This was a surprise! I took my time to schedule this one (and the previous one) as I wasn't sure about this series, and I gotta say I didn't expect to enjoy this one as much as I did! I've read almost EVERYTHING Annabeth has written, she is clearly one of my favorite authors ,but seeing the baby on the cover and reading the synopsis made me question myself. I shouldn't have. It was a beautiful heartfelt story and I loved it to pieces!
This is one of those, boy meets girl, they enjoy a night together and then... well.. then the morning after he meets her brother as his parachute instructor. While the girl was totally unmemorable, the boy he couldn't stop thinking about.. A year goes by before Shane and Brandt meet again and it's not exactly what either had in mind...
You'd think the carefree Shelby Travis and Brandt Wilder would be a great fit, but all they did was share a night together neither would have found remarkable. Yet Shelby got pregnant and while she thought it's a good idea to have the baby, but soon after she started second guessing herself and she ended up leaving 2 months old Jewel in Shane's arms and disappear into the void. While this is his sister's typical behavior, Shane doesn't see himself as being able to care for a baby so he starts by looking for the father and see how he feels about becoming a parent (truth been told he doesn't have high hopes for Brandt as well..). Brandt sure is surprised finding Jewel literally on his doorstep, but after sharing a conversation with Shane he starts by letting them stay for a bit even if just to understand what this whole thing even means.
Brandt doesn't have a family. He grew up in foster homes and while he doesn't consider his past horrible he didn't exactly have a happy upbringing. If Jewel is his, and even if she doesn't, he can't just turn his head on Shane and her. First thing is a fraternity test for sure, but what next he doesn't know - well, beyond she is NOT going for adoption. Shane grew up with his parents and older sister but it wasn't a stable home and not only because they kept moving from place to place. It was obvious neither of the kids were a priority and it showed. He had Shelby but she wasn't "stable" as well. More of a care-free spirit who mostly revolved about the fun and nothing more (and as you understand - nothing really changed..).
So you see, while neither of the guys have any experience with babies (or even kids), it was quite obvious for them - they were literally the only ones Jewel has and they've got to stick together and find a way to make it work. It's not easy and the learning curve is steep but they find a surprising easy companionship with one another. I wouldn't say LIFE way easy, it was nothing but, yet staying together allowed for a not so likely family to form.
That being said, Brandt job as a smoke jumper isn't exactly the 9 to 5 (risk free...) job a baby needs, and Shane might be going on his way on a certain point.. He has his own life to consider as a country (music) singer and writer. He might be still be in his first steps but this is especially why he needs to work to forward his career. Sticking together is what feels right but it can't last. Shane wasn't ever able to even fit a relationship in his life before and Brandt was never interested in anything long lasting so it doesn't put great odds in their corner, adding a baby in the mix?
I liked the way this story progressed. While the baby did have quite a lot of page-time it wasn't "too much" and it especially didn't interfere with the relationship buildup. It was a "confusing" factor for sure. They were depending on one another where she was concerned and yet they couldn't see anything last between them if she wasn't there. Which also left the question if/when Shelby will return and what she had in mind. Brandt was aiming for full custody even if he wasn't sure how exactly can he care for her (especially if Shane wasn't there anymore).
I've got to say that though I COULD have felt bad for Shelby for a few reasons, I mostly thought she was a stupid little girl. SO irresponsible and immature I could smack her. She clearly went into having Jewel with ZERO thought of what's it's REALLY going to be like and what she will have to give up in order to care for her. Darling, this is what abortions are for. This girl could HARDLY care for herself and has zero regard for the people around her (being so self centered). Yeah she has issues (we don't know if due to the pregnancy or something she was dealing with regardless) but she still got me mad in the little we have of her. It made me appreciate Shane and Brandt even more. They wouldn't let Jewel be another statistics like Brandt was (or even Shane with his own problematic upbringing) which was truly admirable.
There's actually a bit more to this story (mostly nearing the end) but I think I've said enough. It was a wonderful ride. Shane and Brandt were great (and HOT!) together but they were also pretty good parents for Jewel. They weren't perfect, they were good enough, and they did their best. They weren't the kind who can't stop fussing around the baby, excited and squealing at everything she did, which I actually enjoyed. It was all new and they were taking each day at a time and while they were falling for one another they were also falling for her. They might wanted the very best for her - because she deserved no less - but it wasn't something that came naturally for either of them.
This was simply a great read and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you give it a go, even if you haven't read any of the books in the series. For me it was a clear stand alone (though Lincoln and Jacob are mentioned a few times as Brandt's co-workers).
15-20 August 2021