess everyone has a book that doesn't click with everyone. This is one of them. I was looking so forward to reading JUST A KISS and getting Riley and Paige's story but I couldn't connect with these characters. Riley is a wounded hero. He lost a leg in Afghanistan and is now home to recover. He's sore, he's angry, suffering from PTSD, and majorly bitter. He things Paige only feels sorry for her and even though she tells him over and over that she loves him he keeps pushing her away. Paige expects to loose everything and everyone. Her dad died, her mom informed her that she wasn't really her daughter, and then her boss comes in to tell her that they are closing the shelter where she works. And Riley, of course, he'll leave her -- just like everyone else. Paige and her friends (the other Callahan brides) come up with ingenious ideas for raising money to save the shelter and that adds a bit of intrigue to the story. Can they or can't they? And will Riley actually stick around? The faith message is weak, and as a very conservative reader, I was bothered by the soft swear words and the taking of God's name in vain in this book. I found that offensive. I realize I'm probably in the minority here, but it really bothered me. I will continue to read Ms. Hunter's books, and hope this one is in the minority.
A sweet romance, as we have become to expect from the pen of Denise Hunter, ‘Just a Kiss’ is a story about two friends who take the big step from being just friends to becoming more. Sometimes frustrated with Riley about how he is dealing with Paige and his personal demons, I could not help but love the guy. I had gotten to know Riley in the first book of the series and hoped all along to read his and Paige’s story. It is a tale full of surprises – not only about Riley and Paige’s relationship, but also to find out the truth about Aunt Trudy and Sheriff Colton. This is a feel-good-romance that teaches us to find our inner peace, because we can’t fully love someone else if we cannot love ourselves. ‘Just a Kiss’ is well written and the storyline draws you in from the start. I am certainly going to miss the Callahan brothers as they are all great guys and I have enjoyed reading about their love lives in this series.
Just a Kiss is the third book in the Summer Harbor series, written by Denise Hunter and published by Thomas Nelson. I have really enjoyed this series, and am sad to see it end. I was hoping that this would be the best book of the series, but for some reason, something felt off about it to me. The story seemed to be researched with regard to Riley's injury, but, well, I don't know. Riley's character didn't seem as realistic as he did in book one. Paige Warren has always had a thing for the Callahan boys. First she was best friends with Riley through tough personal problems of her own, then she dated the eldest, Beau, which made Riley crazy, then after Riley enlists to get away from seeing Beau and Paige together and returns, she's caring for Riley. Riley Callahan has always loved Paige, and it was torturous to watch her with his brother. Thus, he enlisted into the Marines--only to have the couple break up around his going-away party. Now back from deployment with one less leg than he left with, Riley has mixed feelings about seeing Paige again. On one hand, he is excited to be reunited with her after all their Skype chats, but on the other hand, he doesn't feel worthy to be with her because of his survivor's guilt, PTSD, and one leg. I wish that I could pin down what felt "off" in this book. Maybe it was the fact that Riley had to stay at Paige's house during his recovery. Or that Riley didn't seem as realistic of a PTSD victim as did Jake Porter in Becky Wade's A Love Like Ours. Maybe it was how Paige and Riley fought over stupid things and had poor communication even though they were supposed to have this great, long-lasted friendship. Friends have to know how to communicate. Maybe it was also that the climax seemed weak, and the romance not as strong as in the first two books. Really though, I did enjoy this book--I read it over one weekend. I would still recommend reading it, especially after reading the other two in the series, although it does work as a standalone. It was a sweet story, and I hope I didn't dissuade anyone from reading this, as it is still worth reading. I only wanted to explain why it was four instead of five stars for me. Thank you so much to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own and were not required to be positive.
