Leaving Shadow Creek nine years ago was the hardest thing Molly Mayberry’s ever had to do…except maybe returning. She’s never regretted her choice, but a chance of a lifetime position at the local hospital means going home and facing her past, including her shrew of an estranged mother and the fiancé she ran out on. Ben Matthews is still the sexy, sweet man she left behind…and apparently still her fiancé.
Ben has been doggedly pursuing the position of fire chief since he was a teenager. There’s just one problem—he has to show his boss he’s ready to settle down. No matter how silly the condition, Ben will make it happen. And apparently so will his brother when he opens his mouth and decides to tell everyone Ben and Molly are engaged. Now the one woman he never stopped loving is living with him in a fake relationship, driving him crazy. Pretending only reminds him how right they were once, but if Ben gives in to the heat building between them, heartache is sure to follow.
Each book in the Shadow Creek, Montana series is STANDALONE:
* Christmas with the Sheriff
* The Baby Bombshell
* The Doctor's Redemption
* Baby on the Bad Boy’s Doorstep
* The Firefighter's Pretend Fiance
* A Christmas Miracle for the Doctor
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nine Years Later
Molly Mayberry didn't really believe in happily ever after. What almost-thirty-year-old did?
She had grown up, was an adult, a successful pediatrician with no desire to ever get married or have a family of her own. Molly had found out how cruel life could be, how easily innocence could be ripped from a person. She knew this firsthand, and she knew this as a pediatrician who sometimes had to deliver shattering news to a parent. There was nothing that could prepare a person for sudden events or devastating medical news, which was why she had learned not to get attached to people. When you grew too attached to people you had the power to destroy them, and they could do the same to you. It was also why she'd stayed away from her hometown of Shadow Creek for nine years. She had hurt too many people there.
But now she was back to fill a one-year contract position at the new pediatric health center at their regional hospital. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. The new medical center was a state of the art, forty-million-dollar pediatric center that had attracted some of the best pediatric surgeons, oncologists, and specialists. It was desperately needed and would save thousands of children having to leave the state for specialized health care. When she was offered the position, she couldn't have turned it down. She could handle one year in Shadow Creek before embarking on a new chapter in her life and joining Doctors Without Borders in Mexico. Coming back had never been part of her life plan but excelling at her career was. She didn't like staying in one place too long anymore.
Her plan was not to socialize with anyone from her past. They weren't just ghosts that haunted her in her dreams; here they were alive, and they could judge and condemn her. It was impossible to hide in a town like Shadow Creek. So far, because of her crazy work hours, she'd managed to avoid most people on her top-ten list for the last month.
No one in small towns ever forgot, and small towns never changed. Well, some things changed, she thought as she stared up at The Chocolatiers shop sign that promised chocolate and coffee.
Molly peaked through the glass door, making sure her mother wasn't inside. Then she did a second scan to make sure the man she'd been almost engaged to — the one she'd broken up with abruptly — wasn't in there. It had been callous, but it had been her only choice at the time. He'd never understand; no one would.
It occurred to her she might not even know what Ben looked like now. Well, she could guess. He was probably gorgeous. And married. For sure married. Running into him and his wife would be a disaster for her because she'd never gotten over him. She would think of Ben without wanting to. Sometimes she'd see a young family and there would be something about the man that would remind her of him. He'd hold out a chair for his wife, or take her hand while she was speaking, or he'd be pushing a stroller and jogging; that's what Ben would have done. When she felt guilty, she'd wish that he'd gotten over her really quickly and found a lovely woman and had started a family. When it was really late at night and she was exhausted from work and lying in her bed, alone, she'd imagine herself with Ben. She'd imagine their house, their kids, she'd imagine him laughing and kissing her. Sometimes that was the only way she'd fall asleep. She'd imagine that nothing horrible had ever happened to her, that happily ever after had been in the cards for her. It was hard to picture that version of herself, the girl who actually wanted marriage and kids. But it was right for Ben; he would have made a great father and husband.
The door to the shop opened, and an elderly man held it for her. She smiled, the gesture forcing her back to reality. Stop thinking about Ben. Those days were long gone. They were barely adults back then. He probably hadn't given her a second thought.
The sweet aroma of chocolate and coffee doused her senses as she stepped into the charming shop. It was already bustling despite the early morning hour. She took her place in line and continued to admire the decor and the enticing display of handmade truffles, bags of locally roasted coffee, and baked goods.
"Oh my gosh, is that you? Molly, right?" a pretty and very pregnant brunette woman said from behind the counter when it was her turn.
Molly sucked in a breath and then smiled. "Gwen Bailey! How are you?" She and Gwen had grown up together despite a slight age difference. She also knew Gwen was now married to one of her new colleagues, Dr. Luke Thomson, at the hospital.
