Now reformed and a self-made success, Aiden is tormented by regrets and secrets. He left Red River years ago filled with anger and resentment and a promise to never come back. But when his ill father needs help, Aiden knows it's time to face the mess he left behind, and face the one woman he never got over. It doesn't matter how beautiful or intriguing she is, though, because he'll never be able to give her what she needs. As soon as his father is healthy, Aiden is leaving Red River...for good.
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Read an Excerpt
The Rebel's Return
A Red River Novel
By Victoria James, Alethea Spiridon
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Victoria James
All rights reserved.
Natalia Angelica Puccini prayed for a miracle.
She knew it would take nothing short of a miracle to stop her cousin, Francesca Puccini, from proceeding with what would inevitably turn into a train wreck of a speech. She also knew that she would be dragged under the proverbial train because her cousin never missed an opportunity to humiliate her.
Natalia held her breath and clutched the sides of her gold Chiavari chair as her cousin lifted her glass of champagne — which was actually her fifth refill — and waved it in Natalia's direction.
Oh God, no.
She braced herself by plastering a fake smile on her face, not letting the roomful of family and friends know just how much this bothered her.
"I would like to thank all of you for attending my bridal shower today. You mean the world to me and without youz guyziz I would not be the person I am today." Natalia tried her hardest not to let her smile waver. It should not fill her with perverse pleasure that her cousin's abominable grammar always made an appearance when she'd had a few too many, but she did make a mental note to remember this so she could have a laugh in private later on. "And now a toast to my bridesmaids and, in particular, my maid of honor and dear, dear first cousin, Natalia."
Natalia dug her nails into the underside of the chair and held her breath.
"Natalia has been with me through thick and thin. We've grown into fabulous women together, and there isn't anyone else I'd rather have by my side on my wedding day. She is a selfless and devoted cousin, because even though it must pain her greatly to be a maid of honor for the third time, and never a bride, she graciously accepted my request. So here's to Natalia, I still believe that love is in your future. Here, here!"
Natalia lifted her glass and downed it, hoping it would drown the choice words she had for the cousin who never failed to miss an opportunity to belittle her. It was fine. All fine. She hadn't announced anything that this entire room didn't already know — boring, dependable, rule-following Natalia was destined to grow old alone, despite being loved by her giant, overbearing, Italian-Canadian family.
As she'd done many times in the years since her cousin and the soon-to-be groom had betrayed Natalia, she wondered what had happened to their relationship. Francesca had been Natalia's favorite cousin. They'd grown up together and had been very close.
Once everyone's attention turned to the lasagna course that was being served, Natalia made eye contact with her mother. Her mother stood, tilted her head to the right, and walked toward the washroom. Natalia quickly followed suit. The ladies' room was empty of all but her mother when Natalia burst through a moment later.
"Can you believe her?"
"She's a silly girl." The sneer that accompanied the word "silly" was something only her mother was capable of doing. Since she didn't swear, her vocabulary was somewhat limited. But she made her point.
"She said it on purpose," Natalia whispered, joining her in front of the large mirrors.
Her mother's dark eyes narrowed. "I know. Well, she only made a fool of herself. Honestly, your father's side of the family is shameless."
Natalia chose to ignore what could get them off the main topic and sidetracked into the lifetime debate of whose side of the family was saner. "I wish I had never accepted."
"Family is family," her mother said, the same response Natalia had heard her entire life. It was beginning to irk her in a way that was making it increasingly difficult to agree and shrug off.
"I'm getting sick of that line. What does that mean anyway? Family is family? So just because someone shares the same DNA they can crap all over you?"
Her mother pursed her lips. "Language. Don't get yourself all worked up. Be content knowing that the problem lies with her, and not you. Now, let's go before people wonder what's happened to us."
Natalia crossed her arms. "Of course. We wouldn't want people to talk."
Her mother sighed, stopping at the door. "I'm going out. Take a few minutes to compose yourself, dear."
