by Jaci Burton
Series: Hope #6
Published by Tantor Audio on August 16, 2016
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Brady Conners is hardly the settling type, but when tragedy strikes in his family, he has no choice but to return home to Hope, Oklahoma. Setting up shop to work on custom motorcycles and pass the time, Brady has no intention of letting anyone get close—until he meets Megan.
Pastry shop owner Megan Lee is drawn to quiet, brooding Brady. Their connection is undeniable, and it quickly develops from physical attraction into something much stronger. But with Brady putting up barriers, Megan is afraid to truly open her heart—unless she can convince him to let go of the past…
Don’t Let Go is book #6 in Jaci Burton’s Hope series. While I’m a big fan of Burton’s Play-by-Play books, I’ve felt lukewarm about the past few books in this particular series. I felt a little more warmly about Don’t Let Go until near the end, when the book turns into Hope, Oklahoma: Baby Fever edition. Also, the hero messes up and I wanted more grovelling on his part. Having said all that, I liked the book just fine but this is another case of feeling slightly “meh” about the series at this point.
Brady is a character we’ve seen on the periphery in previous books: he’s brooding, moody, and kind of mysterious. He does custom body work on motorcycles and cars at the local garage with hopes of opening his own shop someday. The reason for his loner status is revealed to be the result of grief: Brady’s brother, a drug addict, died of an overdose a few years prior. Brady and his parents are still dealing with a tremendous sense of loss.
Megan owns the bakery in Hope. Baking is Megan’s life–it takes up the majority of her time, but it also brings her a great deal of joy as well. Since she’s always working, Megan doesn’t have much time for dating, but she and Brady somehow end up going out on a date. They’ve shown passing interest in each other in previous books and finally decide to act on it.
To me, the beginning of their relationship seemed a little unnatural. I’ve felt this way with the past few couples in the series. It’s like they’re only pairing off because there are so few single people in Hope left (at least within this particular circle of friends) and not because of any unique connection between them as individuals. I didn’t feel that Megan and Brady had anything special that drew them to each other, other than proximity. So, I had trouble believing the relationship.
The story is very formulaic in the sense that 1) the main characters start sleeping together without the intention of commitment 2) they start to develop the feels for each other 3) some conflict drives them apart and 4) they have to figure out if it’s worth it to stay together. In this scenario, Brady is hesitant about commitment because of his grief. He’s afraid to love someone because he doesn’t want to lose them–in this case, Megan. He also has residual guilt because he believes he should have done more to try to save his brother from addiction.
Megan tries to help Brady realize that his brother’s death wasn’t his fault, but Brady won’t believe it until he’s ready. Eventually, Brady’s reticence pushes Megan away. It’s up to him to decide whether he wants to stay living in the past, emotionally paralyzed by grief, or be willing to give love a try.
As I mentioned, Brady behaves in a pretty hurtful manner toward Megan and I wanted him to do some epic grovelling in the end. This doesn’t happen, but he does show some growth and maturity. As a character, Megan doesn’t really go on a journey the way that Brady does, so I felt that this was more his story than hers.
As always, Burton excels at writing sex scenes, but for me they seemed slightly repetitive in this particular story.
My biggest pet peeve about the book is all the baby fever. As can be expected, we check in with couples from the other books and they’re all settling down, married or getting married, and having babies. For me, the last straw was when yet another character (not Megan) finds out that she, too, is pregnant. The implication, cliche as it may be, is that the recipe for happily ever after = get married + have kids. But the reality is that many people simply don’t do this, for various reasons. I just wanted the focus to be on Megan, Brady, and their relationship. I didn’t need all of the catch-up and baby subplots. That’s my only real rant about the book.
As for the things I enjoyed, despite Brady’s lapse of judgment toward the end, I really did like him as a character. He definitely shows the most growth, both with regard to the aftermath of his brother’s death and on a personal level. When the story begins, Brady is almost reclusive but by the end, he has learned to open himself up to friendships and love. I also liked Megan’s close friendships with the other ladies in Hope. Lastly, Brady adopts a stray dog, Roxie, and she’s just adorable. I really love how Burton includes dogs in this series and makes them supporting characters in their own right.
Despite my complaints about the book, overall, I did enjoy it and will continue reading the series.
Rating: 3 stars