"Great. Really great, but crazy busy," she said with a laugh. "It's so good to see you. Luke told me you were back in town."
Molly smiled at her. "I am, I am. I'm happy to be here," she said, lying like a pro.
"The new pediatrics center is gorgeous and such a blessing for the community," Gwen said.
She nodded. As a pediatrician, it was a dream come true to work at the new facility. Being offered the position as head of the department was her crowning career achievement, especially at her age. She'd only had to sacrifice her adolescence ... her dreams and entire adulthood to reach it. But she loved her career. She loved the babies, the children. "I'm really blessed to be working there. They have state-of-the-art operating and delivery rooms, and the staff have been so welcoming. Especially Luke. He's made me feel right at home. And he talks about you and the baby nonstop," she said with a smile.
Gwen laughed. "He's becoming slightly unbearable, but I can't complain. He's already said you're the best around, and when this little baby decides to make her appearance, you're the only one he's trusting as our pediatrician."
Molly smiled. "Well, I'd be honored."
"He mentioned you're also working at the new women's shelter."
Molly nodded again. She didn't like getting into that too much. People thought of it as a big deal that she was visiting mothers and children who didn't have insurance. She saw it as her duty. On some level, she thought that maybe it was therapeutic. Maybe even a penance of sorts, but she didn't let herself dwell on that, because it had the potential to derail the life she'd put together for herself. "It's not a big deal. I'm happy to help ... I hate to cut this short, but I know you have a big lineup, and I need to get to the hospital. Could I get the largest coffee you have and maybe one of those chocolate croissants I see your husband eating all the time?"
Gwen started pouring coffee. "Coming right up! He can eat and eat and never gain a pound," she said over her shoulder.
"It's a guy thing. Totally unfair," Molly said, tapping her fingers on the gleaming white marble counter.
"I know," Gwen said with a sigh, placing a white paper bag and white takeout coffee cup on the counter.
Molly handed her the correct change and picked up her cup, aware of the long line. "Sorry to have chatted your ear off!" she said, backing up.
Gwen waved a hand as she helped the next customer. "No way. Great seeing you, Molly. Welcome home."
"Thanks. Take care of yourself. I'll see you soon," Molly said, walking away. She added cream to her coffee at the far end of the marble counter, contemplating the welcome home. Home. She hadn't thought of Shadow Creek as home in over a decade, and she wasn't exactly sure how she felt about making it her home again. Nine years ago, everything had changed for her, including her relationship with her family. Being in Shadow Creek meant running into her mother often. Her sisters were long gone as well, and she missed them. It was for the best though; she'd hurt them.
She snapped the lid on her coffee, deep in the black hole of family problems, and didn't even notice her mother standing in front of her. Molly inhaled sharply as she almost bumped into her. Her mother stood there, looking as though she hadn't aged a bit, but even worse, she looked as though she hadn't softened, either. There wasn't an ounce of emotion in her overly made-up face. "Hello, Molly. I would have thought you would have had the courtesy to at least call me and let me know you were back in town."
Molly wrapped her hands around her coffee cup and tried to keep her temper in check. "Hello, Mother. I've been busy. I believe you stopped keeping tabs on me a long time ago."
Her mother's eyes flashed. "I heard you were offered the prestigious position as head of pediatrics. You must be pleased with yourself. You are the youngest doctor to have ever achieved that at the hospital."
Molly stiffened as her mother spoke. Even though it was a small town and news traveled fast, her mother knew a few too many details for her own comfort. Of course, it was always about prestige with her mother. Some things never changed. "I'm happy and honored," she said, stepping to the side of the now- crowded bakery. She wanted out of here. It felt too loud, too noisy, too hot for her liking. "I need to get to work now."
Her mother reached out to grasp her arm and Molly paused. "Molly, things don't have to be this way. It pains me that you've distanced yourself from me."
Molly looked away from her mother's sharp stare. She gently withdrew her arm from her mother's grasp. "I don't need to be guilted. You know why I don't call or come home. Stop pretending nothing happened. What happened will never magically go away, as much as I'd love that. It just won't. I'm here for work and nothing else."
Her mother pursed her lips, and Molly ignored the stab of guilt she felt. She didn't need this. It was too early in the day for family drama. This was why she'd hesitated for a long time before accepting the position. Her mother always manipulated everyone to get what she wanted. Nine years ago was the last time she'd allowed her to do so. "Well, I can see you are still my most stubborn child. Thankfully, your sisters don't feel the same as you. They are coming home for Christmas as they always do. Now that you live here, I expect you will be joining us."