Natalia slowly turned to look at herself in the mirror. What was wrong with her? She didn't have any horrific disfigurements that might make the dating scene more challenging. She ran her own business. She was smart. She thought she was funny. She had friends. She even had a lifelong BFF. But the awful, pathetic truth was that she hadn't been in love in ten years. Not since Aiden McCann had made her believe that bad boys could be so, so good ... until he'd then broken her heart.
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and then rolled her shoulders and took a deep breath. She eyed herself in the mirror. Get it together, Nat. Focus on your goals. You don't need a man to be happy. In fact, men are the very cause of all of your unhappiness. Move forward with your business plans and bakery delivery service.
She gave her reflection a nod. As soon as this shower was over, she had five deliveries to make. See? She had way more things to focus on than men and family.
Yes, that was the plan. No men. Just work.
No dwelling on Aiden McCann. Of course, it didn't help that one of the deliveries she had to make was to poor old Mr. McCann, Aiden's father. But still, there was no point dwelling on Aiden. He had left Red River ten years ago with no intention of ever coming home.
* * *
Coming home was as crappy as he'd imagined it would be.
Aiden McCann pulled his helmet off his head, ran his hand through his hair, and then sat still on his Harley as he stared at his childhood home. It hadn't changed much, even after all these years.
It hadn't always been a dump. Sure, it had been on the wrong side of the tracks in Red River, but when his mother had been alive there had been flowers, the lawn had been immaculate, and his older brother, Dylan, told him there had even been hanging baskets in the summer. He could confirm all that in the family pictures, but he didn't remember. He didn't remember flowers, or a doting father, or his mother. To Aiden, his mother had been nothing but a dream; to his brother and his father, she had been everything.
He shoved both hands in his hair, feeling the dampness, trying to shake some of it off. A cold drizzle had started halfway through the ride down from Toronto. He probably shouldn't have taken his bike out this time of year, but October's weather could go either way. And today it was perfectly parallel to his mood — stinking miserable, gray with a dampness that went right through your bones until you were chilled from head to toe. But he'd needed to feel the cold air, to feel the final hours of freedom before living under the same roof as his father for the next eight weeks.
His eyes narrowed, taking in the condition of the front yard. It was ratty looking. The fall leaves hadn't been raked, and the few flowerbeds hadn't been cleaned up and readied for the coming winter season. He and his brother paid for a gardener to maintain the property for their dad, so why wasn't it being done?
Enough stalling, he'd better get inside and face his dad. He grabbed the duffel bag clipped onto the back of his bike and swung it over his shoulder, unzipped his leather jacket, and walked up the steps to the small one-level house.
After a few minutes of freezing his ass off and not even a remote sign that the door would be answered, he gave a knock on the door and then walked in. The front entrance was dark, the tiles looking kind of muddy, and the rug worn and sad.
"Hey, Dad? It's me." He shrugged out of his jacket, dropped his bag, and took off his boots. There was still no answer. Obviously his father hadn't been waiting by the window for his youngest kid to come home. Not that he'd ever done that.
He walked toward the blaring sound of the television. The commentator announced the next hand was now being dealt. Yeah. Sounded like his dad was watching World Poker Tour again. Aiden stood in the doorway to the small family room, waiting for his father to notice him. Or acknowledge him. It didn't happen. "Is there something wrong with your hearing, too?"
Finally, his father looked up from the television, probably because there was a commercial. "Hi. Didn't think you'd be coming today."
Aiden studied his father. He looked like he'd lost a bit of weight. What was left of his gray hair was fluffy and stood on end. His usual T-shirt and blue pants hung off him. Guilt made him look away for a minute. He and Dylan should have come home sooner, but they hadn't had much of a relationship with their father since they'd left Red River ten years ago.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. "I told you at least five times in the last week that I was coming home today."
His dad grunted.
"We've got to meet with your oncologist and radiologist on Monday, remember?"
"I've got prostate cancer, not Alzheimer's."
