A feel-good, funny second chance romance proves it's never too late for love in the small Texas ranch town of Silverlake.
Firefighter Jake Braddock is used to fixing things, and he's never met a problem he couldn't solve—except for his sweet ex-girlfriend Charlotte Nash.
Charlie Nash has been a big-city girl ever since her family made a clean break from their small town, after the tragedy that drove a wedge between Jake and her wealthy parents. She's never gotten over abandoning Jake—and he hasn't, either.
Then Charlie returns to Silverlake to stand as a bridesmaid opposite Jake in her cousin's wedding. The event sparks awkwardness, laughter, and heartbreak as they dance to the tune of the craziest bride in the west...and repair broken family bonds.
Can their long-lost love find a second chance?
About the Author
Liza Kendall is the combined pen name of two award-winning, bestselling authors who've known each other forever and decided they could work together without someone ending up dead.
Read an Excerpt
You cannot push anyone up a ladder. The words echoed in Charlie Nash's head as she stared at the aluminum Everest in front of her. Someone famous had said that . . .
Charlie eyed the ladder cautiously, as if it might run toward her on its orange rubber feet and knock her down. "You want me to climb up on that?"
Eight slippery silver rungs: They winked coldly at her, daring her to brave them. Just one step at a time - up into the air - with nothing solid underneath her.
She was already feeling shaky enough just being here, in the Old Barn at the Silverlake Ranch. Days early for a wedding, of all things. She'd rather be buried alive than be here. But it was her cousin Will's big day, and Charlie was a bridesmaid, and her longtime friend Lila needed her help. Now Charlie had to balance on something? In these boots?
God had a sense of humor.
The ladder also made her think of a fire truck. Like the one at the local station . . . where Jake Braddock lived. It was just down the street from Griggs' Grocers. She'd had to stop by yesterday to stock up on vanilla pudding for Granddad.
Charlie hadn't ducked her head into her T-shirt like a turtle, but she had deliberately worn oversized sunglasses and a baseball cap, idiot that she was - everyone in Silverlake, Texas, knew Granddad's classic green 1954 GMC pickup. Who else under the age of fifty would be driving it?
Lila Braddock raised her dark eyebrows, so similar to her older brother Jake's. "Yes," Lila said. "I want you to climb up on the ladder. Unless you can levitate and hang those floral swags for this disaster of a wedding without it."
Charlie grimaced. "Funny." Her cousin's wedding, so far, was a disaster, for more than one reason. Will's formerly normal fiancée had morphed into an epic Bridezilla.
She had invited, disinvited, and then reinvited fifty out-of-town guests who had to be housed somewhere in this town of less than five thousand people. She had ordered a custom wedding gown from Amelie on Main Street, then tried to return it. When this proved impossible, because of that whole "custom" concept, she had bought another off the rack in L.A. and hadn't yet decided which one to wear. Amelie was furious, and she was the most even-tempered, tolerant woman Charlie had ever met.
Add to that the cake catastrophe . . . Bridezilla had also changed her mind three times in the last three months about her wedding cake. Kristina Robbins at Piece A Cake was ready to hand her a five-gallon tub of ice cream instead and tell her to have a nice life. It was a good thing Bridezilla wasn't planning to actually live in this town after her big day.
And Charlie hadn't even told Lila the latest piece of nuptial news. She simply couldn't find the words - even though she needed to.
Lila checked the time. "We've got to get these decorations up. I have the ladies' knitting circle coming in at noon for their regular meeting. We can't be working on top of them."
Charlie nodded and moved forward to grasp the ladder. It was harmless. It's much more stable than you are. With nonslip feet.
The metal frame was unyielding and chilly in the early October morning air, which had seeped inside. She dragged the ladder over to the rough wall of the old boardinghouse's dining hall, where the reception would be.