Her cheeks were burning. Christmas wasn't even on her radar; it was months away. Somehow, her mother always found a way to get what she wanted. Even though she wasn't close with Melody and Addie anymore, she knew she couldn't avoid them if they were in town, but it didn't make things easier for her. She'd treated a lot of people very poorly in order to protect them. "Fine. See you in three months," she said, walking away, trying to weave through the crowd before she ran into someone else she knew.
"Wait, Molly," her mother called after her.
She paused and turned around, not wanting to cause a scene, and waited for whatever else it was her mother needed to say.
"Do you need help finding a house? I just signed a gorgeous listing with a view of the mountains. It's a newly built home, very large, with all the bells and whistles."
She tried to keep her snarky comments to herself, even though she was tempted to say something. Her mother, in addition to being mayor of Shadow Creek, was also a realtor. Her priorities had always been work, money, and letting the town know she had plenty of both. "I don't need large, and I don't need bells and whistles. I'm not sure I'm buying anything, because I'm leaving in a year and won't be staying here permanently."
"Well, still. Buy now and even if you have to sell, I'm sure you'll clear a tidy profit."
"I'm staying at the inn because it's easy and comfortable. If and when I look for a home, I'll call Julia Donovan."
Her mother's perfectly manicured and bejewelled hand flew to her chest. "You'd go with Julia Donovan over me?"
Molly resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I was friends with Julia in high school."
"I'm your mother."
"We both know you failed me when I needed you most," Molly said, backing up a step. She needed to leave. She had way too busy of a day to have her mother and their gruesome history railroad it.
"You have a selective memory. When the going got tough you called me first."
Molly shut her eyes. When the going got tough. What a callous way of putting what had happened to her. "Goodbye, Mother."
"Well, just to warn you, because I really do care about you, Ben Matthews is still in town. He's worked his way up to captain."
Molly wasn't surprised. That had always been his dream. "So?"
Her mother rolled her eyes. "Stay away from him so you don't make a fool of yourself. He's never forgiven you, and he's given me the cold shoulder ever since. I'm trying to spare you the humiliation of having him snub you."
She didn't know what her mother's angle was but looking out for her was not it. She didn't care enough to find out or to get involved in one of her plans. "Goodbye, Mother." This time her mother didn't call after her.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she opened the door and drew in a deep gulp of crisp, fall air as she stepped out onto the sidewalk. Luckily, she didn't even have time to dwell in the anger and hurt because her phone indicated she had a voicemail. She marched down the sidewalk, her phone in one hand and her coffee in the other as she glanced down at her screen to retrieve the message. Then she proceeded to walk into a wall.
The wall had a voice, a deep, very familiar voice. The voice was cursing. "Hell, I heard you were back in town."
Anxiety gripped her and she dropped her cup of coffee on the sidewalk. She didn't want to see him. She didn't want to talk to him. It was too much too soon — first her mother then Ben. She refused to think about the first time she'd spilled coffee on him, because this time things were different. Now he hated her. Back then he'd laughed and flirted, and it had been the beginning of the most amazing time in her life. Now she was filled with shame for the way she'd treated him.
She wasn't prepared to see him. She knelt down to pick up her cup, trying to get her emotions under control, and then stood, looking way up, past the well- worn jeans that hugged his athletic form, the coffee-stained T-shirt with the SCFD logo on the front that clung to a wide and solid chest, to the face that was even more devastating than in her dreams. She put on her professional serene doctor face and forced a smile, despite the churning in her stomach. "I'm so sorry, Ben. There must have been an uneven piece of sidewalk. Uh, nice to see you."
His jaw was tight, his eyes hidden behind aviator sunglasses. "Sure."
She ignored the snub and blurted out the sentiment she should have said in a card or email when she'd heard about his dad passing a few years back. She clutched the shoulder strap on her Kate Spade purse, her sweating hands a pathetic testament to his effect on her still. "I'm sorry about your father ... I would have called but ... "
His jaw clenched and unclenched a few times, and she didn't know if he was going to answer. He pulled off his glasses and she felt so tiny, so insignificant, when his opinion of her shone in his eyes, louder and clearer than any words could ever vocalize.
Ben had the perfect family. He'd been raised by good people, and he and his brother had always been inseparable. They had followed in their father's footsteps and had both become firefighters. She'd heard about his father dying in a building while trying to rescue a child. The child had survived, but he hadn't.
Molly adored his mother and had spent many summer afternoons chatting with her on their front porch, sipping iced tea while waiting for Ben to come back from work. That had been the best summer of her life. She'd fallen in love for the first and only time, and her future had looked idyllic. She looked away from Ben's gaze for a moment. She hated thinking of what their opinion of her must be now.
"How are your mother and Finn?" she asked.
His dark eyes clouded over. "My mother is sick."
Her heart sank. "Oh, Ben, I'm sorry to hear that. Will she be okay?"
He gave a shrug. "We're not sure."