That sounded more like him. Aiden would've cracked a smile if he didn't feel bad for his dad, or if they had a kind of jokey relationship. Their relationship was strained, the shots and digs laced with ancient resentment that would never disappear, never be resolved. "I'll be taking you to your appointments every day for the next seven weeks."
His father pointed the remote at the television, raising the volume. "Not necessary. I don't think I even need to be there."
"You're going. Dylan and I spent an hour on the phone with Evan last Tuesday. We've also got an appointment with him next week."
This time his father turned to scowl at him. "Manning? What does that punk know, anyway?"
He stifled his urge to swear. One of them needed to be the adult. "That punk is your doctor, and he's concerned about you."
"What about doctor-patient confidentiality?"
"He's an old friend." The Mannings were the oldest friends he and Dylan had. Evan was the youngest of three brothers and a talented doctor and former surgeon. Although he and Evan hadn't been that close growing up, they were on friendly terms. It was the middle brother, Jake, that had been Aiden's right-hand man when it came to getting in trouble. He and Jake had been inseparable, right up until Aiden's last days in Red River. All three Manning brothers had gone on to marry and have kids. He had no idea what that was like. He and Dylan enjoyed concentrating on work and leading uncomplicated bachelor lives in the city.
"Humph. Once a delinquent, always a delinquent. I don't know how he graduated from medical school."
"Evan wasn't a delinquent. You're thinking of Jake."
His father grunted. "Oh yeah, him. Just because that one married a minister's daughter doesn't make him a saint now. I remember all the trouble you boys got into. All those Mannings are trouble."
Aiden pinched the bridge of his nose. He needed to get this conversation back on track. "Dad, that was a long time ago."
"Still, he never should have called you. Come to think of it, Evan is pissed because I tried to pick up his wife."
Aiden felt sick. This was the kind of stuff that went on when he left town? His father needed a babysitter. "His wife is like twenty-something."
"She wasn't complaining."
Yeah, she probably thought he was ready to be admitted. "I can't even acknowledge that without wanting to puke."
"Evan is dramatic."
"I don't think a diagnosis of prostate cancer and whatever else is him being dramatic. Why the hell didn't you tell us?"
His dad gave another grunt and focused his eyes on the television again.
He waved the remote around. "Stop being theatrical. It's not life or death."
He grabbed the remote out of his father's hand, turned off the television, and waited while his father swore at him. "Last time I checked, cancer was life or death."
"I feel fine. I look fine."
"Actually, you look like hell. So Monday morning, we're going to meet with the radiation oncologist and get the ball rolling. We talked about this on the phone already, Dad. You have to do this if you want to live. You'll be fine, but you need to have treatment."
"Well, you don't need to be here."
That was gratitude for you. "How are you going to drive an hour each way, every day?"
He shrugged. "I have no issues driving."
"What if you have side effects? At the very least you'll be tired."
"Go back to the city where you and your brother do whatever the hell you want. Don't waste your time here."
"We work, Dad."
"Right. How could I forget the super successful entrepreneur sons I raised."
He cringed at the sarcasm that dripped from his father's mouth. "It's fine. Dylan and I flipped a coin, and I'm here." It was the truth. No need to add that he was the loser, so he was the one that had to do this. Or the fact that despite the coin toss, he knew he'd have to be the one to do this because despite his own issues with their father, Dylan's were even worse. He got that. Dylan had been around long before him and had felt the aftermath of their mother's death much more deeply than he had.
"I hope you don't expect me to get on that death-trap motorcycle you drive," his dad said a minute later. That was more like it, selfless one moment and critical the next. At least he knew what to do with this version of his father.
"Of course not. We'll take your car." His father looked away again. He and his brother had bought their dad a BMW sedan last year, when he'd complained that his old clunker had finally died. He had, of course, yelled at them and told them it was unnecessary. He'd also never thanked them. But that wasn't really a surprise. "Also, Dylan and I were looking up diet and prostate cancer. On our way back from the hospital, we'll stop and buy you some real food. And we read that green tea is beneficial for prevention." He knew his father's diet consisted of fried everything from a local restaurant and anything that came from a bag.