She loved this old place, though it was bittersweet being here. It had started life as a hay barn for the Braddock farm back in 1839, then been converted into a boardinghouse for the ranch hands around the turn of the century, when the Braddocks had begun raising more horses than crops. The horse stalls had been closed in for separate bunk areas; the tack room was converted to a kitchen; and the "nave" of the barn became the central dining hall.
The rough wood on the outside had weathered over the years to a silvery dove gray, and it still retained the scent of cedar and straw.
The rich red golden interior walls soared to large windows that lined either side. At one end was a massive flagstone fireplace whose chimney shot straight up to the apex of the roof. Wide oak planks, beautifully finished, made up the floor.
Lila had brought in fine Oriental rugs and dotted them with hand-hewn rustic tables, comfortable oversized chairs, and glazed ceramic pots full of tall ferns and palms. She'd managed to make the place both elegant and cowboy-comfortable: a cross between palace and hunting lodge. While Charlie was a professional stager, she didn't have the interior design skills to have pulled this off. It was, in a word, stunning.
The fact that the Braddocks had hung on to the land over the years was amazing, considering the blows successive generations had been dealt. But hang on to it they had, following the family credo: Thou Shalt Not Sell Land. Even if thou must doeth odd and dirty jobs on the side. Even if thou must liveth elsewhere and get basically adopted by another family.
Charlie swallowed hard as she went to the long folding table where Lila had set out three dozen swags made of grapevines and adorned with white silk gardenias. Charlie tucked one under her arm, turned, and set one foot tentatively on the bottom rung of the ladder.
This is nothing, Charlie. Just do it. Jake had helped her climb up to the high hayloft over on the opposite side of the barn a couple of times before, in high school. Once she'd gotten past the climb, he'd made it plenty worth it.
Before. Before that awful day back in high school. Before she and her family had left town in the wake of a devastating fire that killed her grandmother and burned down all the good times along with the Nash family home.
"Why is there a funny look on your face?" Lila asked, appearing beside her and folding her arms across her chest.
Charlie took two steps up - not that skinny jeans were easy to climb in - then three and four. She looked down, wobbled, and clung fiercely to the sides of the ladder. The swag under her arm crackled in protest as she shoved it upward into her armpit, where it poked her painfully through the thin cotton of her black sweater. Small bits of leaves and twigs caught in the fabric. "What funny look?"
Lila tapped her foot on the flagstone floor. "That one," she said, pointing at Charlie's face. "Hey. Easy on the gardenias. They need to be unsquashed. Perfect. She said she was sure this time, and we can't give Bridezilla any excuse to switch them out for calla lilies or roses. I am so done with her."
"No kidding," Charlie said with feeling. "And you don't have to be her bridesmaid." Charlie and Felicity weren't exactly friends, but given that she'd introduced her and Will to each other at a college party, they'd insisted she be part of the wedding. Even if she sometimes regretted that introduction, she wouldn't dream of turning down her cousin's request. She took two more steps up the ladder, looked down at the stone floor again, and felt nauseated. She clamped the swag even more tightly into her armpit. The hook it needed to hang on was a foot away from her face. Easy. No problem. Except that she had to let go of the ladder with one hand in order to hang it. Yikes.
"Charlie? Are you okay?" Lila called.
"Yeah. No . . . I have to tell you something." Charlie eyed the hook. She clutched the ladder. She did not look at the floor again. She refused. Hook. Swag. Simple. Let go of the ladder with your left hand, and hang the swag.
Except she really needed to let go of the ladder with her right hand first, in order to pull the swag out from under her left arm and rescue the silk gardenias. They probably didn't bloom well if saturated with Secret antiperspirant.
"So tell me."
"And are you going to hang that swag or yourself up there?"
"I'd break the hook right off the wall," Charlie said. "I've gained back the eleven pounds I lost, even though I swore off chocolate."
"You look great," Lila fibbed. "Now hang the swag already and spill."
Charlie uncurled her stiff, reluctant fingers and slid her sweaty right palm off the ladder. She tugged the swag out from under her arm and set it on top. Yes. Good. Except there was something white fluttering down. A gardenia. It hit Lila on the head and then fell to the ground.