She didn't feel right asking for details. She'd love to visit Marjorie and be supportive, but she didn't think she'd be welcome after the way she'd treated her son. "Please let her know that if she needs anything ..."
He looked like he wanted to make a smart comment, but he just gave her a terse nod.
"I should probably get going. I have a full day ahead," she said.
"Wouldn't want to keep you from your priorities," he said, the bite in his voice hurting as much as predicted.
She forced a smile, determined to keep up the image she'd given him nine years ago. "Thank you. Nice to see you."
She walked away from him on legs that felt like they weren't strong enough to carry her away from him again.
* * *
Ben watched the woman who had once been the most important person in his life walk away from him. He had heard Molly was back in town, but today was the first time he'd actually seen her.
Molly was more beautiful than he remembered. Her blonde hair had been pulled back into a sleek ponytail and her dark skinny jeans and navy sweater had clung to her slender body. Her eyes had been the same Montana sky-blue eyes that held so many secrets. But he didn't need to find out what they were. He knew enough to stay the hell away from Molly. She'd made a fool of him; she'd broken his heart, and even though it was a lifetime ago, he'd never had a connection with a woman like he'd had with her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Firefighter's Pretend Fiancee"
Copyright © 2018 Victoria James.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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
Oh, the feels! Victoria James's stories manage to pull me into that amazing reader space where everything that exists is the story and the characters, where there are laughter and tears, where the angst ties you into a knot yet the jubilee of life and love breaks all the shackles in your heart and mind. This series has been an emotional roll-a-coaster for me from the start and finding this pearl on my backlogged TBR file made me stay up at night to read it through in one sitting. There is so much to love about Molly Mayberry and Ben Matthews, and about their love story. Both Molly and Ben are driven professionals, dedicated, caring people, who feel deeply, who are protective, loyal, honest, and kind, willing to go the extra mile for their loved ones. Or walk away from their lives, if they believe that is the right thing to do. I loved the honesty between Molly and Ben, yes, that might seem a contradictory term with all the secrets, but when they are now facing each other, they have this raw honesty about their feelings towards each other that they are unable, or even willing, to deny or hide. It went directly to my heart, oh, the agony, hurt, and pain, from the past and the in the present, it was so tangible and true. My heart went out for Molly, everything she had to go through, for everything she had survived, and for everything she hid in her heart. She is such a strong, amazing woman, I admire her immensely. Ben's forgiving, understanding character just blew me away. He is headstrong, yet so tender with Molly when needed. He can be a daredevil in his job, yet so patient and caring with Molly's heart. It honestly broke my heart to read about the adversity Molly had gone through. To top of that, her mother's manipulation and controlling attitude, and I wanted to run to hug her, to protect her, and to stand up for her, not that she would have needed it, cause this lady was capable to stand up for herself, she had to learn that in the hard and painful way a decade ago. All that ache and angst of life and love is beautifully balanced with witty dialogue and humor between the siblings and their friends. The supporting cast and grew, especially both Molly's and Ben's siblings, are a delightful addition to the tale, and I so hope they all get their own HEA as well. Another balancing act for the relationship drama was the details of both Ben's firefighter job and Molly's work at the hospital and at the shelter as a doctor. Those details and events gave front row seats to the hero and heroine's lives, soul, and mind, to see what they were made of to having to be able to deal with things they did, on a daily basis, and still continue on. The love scenes in the book happen behind the closed doors and in the reader's imagination. I didn't notice any major issues with language in the tale, yet I do feel compelled to mention that some might get trigged of issues surrounding detailed conversations about rape. Not even family drama and past mistakes can stop the true soulmates finding their destinies, in this deliciously adorable love story that pulled all the emotions to the surface, and had me up till wee hours of the morning light. I just love this series, the small town and its characters, and the easy, effortless flow of the author's writing. ~ Five Spoons
U here baby?
Another great in the series
Author writes with so much emotion. Love it
Molly Mayberry left Shadow Creek nine years ago, inexplicably breaking up with the love of her life, Ben Matthews, by telling him an awful lie. Now she’s returned as the hospital’s new pediatrician, both reluctant and anxious to face him, knowing he probably still resents her betrayal. Ben is a captain in the Shadow Creek Fire Department, looking to be promoted to chief soon by the man currently in that role who’s ready to retire. However, he’s looking for someone more settled and less inclined to take high risks. When Ben’s brother unexpectedly announces that Molly and he (Ben) have not only reconciled but are engaged, both decide to continue the ruse until Ben gets the promotion and his mother’s health improves. This is a sweet story that served up some extremely serious themes. Molly’s secret is shocking and there were far more devastating impacts than at first perceived. I was drawn into a story with many more layers than I’d anticipated, which made this a page turner. The title suggests a certain frivolity that’s just not here (thankfully). I’d trusted the author to deliver as she’s done with the other books in this series and she came through. Ben and Molly are complex characters beneath the surface and their issues don’t have easy resolutions. Their families play pivotal roles, which added many more layers. I liked that it evoked a wide range of emotions to keep me engaged. I very much enjoyed the story, though there were a couple of dangling plot issues involving secondary characters that weren’t more fully explored. It ends with a cliffhanger involving one of them so I’m hoping I don’t have a long wait for the next book. 3.5 stars (I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review)
I enjoyed these story and enjoyed reading about these two characters Ben and Molly This is a second chance love story. It was a great read and kept my interest and this is the first story I have read by these author. I look forward to reading other books. This ARC was complimentary provided by the publisher and NetGalley. I am voluntarily providing my honest review.