"That's crap. Nothing wrong with John's Diner. And I wouldn't drink green tea if it were the last drink in town. Besides, I missed the boat on prevention, so what's the point?"
"Hello, Mr. McCann?"
Aiden's stomach dropped. That voice. Hell, he'd know that voice anywhere. Usually, he found that voice in his dreams. He knew, without turning around, who was walking through the house. Crap. He wasn't prepared to see her. Sure, he'd known they'd run into each other, but not now, half an hour after he'd arrived back in town.
Why was she here anyway? And why didn't his father look surprised by the fact that Natalia Puccini, his ex-girlfriend, was walking through his home as if it was something she did every day? He glanced over at his father and frowned.
"In here, sugar!"
Sugar? Aiden turned around to find a stunning brunette walking over to them. God, every single inch of him came alive. Natalia had always been striking, curvy and beautiful. Now the curves had turned into bombshell territory, and her facial features had become more delicate and refined. She was ... stunning. She was carrying a paper bag and wearing a smile that actually made him aware that he still had a heart. And other body parts.
He was speechless as old feelings and memories bombarded him, catapulting him back to a time in his life he would have done anything for a woman — not any woman, her.
The moment Natalia spotted him, everything inside him died, because the light left her eyes and the smile left her gorgeous face.
He cleared his throat. "Hi, Nat."
She lifted her chin, and the paper bag crinkled as she all but choked it. "It's Natalia."
This was not going well, but that was to be expected after how they'd left things. He'd trampled across her heart and then left town without looking back. "Right. Natalia. Hi, how are you?" He was going to have to be contrite and deal with the attitude that was being hurled at him in her voice, in those big, expressive brown eyes. He had to; because he was the one who'd screwed up. Badly.
"Aiden," she said. "What are you doing here?"
He glanced over at his father. "You didn't tell anyone I was coming home?"
His dad shrugged. "Didn't think you actually would."
He turned back to Natalia. "I'm here to help my dad during treatment."
Excerpted from The Rebel's Return by Victoria James, Alethea Spiridon. Copyright © 2016 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
This is the first in this series for me but luckily it seems that this is easily a stand alone. There are some hints at the next story (which looks really ah-sum), but Nat & Aiden's story seems to be easily enjoyed regardless of whether this is your first or your fourth in this series. Overall I really, really liked this book. The second chance romance aspect of it is well done and I felt like James handled the conflict there fantastically. We feel Nat's confusion on having Aiden back, how she's struggling with her old feelings (& reignited attraction) with the heartache that his leaving caused. She never got over him or his betrayal and we hurt with her over it. James also does a great job with Aiden's hardship at being back. How he's torn over his feelings for Nat and his need to leave a town that reminds him of his difficult childhood. Of spending time with his sick dad, a weak man who neglected his sons and retreated into himself after the death of his wife, leaving them to fend for themselves. Your heart goes out to the hurt little boy inside the man. The only thing I had trouble understanding is why Aiden took almost the entire book to come clean on exactly what happened when he broke up with Nat all those years ago. He can see how much it hurt her and how it is still influencing her life. He knows that she needs to hear the truth but he dances around it when he should just tell her as soon as it becomes obvious that he needs to. I can see where James tries to have him rationalize it to himself but it just didn't work for me. Sure, it would have led to a much shorter book :) but it just didn't sit right. But, while I would shake my head at him, I was hooked and anxious to have them figure things out. I'll definitely be checking out what James has in store next ... and checking out her back list as well! (Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)
