Hunter Smith likes to keep out of messy situations; life is just easier if you don’t get emotionally involved. He’s never been a knight in shining armor before—but when he sees Abby Gray in trouble, he can’t stop himself from stepping in…
Trying to put the scars of the past behind her, Abby has decided to make a fresh start. Hunter’s offer of making her his new assistant could be a step in just the right direction. But is she ready to believe that happy-ever-afters can happen in real life—not just in fairy tales?
Harlequin Romance, at least in my experience, has tended towards sweeter, lighter romance. So when I picked up The Courage To Say Yes, I was surprised to see a title that dealt with some pretty heavy issues. Barbara Wallace has done an excellent job of weaving these issues into the story. It’s at its heart a romance, however it doesn’t shy away from mentioning the oft-painful pasts of the hero and heroine.
Abby is trying to break free from a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. She’s working a crappy job at a crappy diner and is living in a shelter, but finally she’s away from her ex. Or so she thought.
The not-so-charming Warren starts rearing his ugly head, popping up at her work causing trouble. Hunter, a photographer who’s been coming into the diner of late, sees this happening, and during one episode where Warren becomes quite nasty, he decides to step in and help her. Hunter’s never been one to do that before, but when he sees Abby being harrassed and hurt, he can no longer stand in. The ensuing scuffle results in Hunter’s valuable camera being ruined, Abby losing her job and a visit to the police station.
Hunter, feeling responsible for Abby finding herself jobless, offers her a temporary job as his housekeeper/assistant. Long enough to get herself on her feet again and until Hunter goes back on assignment. This temporary arrangement leads to more than just a working relationship. They become close, first as friends and then as lovers. Will this new development allow Abby to finally break free from her past, and find the happiness with Hunter that they both deserve?
As I said earlier, I really appreciated that the author refused to shy away from the issue of abuse in relationships, but despite the heavy background story, a sense of sweetness and romance was still ever-present within its pages.
Abby had been conditioned from a young age to think that how Warren treated her was OK – her own mother has been in relationships like that, and still is. I admired that despite being in a place where she was living hand-to-mouth and struggling with finding good employment, Abby wasn’t willing to settle for being treated like someone’s property. All she wants is to be free.
Hunter has his own issues to deal with. He’s closed himself off emotionally after a tragic episode during a recent assignment. You can see this side of him – the don’t-get-involved, you’ll-only-get-hurt side – warring against his desire to help and protect Abby.
As a couple, they were really well-matched. Both have scars, and deep-seated fears, but through this, they are able to help each other. I liked the way their friendship developed alongside their romantic relationship.
I also liked that the story didn’t tie itself up neatly at the first challenge. There were still issues to overcome before the HEA could be achieved, and it was great that they were not glossed over.
All in all, this was a really sweet and well-woven romance, with a healthy dose of emotion thrown in for good measure. Definitely one that I would recommend.
My rating: 4 out of 5
Release Date: 6 August 2013
Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book by Harlequin via NetGalley in return for an honest review.