Love this book. I read the series in 4 days. Loved every book. Looking forward to more.
My rating: 4.5 Stars Molly Mayberry and Ben Matthews were a young couple very much in love with a marvelous future ahead of them. Something drastically changed, however, and, as this story shifts, it is now nine years later. Molly had made a difficult decision and left town. She is back again, now a pediatrician, with a one-year contract at the local hospital. There are two people Molly would desperately like to avoid, Ben and her mother. Ben is a firefighter, and has risen to the ranks of captain. He is now after the position of fire chief. He may be declined the position because he is not a family man. Before he can stop himself, Ben blurts out to his boss that he is actually engaged to be married. Through an odd set of circumstances his brother tells their mother that Ben is indeed engaged - To Molly. Now, Ben not only has to tell this to Molly, but he must make it seem real. Part of the reason is that his mother is in ill health, and Ben and his brother know that this will make her very happy. Can Ben and Molly pull it off? The Firefighter’s Pretend Fiancée is a great second-chance romance story. The characterization is great. Ben is a hardworking firefighter, and a man dedicated to his family. He was incredibly hurt by Molly, and even though he thinks this plan just might work, he has to fight his feelings for her. Molly is a bit overworked. She is quite focused on her work and her future. Despite her past, her life now, and her goals, it is no surprise that Molly still desires Ben. She had a reason for her actions, but does not want to deal with the past. She would just like to fulfill her current obligations. This is quite the balanced story. It deals with such a sweet romance, with enough conflict to keep the story very interesting. It was a delightfully quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. There is a sensitive issue that is dealt with in this story, however. It is very easy to connect with Molly and Ben, as well as the others in this story. This is the fifth book in a series that I have not read, but it does quite well as a standalone. I can definitely see other stories that will develop and so I hope to continue with this series. Many thanks to Entangled Publishing for this ARC to review in exchange or an honest opinion
The Fireman’s Fake Fiancé sounded like a light hearted silly read from the title. It isn’t.Molly has returned after nine years to her hometown. The author sprinkles in hints as to what happened to her to cause her to end the relationship with Ben, the man she had always been in love with. When we get the whole story it is still heartbreaking even with the hints that we were given. Molly is super intelligent and a brilliant doctor. It was nice to see an author creating a character with so many dimensions. Ben was Molly’s first and only love. When she broke up with him it devastated him. Ben and his brother are firefighters just like his dad had been. He is a wonderful character. He had just the right balance of confidence and empathy. The relationship between Molly and Ben’s mother was precious and in direct contract to the relationship Molly had with her own evil witch of a mother. The next book in the series is Finn’s story. I hope Molly’s mother gets her Karma in that book. Molly’s sisters are also interesting characters and I hope they get their own books. Her one sister is also a doctor and the other sister opened a book store. I highly recommend the book. However it helps to know that you are not going into a chick lit story. This story is emotional on several levels. It helps you understand what someone goes through after a traumatic experience. I also understood more about what a firefighter goes through when told them cannot save someone and they have to leave a building knowing someone might be in it still. Language - d2mn (23), Sh7t (6), b2stard (1), violence - 1.5 - it was in the past so I only rated it 1.5, the author didnt give a lot of descriptive details sex - behind closed doors drugs/alcohol - some drinking 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.