The Rebel's Return is a second chance romance story between high school sweethearts Natalia and Aiden. He had always believed he was too good for her, but the two of them had made forever plans anyway...until Aiden revealed to her that he'd cheated on her with another girl and then promptly left town with his older brother, not to return for ten years. Until now, when he loses the coin toss to said older brother and has to spend seven weeks back at home with their estranged father, helping him get through his radiation treatments (whether he wants said help or not. It often seems more on the "not" side of the equation.) Being that it's Red River, it isn't long before he's thrown right into Natalia's path, something she's way less than enthused about. It definitely doesn't help that his return coincides with her cousin's wedding--to the ex-boyfriend that Francesca slept with before he was an "ex" thankyouverymuch, and in which Nat was acting as maid of honor. Because her cousin is apparently that brand of evil. Things could be looking better for our heroine. She decides to conquer at least one part of her out-of-control life by downloading the "Couch to 5K" app. But dealing with her first and only true love and her miserably vindictive cousin? If only there were an app for that... I love both second chance stories and this series, so it was a given I was going to be reading this story ASAP. Nat and Aiden have great chemistry together, and it's clear from the very first chapter that these two have by no means moved on from their ten years ago split. They're thrown together early on and often, and every time the sparks are flying like mad, though Nat's doing all she can to shut Aiden's every attempt down as soon as he makes it if not before. We learn early on that Aiden hadn't really cheated back then--he'd just said he had, for an unknown-for-most-of-the-book reason--and it takes a really, really long time for that truth to be revealed...a bit on the "too long" side. Nat begins to suspect (with the help of a well-meaning but nosy townsperson) earlier, but her confrontational style with Aiden for much of the book is swoop in, strike fast, and leave ASAP before he has a chance to respond. Not that he seemed anxious to reveal all anyway...but it did seem like the not-talking-to-each-other-honestly-about-our-past portion of the book stretched out much too long. She angrily held a grudge, he stayed frustratingly mum on the truth, they danced ever closer to doing...something. Rinse and repeat. Again and again. When he does finally get his head out of his butt, though, Aiden does it in spectacular--and extremely public--fashion. His grand gesture is absolutely wonderful, and made up for a lot of the frustration he gives us earlier. (The fact that this is a short and sweet read makes it easier not to dwell as well.) There's plenty of continue-the-series fodder here as well, with both the hero and heroine having unmarried--and determinedly bachelor--brothers. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Aiden: "No one enjoys being a bachelor. That's just what we tell ourselves so we don't have to go through the painful process of getting our heads out of our as$es." And he would know. ;) The Rebel's Return is fourth in the series, but would work fine as a standalone if necessary. Rating: 4 stars/B I received a complimentary copy for an honest review.
Victoria James takes readers back to Red River with The Rebel’s Return. This is the fourth book in the series and is definitely a standalone read. Natalia Puccini and Aiden McCann have a history together filled with young love and broken hearts. Aiden grew up with a less than ideal upbringing. His mother died when he was extremely young and his father lost himself to the bottle. With little to no guidance, young Aiden became a bad boy. The only one who believed in Aiden was a young Natalia. Natalia had the perfect, ideal family with loving and supportive parents. She thought her future was bright with Aiden’s love and working in her parent’s bakery. But the future she envisioned wasn’t meant to be. Aiden left Red River, breaking Natalia’s heart, swearing he would never return. Ten years later, his father’s illness brings him back to face the bad memories of the past and the one woman he could never forget. Now, he has eight weeks to capture the heart of the only woman he’s ever loved. The Rebel’s Return is classic Victoria James. This is a sweet romance that pulls at your heartstrings and if you didn’t believe in love, turns you into a believer. Aiden and Natalia have to overcome trust issues and feelings of unworthiness to claim the love they deserve and have been searching for. The characters in this book are incredible. I love the way the townspeople rally around each of them, never truly pushing, but dropping little subtle hints. **Received a copy of the book courtesy of Entangled Publishing for an honest and unbiased opinion.** Rating: 4.5
4.5 heartwarming stars The Rebel's Return was a well written and heartfelt read. I'm a huge fan of Victoria James writing and once again she has given us an emotional and heartfelt story with characters that will touch your heart. I loved The Rebel's Return, both Natalia and Aiden were likable, endearing and passionate characters. It touched my heart watching them reconnect and learn to put past hurts behind them to open their hearts to each other. I truly loved them together, and had no doubt these two would have a happy and fulfilling life ahead. If you're looking for a heartwarming read with characters that will entertain you and take on a emotional journey with their stories you will love The Red River series. Each book can be read as a standalone and I highly recommend them all.