"Really?" Lila said, narrowing her eyes. "Come down from there so I can fix that. And tell me what's going on already."
On the one hand, Charlie couldn't wait to get off the ladder. On the other, maybe it was good there was some distance between herself and Lila. "Geoff is being sent overseas on a military assignment. So he just dropped out of the wedding," she said. "They're going to need another groomsman." The words hung in the air between them.
"What did you say?"
Charlie looked down at Lila's stunned face. "I'm pretty sure you heard me. And Bridezilla is freaking out about the lack of human symmetry in her big show. Somehow, I'm supposed to pull a groomsman outta my-"
Lila was shaking her head. "No."
Charlie sighed. "Got any ideas?"
"No. This is not happening. I'm an event planner. Not a magician."
"Lila? I really hate to tell you this. But you'd better grab a top hat and a rabbit, as well as a groomsman. Because Bridezilla is having a meltdown of epic proportions, and she can't take it out on her groom . . . so she's taking it out on us. I spent two hours listening to her rant and cry last night. And she'll call you next, because you're her wedding planner by default; you come free with the site rental."
As if on cue, Lila's cell phone started ringing to a barking dog theme.
Forgetting her fear of the ladder, Charlie covered her involuntary smirk with one hand.
"I'm out of battery," said Lila, looking at her phone as if it were a snake. "I'm on another call. No, I'm on another planet."
Bark, bark, bark.
"I have supplied porta-potties, pink doves, and even a stand-in wedding ring," she continued. "But I cannot pull a groomsman out of my behind. It's not possible."
Bark, bark, bark.
Charlie put her hand back on the ladder and inched down it step by step until she safely reached the ground.
Lila bent and picked up the silk gardenia. She stared at it as though she expected it to speak, to give her a solution. And then a very peculiar expression bloomed on Lila's face. Charlie watched it grow as a bad feeling grew parallel to it, in the pit of her own stomach.
Lila pursed her lips as she took the swag back from Charlie. She efficiently reattached the wayward gardenia with a snippet of floral wire. Charlie's unease grew as she nodded with satisfaction. When Lila pursed her lips like that, it meant she was determined. And when Lila was determined, she got what she wanted. No matter what it was.
Lila had pursed her lips back in elementary school when she wanted a purple bike with a pink sparkly banana seat. Check.
She had pursed her lips in middle school when she'd wanted to go on the end-of-year trip to New York City and had been told there was no money for such a trip. Check.
And Lila had pursed her lips in high school when she'd wanted to date the quarterback, even though she was a somewhat dorky sophomore and he was a supremely cool senior. Check.
Charlie glanced toward the ladder, feeling a weird urge to climb back up it in order to escape from Lila and whatever she was about to say.
"Add magician to my résumé," declared Lila. "I can supply a groomsman after all."
"Give me that." Charlie snatched the repaired swag from Lila and scurried back over to the ladder. Up she climbed the first step, the second, the third. "You're kidding, right?"
Up the fourth rung Charlie went, and the fifth. "You have a spare man in your back pocket? I need to get a pair of those pants for myself."
"As a matter of fact, I do." Lila looked as if she were about to purr.
Charlie eyed the hook again. Simple. Remove right hand. Take garland in it. Drop it on the hook. Basically, the same as staging an apartment. A little design sense, a little elbow grease. Nothing to it.
"The Silverlake Fire Station does a lot more than just fight fires, right?" said Lila.
Charlie's heart hurled itself into her esophagus, and she choked on it.
"They always have. It's part of their mission statement. It's tradition, helping out the town. If you think about it, it's . . . it's . . . an obligation. They have to help the community wherever help is needed, so . . ."
No. Don't say it, Lila. Do. Not. Say. His. Name. Charlie extended the swag toward the hook, clutching the ladder for dear life with her other hand.