Oh my goodness this story grabs hold of your heart and does not let go. Both Ben and Molly are very likeable characters and you want them to reunite from the get go. But wow, Molly went through hell and back. Her secrets were hinted at, but once they were revealed, holy moly, that was tough. Ben was truly a wonderful man, there for Molly when he found out what had happened to her. Tears came to my eyes during those scenes. Their love was powerful and strong. Ben has to be one of the sweetest, most genuine men I have read. What he said to Molly was like an arrow to my heart. This was truly a touching story of healing, second chance at love, and self restoration. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
How do you not fall in love with a small town in Montana-land. The state with some of the most sweet, sexy, tender-hearted romance brings me this one from Victoria James. Molly did something nine years ago that she would never regret. She finds that returning to the scene of the events from the past will not be so easy after all. Going back to Shadow Creek, even if it is for work, proves something she got wrong years ago. She regretted leaving the one man that she loved and still loved. If only she open up her eyes, mind, heart, and give it more than the chance laid at her feet. Ben still loves this woman that left him behind. And now he gets a chance to see if things can be what they should have been by doing something more so to help his chances at a new higher position. Ben and Molly finds themselves in a second chance fake relationship that turn all too real. They find that time has only allowed for their feeling and connection to deepen. This was my first visit to Shadow Creek and I am most certainly looking to see more of this town. I would happily recommend this romance to anyone looking for a romance, a small town romance, a Montana-land romance, a second chance romance, a fake to real romance, a left you nine years ago now I'm back romance. These characters are warm and welcoming. There are complexities to some characters while others were just as they seems at first glance.
The Firefighter's Pretend Fiancee is a sweet, second-chance, fake relationship romance set in Ms. James's fictional (unfortunately!) town of Shadow Creek, Montana. Molly's back in her hometown after nine years away--she never intended to come back, but a one-year career opportunity came up that she can't say no to--and her first love and guy she unceremoniously dumped nine years ago is not only still there (and a hot fireman to boot) but he conveniently needs to appear "settled" to get a promotion. Obviously, a fake relationship is the way to go, right? Nothing could go awry there... ;) Though Molly and Ben were great characters and wonderful together--once they let themselves be together, that is--I have to say that my favorite relationship in the whole book is Ben and Finn's. Nothing made me LOL as much as when those two were on the page together...heck, Finn didn't even have to be there in person, because sometimes Ben just thinking about him (okay, what he was going to do to him when they were together again) was enough. My only complaints here are with the resolution--things get resolved really, really quickly in the end, and it doesn't seem like quite enough, somehow--and the fact that Molly's mother is so unrepentantly horrible. Maybe she'll come of better in future books...? But here we're left pretty unresolved as far as she is considered. Still, a reason to keep reading! (As if I need one... ;)) Though this is the fifth book in the series, it would work just fine as a standalone--several past series characters make (very brief) appearances here, but you don't need to be familiar with their stories at all to enjoy this one. Molly has two single sisters, though, and Ben an unattached brother, so... (Not even a subtle hint, I know. I am not ashamed.) I'm really looking forward to Finn (here I'm giving the author some serious side-eye for that epilogue, because that was just not right--it had better be fixed soon), Addie, and Melody's stories! Rating: 4 stars / B I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Loved, loved, loved this story! It's a wonderful blend of a second chance romance and a fake relationship story that will tug all your heartstrings. Molly never intended to return to Shadow Creek but after nine years away a too good to pass up job opportunity has her returning and facing the best and worst parts of her past. Ben was definitely the best but will he ever be able to forgive her for leaving? Now the job Ben has been working towards is right at his fingertips. The only thing holding him back from his dream job of fire chief is the fact that he isn't married. When his oh so helpful brother announces to everyone that Ben and Molly have rekindled their relationship they have no choice but to go along with the lie. Will it really be so bad being with Molly again? I definitely recommend this book!
Ben and Molly had BIG dreams. Ben was going to become a firefighter and support them, while Molly went on to medical school. They were going to get married and have kids, until it all fell apart. Fast forward nine years...Molly has returned to Shadow Creek, Montana to work as a pediatrician at the new state of the art children's hospital. She knows her relationship with her mother is beyond repair, but she hopes they can at least be civil to each other. While she doesn't expect Ben to welcome her with open arms, she's hoping to at least apologize to him for past mistakes. Apologize and hope for forgiveness. Ben had heard Molly was back in town, but he'd avoided seeing her....until she crashed into him spilling coffee all over him. Ben always thought Molly was the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, but the woman she's become is stunning. Ben doesn't want to hate Molly and what she did to them, he even thought he'd moved on, but realizes he'll never love another woman like he did Molly. When his mom's health and his dream job is threatened, he and his brother (mostly his brother) concoct a scheme. Ben will ask Molly to marry him so he can be seen as a family man. But will Molly agree? While I own several Victoria James novels, this was my first Shadow Creek novel to read. I can't wait to go back and read the others! This is one of the best second chance romances I've read. I honestly don't know if I could've done what Molly did for Ben. He was so consumed by hurt, that he was so mean to Molly in the beginning. Molly had trusted her mom with her secrets, but her mom steered her wrong. Nine years of wasted time, hurt, secrets, lies, lost love...was devastating. Molly not only pushed Ben away, she pushed her sisters, her best friends, away. I loved how Ben handled the truth and rallied behind Molly while encouraging her to tell her sisters the truth. The story was very well written, easy to read, and not too wishy-washy. I read a gifted copy and all opinions stated are my own.