I was so excited to return to Red River, so loved this story of second chance romance. Aiden broke Natalie's heart years ago and now he has returned to Red River to take care of his ailing father and to mend their relationship. Natalie has become very close to Aiden's dad. Will she be willing to open her heart again to Aiden. A great story that I did not want to see end. Great likeable characters that will pull at your heart strings. I highly recommend this book along with the rest of the Red River books.
I loved this book. The connection between Natalia and Aiden was just beautiful. The turmoil they went through - his guilt and regret, her heartbreak and self doubt. Beautifully written and heartfelt. I could feel her insecurities, her pain, her low self worth, especially dealing with her cousin (ay, that woman!). But I admired her staying true to herself and not settling. Aiden had his own demons to overcome. And he did so and his reasoning for doing so captured my heart. This book was read with my heart and a huge lump in my throat. The other relationships in this book were healed and brought a tear to my eye. So good that I want more from these other characters. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
This was a perfect second chance romance. Aiden and Natalia were once sweethearts but deceit and lies pulled them apart. Aiden left town and hoped to never return but when his father’s health begins to decline Aiden is forced back to town and runs into his lost love. Natalia would like to run over Aiden with the car but she refrains. Still dealing with the betrayal after all this time, Natalia is reluctant to allow Aiden back in her life but Aiden is determined to win back her heart. This was a good story that kept me anxious to see where it lead. There were twists that I did not foresee and it kept me glued to how it might end.
I haven't read the first three books in this series but this can be read as a standalone. The story takes place the small town of Red River. Aiden had a rough childhood due to family circumstances. He didn't have much going for him and left town because he didn't feel he had anything to offer. It's now ten years later and he has returned to help his father who suffers from ill health. He runs a business with his brother and intends to go back as soon as everything is settled. With the mess that he left behind him, he doesn't have any hope of feeling welcome. Natalia runs her family bakery. Aiden was her first love and she is still hurt by the way he left her. She hasn't had much luck with relationships and has more or less given up. When Aiden and Natalia meet again for the first time, they both realise that the old feelings are still there. Natalia goes on the defensive as she is not prepared to be hurt again. Aiden has mixed feelings, he wants her but still thinks that he is not good enough for her. The thing is that the reason he gave her for breaking up before he left was a lie and he doesn't quite know how to tell her the truth. She might not believe him anyway. So they both fight the attraction between them. How long can they keep it up though? I like the way Aiden's father finally admits to his wrong doings and the impact it has on Aiden's decision. Despite projecting the bad boy image, deep down Aiden is a real sweetheart. Natalia is independent, loving and full of compassion. This story drew me in right from the start. It's very well projected. It has all the elements of a good romance with the feel good factor despite some of the angst within the plot. This is one of those that I would definitely read again. I received an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It's an interesting contemporary romance novel. It's well-written and has some amazing characters. I loved both Nat and Aiden. The story flowed perfectly. Although it did seem that there was too much history in characters' past but not enough is revealed to fully comprehend it. In any case it was a fun read and I quite enjoyed it. Natalia has to endure her bi**ch of a cousin. It's not bad enough that she is marrying her ex-boyfriend but in addition to that she never gives up a chance to humiliate Nat. But as they say family is family so she must try to ignore it all. At least that's what everyone expects of her. So that's in the middle of all the chaos when Aiden returns. He was Nat's one true love until he decided that she wasn't enough for him and then moved out of town. After almost ten years, and he is even hotter and more desirable. Nat never got over him and now she has no idea how to protect her heart... Aiden never thought that his return to his childhood home will be so difficult. Firstly. his father is being as bad as ever and secondly, there is Nat. He has no idea how to resist her beauty and charm. She is a perfect woman. She is gorgeous, funny, and kind. Now that he is back he can see he still loves her. This time he won;t let her down and earn back her love. Because it's obvious that they belong together... Cute, funny, charming, and lovable Nat..... hot, irresistible, and persuasive Aiden... together they've perfect chemistry and a romance that all readers will enjoy reading about.