I have been anticipating this story since reading the very first book of the Summer Harbor series…and it did not disappoint! Riley and Paige had been best friends since childhood, yet Riley’s feeling for Paige changed from friendship to love many years ago. It was heartbreaking to see him struggling with his feelings during the previous two books, while Paige had no idea the pain she was causing him! He even enlisted in the Marines to get away from the pain of watching Paige date his brother! But reading this story was something of a fresh start for these two characters. It was so hard to watch as Riley struggled to find his place in the world again as an amputee. It was fascinating to read about what he had to go through both physically, mentally, and emotionally. The author also did a great job of sharing what Paige was going through as she watched Riley come to terms with what he could and could not do. This book was absolutely packed with wonderful romantic tension, some amazing kisses, and so much heart! Both characters struggled with the paths their lives had taken and whether God had really been there for them throughout the challenging times. Just a Kiss was a wonderful, contemporary romance, yet it delved deeper still…exploring hurt, trauma, and defining the meaning of true love. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Just a Kiss, written by Denise Hunter, is book 3 of the Summer Harbor Series. This series continues with the Callahan family stories. This book is about Riley Callahan as he returns from combat in Affgahanastan after suffering from a terrible injury. He comes home with multiple wounds, but mainly a wound that he thinks cannot be healed...a lost love. My favorite character of this story is Riley...He's a tough Marine, big guy with a big ego and an even bigger heart. He takes so much on himself because he doesn't fell like he's good enough after returning to Summer Harbor with all of his wounds...physical and mental. He doesn't want to give in so he makes decisions that he thinks are best for everyone instead of making them only for himself. Hunter doesn't take the inspirational part of the story too far, but just enough to let people realize how much we need to depend on the Lord through all the struggles of life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book for its romantic touches and inspirational splashes. It's definitely not lacking in either! I was gifted this book in exchange for my honest review.
When you see that a book is part of a series that you've not been reading, you're always taking a chance that the book isn't a true stand alone. I almost always take the chance unless there is a clear indication otherwise - sometimes it works out really well, sometimes not out all, and sometimes I'm mostly OK. This is definitely that last one. Technically I think you could say that this one is a stand lone, but it seems like you would have a better understanding of Paige, Riley and their relationship if you'd read the other stories. They've been friends for a long time and I get the feeling that this story was one in the making for a while. Paige loves Riley but doesn't see him in a romantic light. Riley on the other hand has had deeper feelings for years and being around Paige while she's dating his brother is more than he can handle. So he enlists in the Marines, only to come home injured in body and spirit. He has a lot of issues trying to acclimate to his new situation, dealing with his feelings over what happened to him overseas, and spending a large amount of time with Paige. It's hard to see him struggle so - you know that he needs to get professional help but he's not in a mind to do it. Paige is trying her best to be understanding but it's hard as the time spent with her friend has her looking at him with new eyes. You get a good feel for her conflict - not just with the new romantic feelings but also with trying to help someone that doesn't want it. I really think that Hunter does a fantastic job with the resolution of Paige and Riley's feelings, his issues and their futures. It's not an easy road for them but they have friends, family and their faith to see them through it. (Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)
The third and final book in the Summer Harbor series had the emotions going up and down. I've read this one and the second one in this series but each can be read as a standalone. The two main characters, Paige and Riley, were best friends. Riley helped Paige through some tumultuous times growing up. She lost her dad then her "Mom" abandoned her. Paige never felt wanted. Everyone she cared about deserted her. Even Riley left and joined the Marines. Only he came back home having lost one of his legs from a bomb attack. Riley was fighting the demons of war, PTSD, survivors guilt, and loss all while going through pain, both physical and emotional. And Paige never feeling good enough, was dealing with the possible closing of her beloved animal shelter because of finances. God had never abandoned either one of them but it took a long time for them to realize this. I quickly came to care about both of these characters. They were so real to me. I felt their pain and cried right along with them. When Riley decides to move 1200 miles away from Summer Harbor I wondered if he and Paige would ever reveal their feelings for each other and get their "happily ever after". Some books go very slowly for me but this one I read in a matter of two days. It made my heart happy! I received an ebook copy of this book through Net Galley for my honest opinion, which I have given.