Rating 4.5/5* I really enjoy books by this talented author and this is a great addition to her Shadow Creek series. Although this is the fifth book in this series, each story is written to be a standalone read, so don’t let that put you off reading this fantastic small town romance! Growing up Molly Mayberry and Ben Matthews loved each other and planned on having their HEA together. However, Molly unexpectedly broke off their relationship, leaving him heartbroken, before she went back to study to become a doctor. That was nine years ago. Now she’s reluctantly returned to Shadow Creek for the first time to work for a year in the local hospital but she’s dreading reconnecting with family and friends from her past. Ben never left Shadow Creek and is a firefighter with a chance at becoming the fire chief but first he has to show his boss that he really is in a relationship with someone and ready to settle down. When he tells his brother, Finn, he didn’t expect Finn to tell their ill mother that Ben is engaged to Molly again! This is the start of a fake relationship that both struggle to keep fake. However, Molly’s real reason for breaking off their original relationship, her manipulative mother and fate may still thwart their chances of achieving their happy ever after once more... I love small town romances where the reader can get to know the members of the community and relate to them through the stories and this is an excellent example of just such a series. The angst and turmoil in this story was horrendous! You really get to feel for Molly and everything she went through and as for her mother, well, words fail me - you’ll have to read it yourself to discover why. Ben is such a brilliant character, a real hero in every sense of the term. It is a story of coming to terms with events, accepting the past, forgiving yourself and moving on to the future. I really enjoyed it and hope that the next story in the series will star Finn - I need to know how he gets on. I’d also like to know what Molly’s mother does after Ben spoke to him! I requested and was given a copy of this book, via NetGalley. This is my honest review of the book after choosing to read it.
3.5 stars This book has no cussing and no on page sex. If those things bother you, there's nothing to worry about here. While this book is set in Shadow Creek, you do not have to read the others to enjoy this – it totally stands alone. This book had a really wonderful story line, and I thought that both Molly and Ben were incredibly likable characters, and they were the kind of characters that I couldn't help but root for from the start. Their backstory was traumatic and sad, but their reunion and the way that they built up their new relationship was really great. Ben's relationship with his brother Finn was also ridiculously adorable. I would have happily read a 'buddy cop' type book with just those two in it, it was that great. I also loved the looks-in on the other characters in Shadow Creek – seeing the changes in their lives and how things had changed for the better for them was fabulous. I very much hope that Finn will get a happily ever after soon. Especially after that epilogue. Sadly, the ending felt really rushed, and there were way too many unanswered questions to make this one a five star read for me. ***SPOILERS to end of paragraph*** What happened with the baby? Did Molly and Ben ever try to find her just to make sure she was okay? Did they ever make peace with not knowing? And why does Marlene keep skating by despite being an utter demon? I really expected a huge Molly/Marlene moment after the way her mother treated her, I wanted Molly to take her power back from her mother, but instead that story line just kind of petered out without a strong conclusion. If even just the Molly/Marlene thing been resolved rather then left to flap, this would have been a five star read.
Victoria James is one of my favorite authors because she makes me believe in love. She makes me believe that true love knows no distance or time. And with the right person, it can heal the most battered heart and soul. I’ve read every single one of her books (fifteen and counting) and I know each time I’m in for an emotional rollercoaster. I know Victoria is going to rip my heart apart, only to put it back together in the end. Even knowing this, I feel as though I am never prepared. Victoria’s Shadow Creek, Montana series continues with The Firefighter’s Pretend Fiancée, the fifth book in the series. This is a standalone read, with small glimpses of past characters. For me, this book feels like the start of a new era for the series that will focus on three sisters. The Firefighter’s Pretend Fiancée is a second chance love story. The story features second generation firefighter Ben Matthews and pediatrician Molly Mayberry. Nine years ago, the two were on a path working towards their hopes and dreams. Molly even had everything all planned out, down to the number of kids they would have and where they would live. The icing on the cake was Ben’s endearing proposal. Fast forward and the two are not on speaking terms. In fact, Molly doesn’t talk to any of her friends from Shadow Creek or her family. In the past nine years, Molly has only been back in town for a total of three days, to attend her father’s funeral. But things are about to change, in a very big way. Molly is offered the once in a lifetime opportunity to head the pediatric department at the local hospital. This one year contract is even more impressive because she’s so young. She just has to avoid everyone from her past. Unfortunately, in a town as small as Shadow Creek, that is impossible. Ben has been dealing with his own problems. He and his family are in limbo, waiting to find out the status of his mother’s health. His lifetime dream of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming fire chief of the Shadow Creek Fire Department is in jeopardy because he’s too reckless and isn’t a family man. But as luck would have it, Ben’s younger brother Finn comes up with the solution of Molly pretending to be his fiancée to get the job and