"Yeah, Jake. He's perfect!" exclaimed Lila. "He helps out everyone else in this town. Why not his own sister? It's about time we had a real conversation anyway. Jake will totally do it. He'll be perfect. What d'you think?"
Charlie made a strangled noise.
"Oh, come on. You can't avoid him forever," Lila said in a pragmatic tone. "It's too small a town, and being in the wedding means you can't just do your usual flyover. Imagine if you and Jake could finally get past the weirdness once and for all."
"Are you past the weirdness with Jake?" Charlie asked pointedly. "He's your brother."
Lila flushed. "No, but I'd like to be." That old Lila gleam appeared in her eyes, and she pursed her lips again.
Uh-oh. Lila had given Charlie her friendship in Charlie's darkest hour after that damned fire, when the Nashes blamed Jake, and the rest of the Braddocks were pressuring their little sister to close ranks.
"Maybe this is the thing that could finally do it. Charlie, I need this. Jake's the perfect solution. Please say you'll roll with this."
Lila didn't have to spell it out.
Charlie owed her friend . . . especially since she was the cause of the rift between Lila and Jake. But the thought of being in a wedding with him?
Charlie stared at the hook. It was a very sturdy one, its screws embedded in solid wood. Never mind the swag. Never mind the extra eleven pounds. She was going to hang herself on it after all.
This book wasn't for me. I've realized that I don't like small town romances. There was far too much drama with the wedding and funding the fire department and not enough of Charlie and Jake reconnecting and talking through their problems for me. Thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. Audio: Narrated by Courtney Patterson, available on Hoopla. 3/5
Walk Me Home by Liza Kendall is the 1st book in her new Silverlake Ranch novel. We meet our heroine, Charlie Nash, who has just returned to Silverlake, Texas to be a bridesmaid for her cousin’s wedding. Charlie and her family left Silverlake years before, after a tragic fire destroyed their home, and caused the death of her grandmother. Jack Braddock, our hero, and a firefighter in town, is determined to avoid Charlie at any cost. Jack and Charlie were teenage sweethearts, and have not seen each other since the day of the fire, which caused a rift between them when Jack was falsely accused of starting the fire. Charlie, who was only 16 at the time, still has guilt at not defending him when her family accused Jack. Forced to be around Jack, who is pushed to be a groom for the wedding, their relationship slowly rekindles, even though there are major obstacles along the way. Can Jack forgive Charlie for not standing by him? Can Charlie get past her guilt and her grandfather’s belligerent attitude towards Jack? What follows besides the slow building of their romance are the major obstacles; the grandfather, was really nasty to Jack, and was determined to destroy his firefighting career. Charlie tries to make him understand that Jack was innocent, but gets manipulated into hurting Jack and his follow firefighters, which pushes them apart. But another fire will open eyes and hearts, and bring people together. The wedding is the backdrop of this story, especially involving many in town, since the bridezilla is driving everyone crazy. I did love Jack and Charlie together and rooted for them to find a second chance at love. I thought Kendall did a fabulous job in creating some wonderful secondary characters, whom I look forward to reading about in future books. Walk Me Home is a heartwarming small-town romance that had many emotional moments. It is a story that brings forth a rekindling of a romance that was destined to be, a family that needed to face the truth and forgive, and a town that comes together to help. Liza Kendall gives us an emotional and sweet romance in a wonderful small town that l plan to continue to read. I suggest you read Walk Me Home.
This book was received as an ARC from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I do love a classic Romance tale especially one that is focused on the young at heart. Walk Me Home tells the story of the on again off again relationship of Jake and Charlie of how they once got their love lost and thanks to a wedding, they are reunited again and determined to fix what was broken. This was a heartwarming story focusing on the importance of love and your first is the one you will never forget. When family ties are at stake and determined to mend all of them Jake and Charlie will stop at nothing to get back together. Some might think this story was on the cheesy side but this story left my heart full and I am sure others will have theirs full themselves. We will consider adding this title to our Romance collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.