When I found out Victoria James was taking us back to Red River with a new book I wanted to do cartwheels (that would not have been pretty) and I am happy to say she delivered a great story for the return! This is a fantastic second chance story. Aiden McCann left Red River ten years ago angry, resentful, and disillusioned. He's carried the guilt of leaving Natalie all these years and knows it won't be easy to make it up to her now that he has returned. Not only does he need to set things right with Natalie, but he needs to try and mend his always strained relationship with his ailing father. Natalie has spent her entire life dealing with her very loving but incredibly overbearing large Italian family. The one time she ventured to do what she really wanted she fell in love with Aiden McCann and was hurt terribly. Now she plays it safe and goes with the flow. Until Aiden returns turning her life upside down. Again! Put this one on the must read list! I highly recommend it.
4 - "It meant everything." Stars! The Rebel’s Return, is the fourth book in Victoria James’ Red River series. Having not read the previous three books, I found it could easily be read as a standalone. I am not a stranger to this authors books, so I knew that this story would offer up three things, and that is great characters, a really well developed and multi directional plot, and lots of emotions, and she delivered up every point perfectly. "I never got over you. No woman I’ve ever met has come close to being anything like you." There is so much going on in Natalia and Aiden's story, that as a reader you are not just dealing with a second-chance reconnection between them, but also with Aiden and his estranged father as well (and boy did this pull on a few of the heart-strings). I think the part of the book between him and his father is as pivotal to the story-line as a whole as is the rebuilding of his relationship and trust with Nat was, and as everything starts to play out he realizes that staying in town for eight weeks and then leaving again without a by-your-leave may not be as easy as he was hoping it would be. Focus on the end game and then get the hell out of town. But it doesn’t end there, Nat is also having a sort late-twenties life assessment of herself, due to the fact her vapid cousin is getting married, and is not shy in making it known how little she thinks of the fact that Nat is still single and on the shelf, so having the love of her life, who then broke her heart come back to town ten years later to stir up all those old feelings is literally the icing on her cake. "I thought about you every single day I was gone." This is one of those books that doesn’t hugely stray off the map from A to B, but it is well written, the author pulls the emotions out of you as a reader for Aiden in particular, because he is a guy that is a whole lot of closed off when he first returns to town, but as things progress with Nat and then the situation with his father starts to develop, you see the vulnerability and feelings of inadequacy that he has tried to keep hidden for such a long time come to the surface. Bad-boy in others eyes, but as you go deeper you see he is more of a lost-boy than anything. "You have no idea how far I would go to have a night with you." I now feel the need to binge read the previous three books in the Red River Series. The author has great skills in setting up a town and its people, for her main characters stories to then play out around, and The Rebel’s Return is no exception. It was also good to see Victoria setting up other secondary characters to have their stories told in the future as well, I would happily return to Red River again and again. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, and it was a pleasure to provide the above honest review.
How do you move forward when the past grabs hold of your present? The Rebel's Return puts it all out there. Love, lust, loss and regret are major stepping stones on Aiden and Natalia's path to forgiveness. Both are rebels with something to prove. Nat wants her family's approval and respect on her own terms. Aiden longs for respect and wants to move on from his reckless youth. The way people see us is how we perceive ourselves to be. The key is to not let negativity shape who we are. With The Rebel's Return, Ms. James crafted a story of maturity and hard faced lessons that are contemplative and motivating.