make their mother happy. The charade of Ben and Molly being a couple gets out hand when they are forced to move in together. The close proximity reignites feelings just under the surface and make them realize they never stopped loving each other. “I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of kissing you or missed kissing you.” But in order to move forward, Molly has to come clean about why she really broke up with him years ago and seemingly turned her back on her family and her hometown. “I am a doctor and I can fix people, and I can’t fix myself.” The Firefighter’s Pretend Fiancée was classic Victoria James. This is a story of friendship, forgiveness (not only of others but also yourself), and redemption. It’s full of heart and passion. This was definitely a tearjerker so have tissues handy. I loved the playfulness of Molly and Ben, when they finally relaxed. Finn is a secondary character full of life, who provided humor throughout the story. He deserves to have his own book. I know who the future couples are going to be and I can’t wait to read their stories! **Received a copy of the book courtesy of Entangled Publishing and voluntarily reviewed.**
Another winner in Shadow Creek! I loved Molly and Ben's story and found myself flipping pages just as quickly as possible. This is a compelling romance that is compelling and poignant. Ben is the classic hottie with a side of recklessness that finds himself held back from the promotion he want to fire chief because he hisn't married. Molly is a success story in that she became a successful physician, however, she paid a very high cost for this success. When she was younger, she was assaulted and ran away from her life and all she held dear to escape it. That included Ben, her boyfriend that she had promised forever. When she returns for a year to serve as a pediatrician at the local hospital, she forced to face more than she planned on. This is wonderful story that hooked me from the first page. Fans of the genre will love this one and want to put it at the top of their TBR list. Just be aware that, while dealt with from a historic perspective and a gentle touch, it does touch on assault that could be tough for some readers. The author is on my must read authors' list.
This is the first book that I have read by Victoria James and I have to say that it blew me away. This book was full of so much emotion both happy and sad that it literally gutted me. Ben and Molly have been given a second chance at love but it is all not happy sunshine and roses. Molly left Ben nine years ago and told him a lie that broke them up but she is holding on to a secret that could be a game changer in their lives. Ben is such a sweet, hot and sexy guy. He has a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody. Molly is sweet too but she is so broken from things that have happened in her past. She is stuck in this spot that she can't get out of. She comes back to her home town hoping to just come work for a year and then leave. Things do not always go as we planned. I absolutely loved this book and I loved how the story was told. I loved every character in the book and I am honestly hoping that Finn gets the next book because we are left hanging on the edge of a cliff at the end of this book. First thing tomorrow I am going to go and read the first four books in this series. Not because you have to read them but because I want to.Victoria James really knows how to tell a story and how to keep you on the edge of you seat until the very last page. I cannot wait to see where the next book in this series takes us. This is a book I would highly recommend you read. Thanks Net Galley. I voluntarily reviewed this book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s no secret that if Victoria James writes it, I will read it and the fifth novel in her Shadow Creek, Montana series sees her weave her magic on the second chance and fake-relationship plotlines. “I don’t know how to fake being engaged. Even the idea of being engaged…um, not to you personally or anything…gives me hives.” I’ve become pretty attached to the characters we’ve got to know throughout this series and Molly and Ben are a great addition bringing a journey of reawakened feelings when Molly returns to her hometown as the hospitals head of paediatrics, and quickly finds herself co-faking engagement to the captain of the fire department and the man she loved and left, Ben. “I thought it was the uniform that got you in the end. Women really like it.” Smart and driven, Molly guards her heart and with good reason, yet she left Ben’s in tatters years before. But as they grow closer, she opens up and it’s this element which socks a punch to your heart, as does Ben’s unconditional support despite how things ended between them years before. “I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t wanted you to touch me. I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of kissing you or missed kissing you. And that’s why I’ve been so angry with you, because I could never forget you.” This story was the perfect combination of romance and humour with just the right measure of angst, and Ben and Molly’s reconnection is one of love, hope and new-beginnings. And with the introduction of Molly’s sisters, Addie and Melody, and Ben’s brother, Finn—who I absolutely fell in love with—it’s no surprise that I’m excited to see what Victoria has planned for their stories. If you love a sweet small town romance, you definitely want to pick this one up.
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking second chance romance. It's a great addition to the Shadow Creek Series but can certainly be read as a standalone as well. Don't let the title fool you into thinking there is a fauxmance here...Molly and Ben don't have to fake it. They were always in love but Molly broke his heart and let painful secrets keep her away from her family and the man she loved. The scenes where she finally reveals her secrets to Ben had me in tears but it was so worth it to experience this beautiful love story. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.