I read book one in the Willowhaven series last year and fell in love with the characters in this town so of course when Mindy Hayes came out with the second book (admittedly several months ago, I can’t believe it took me this long) I had to do a review.
Since her father's abandonment eight years ago, Alix Fink has done everything in her power to keep her family's affairs private. She’s as closed off as they come, but Aiden Ballard wants to remedy that. Though it’s been a losing battle, Aiden has been desperate to win Alix’s heart for years.
Everyone knows Aiden Ballard’s parent’s lives were lost in a fatal car accident when he was sixteen, but only Aiden knows what really happened that fateful night; something he’s been desperate to hide from everyone for the last nine years—especially from Alix.
In the small town of Willowhaven, secrets have a way of revealing themselves. Alix and Aiden couldn’t be farther from perfect, but they couldn’t be more perfect for each other. When their secrets rise to the surface, they must overcome them or face a lifetime of loneliness.
Cliffnotes version: Told from the perspectives of Aiden and Alix, the saga of romance and drama continues in Willowhaven with the best friends of Dean and Sawyer (book one) who just can’t seem to have a serious conversation without someone being insulted. We see the struggles each of them face as their lives start falling apart: first with Alix and her sick mother and young brother whom she cares for, and Aiden with his rebellious sister who he desperately wants to turn out differently than him. Together they will constantly deny or sabotage their feelings for one another, all culminating in a rollercoaster ending.
Alix is our sweet, loveable protagonist who isn’t sweet so much as practical and stubborn. She is the epitome of all things stalwart and independent as a twenty-something woman assuming more responsibility than she should ever have to. I found her interactions with Aiden to be infuriating at times. Even in her head, I still couldn’t always understand what she was feeling. That, I attribute to the author emphasising her tenacious attitude. She won’t even admit to herself (or the reader) what she’s really feeling.
Aiden, on the other hand, may be a little old fashioned for my taste but he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is annoyingly in love with her (and I mean that in the kindest way) to the point where I couldn’t believe all of the stupid decisions he made because he wasn’t thinking clearly. He often spoke of women in an almost ignorant light (an example would be making a comment about “you know how women are, man - crazy”) despite falling for the most vocal and unapproachable woman to him. I usually identify with the hopeless romantic of the pairing – and I still side with Aiden on a lot of things – but I couldn’t help but shake my head at some of the reckless and stereotypical decisions our lovely hero made.
I’ve reviewed a lot of Mindy Hayes’ work and I’m always enchanted by the words she uses to tell her stories. They’re lyrical and yet practical, a lovely combination of down-to-earth narration and romantic prose. Of course compared to her fantasy work this contemporary romance is more on the practical side but every little sweet moment that she dug out of this love story made my heart flutter.
You see some of that in my Random Notes While Reading:
· Jumping straight in: always love it
· These two are disgustingly precious
· Oh, bull pucky (I forgot how much I loved the alternate swearing)
· Dean and Sawyer, such a devoted love story
· I love seeing the same relationship from different perspectives
· The female protagonist is the “practical one” while the male protagonist is the “hopeless romantic character”; where have I heard that before?
· All this shade
· A little possessive but I know some girls are into that so I’ll let it pass
· *sings* sexist
· Why do I find this so endearing? Aiden is just so *makes grabby hands*
· Dude, you don’t say that to your little sister
· Alix you are so over dramatic
· Oh don’t do it (after not: good girl)
· That is sickeningly sweet
· You had to know that’d be her reaction but of course you don’t seem to care
· Well that was heart-wrenching
· You’re such a liar. Why are you doing this?
· *Breakfast Club fist pump*
· God damn it, woman
· Oh sweetie, I feel your pain
· Dude. No.
· I’m clutching the book with anxiety
· Oh my god, I’m speechless
· *Breakfast Club fist pump* again
· You’re an independent woman who don’t need no man but Aiden is nice to have at the end of the day