Author: RJ Scott writing as Rozenn Scott
Release Date: September 1 2016
Length: 54,000 words
Stanford Creek, Book 2
Danny Hudson has finally found a place to stop. With his daughter Hope in his arms, and his place in the music group Hudson Hart gone, he has a future to plan and a family to raise. Staying at his friend Cody’s house is hard enough, but finding a home of his own is impossible. A place to stay over the coffee shop in town is a godsend, but it comes with one proviso—he must work the cost of the room off in redecorating and rebuilding.
Rachel has secrets that she doesn’t even want to admit to herself, let alone her close-knit family. Dating the wrong guys is one way to protect her heart, but meeting Danny could change all that.
Can Rachel ever get past the reasons why she thinks real love isn’t possible and realize that love is the only thing that actually matters?
He was the very definition of hot, tall, built, and with an impressive line in tips on which boring team would win which dull tournament. But there was nothing between his ears, other than sports stats, and there was certainly not a single spark between them.
Which was exactly how she liked it. She only dated to look normal to friends and family. Normal was something critical to her, in her normal life, and her regular town.
So, she’d give him one kiss, and send him on his way with a pat on the back and a see you later, big guy. Getting serious with Eric—or any man, come to think of it—was not on the cards. The sound of a baby crying filtered through the cooling night air and Eric glanced in the direction of the noise, allowing her to get past him.
“No, Eric.” She caught her stupidly high heels on a paving stone, and it slowed her down enough so that Eric held her arm. With remarkable agility which belied his size, he got in front of her and pasted what he probably thought was a cute expression on his face.
“One. Just one.”
Rachel sighed. Eric was not going to stop. She opened her mouth to discuss rationally why she wasn’t kissing him, but the words left her in a huff as Eric gripped her upper arms. He shuffled her back into the darkness against the fence and pressed her there, and she was squashed between the wall and the heavyset man.
“Eric, stop,” Rachel said, a lot louder. He grinned down at her like this was a big game to him.
“C’mon, baby, one kiss.”
“Eric!” Rachel attempted to shove him, but she couldn’t get purchase in her heels and toed them off as best she could.
“No one can see us,” Eric muttered. “So fucking hot, I want you out of that dress.”
A dozen scenarios went through her mind, all the Krav Maga techniques she’d learned to take care of herself. The quick sharp movements that kept her life under control. The first step of which was stopping action before escalation. She’d failed that part; thinking she’d had control over the laughing drunk guy who just wanted to dance. Until, that is, she wanted fresh air, and he seemed to think what she was really asking for was sex in the gardens. That left talking and getting him to move back just enough so she could get purchase.
“C’mon, sweetie, not here,” Rachel said, in her best girly tone.
He didn’t move, just nuzzling her neck, sucking at her neck. No fucking way was he marking her skin, and she shuddered at the thought of his teeth on her.
Too many shadows in my head. Too many memories that won’t leave me alone.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” she said.
“For more than kissing,” Eric said with a chuckle as he pressed his erection against her stomach and she insinuated her hands between them. All she needed was a pivot point, and she could get him off her, but it would take some time.
“My family is here,” she said, still smiling up at him, even though panic began to filter into her thoughts. She desperately attempted to focus on sounds and smells around her—the baby crying, soft talking, the music filtering outside from the party, the scents of spring in the air. Anything to find peace.
“We can go in a minute, I want to fuck you here, right here,” Eric said. “So beautiful.”
“C’mon, sexy, you could just suck me off.”
“Eric, get off me,” she said with more force. He still didn’t move.
“You should let her go,” a voice said from their side.
Eric looked sideways. “Fuck off, pretty boy,” he snapped. “Not your business.”
She didn’t recognize the new voice, and couldn’t see who it was, given her head was smushed up against Eric’s chest and turned the wrong way. It didn’t sound like her brother, though, or Justin, or Garrett, thank God. All of them would, in turn, yank Erik off, beat him into a bloody pulp, and then lecture her, and she’d stand there and take it like she always did, because she had no choice.
Choice had been taken from her, violently, brutally, and with utter finality a long time ago.
“Let me go,” Rachel snapped.
“Step away,” the man she couldn’t see said again. He was closer, or he was talking louder. Either way, she recognized that voice and her shame was complete. Danny Hudson.
“And I said, Mr. Millionaire, that you should fuck off back to wherever you came from.” Eric rested back on his heels, and that gap was enough to allow her to twist her hands, and kick his shin with her foot followed up by a knee to the groin as he stumbled back. With a shout of pain, Eric fell to his knees, cursing a storm.
“I said no,” Rachel said. She didn’t raise her voice, couldn’t even face Danny directly who was standing right there with a sleeping baby in his arms. She could see him move closer in her peripheral vision, hand outstretched, probably to help her, to reassure her? She didn’t know, but she didn’t need another man’s hand on her right now.
“Fucking cock-tease,” Eric cursed, pushing himself to stand, but not getting any nearer.
“You’re drunk, Eric,” Rachel said patiently.
“I’ve wasted a whole night on you,” Eric said. “I bought a fucking suit,” he added, a little more pathetically. He stepped toward Rachel and she tensed, sideways on, ready to take him down if she needed to, even though he’d passed from horny to affronted. He must have sensed her intention; either that or he was so drunk that he wasn’t focusing on what he wanted.
“It’s okay, Eric, you can go now,” she said, with patience, even though she felt sick and angry. Calm the situation, pay attention to the cues. The only cues Eric was giving were ones that screamed he was pissed.
I recently read Notes & Roses, the first book in the Stanford Creek series and as soon as I finished it I knew I needed to read the subsequent titles too. Love & Hope proved how I right I was. This book is at least as entertaining and gripping as the first title was. Both books are extremely well written, have a fabulous cast of characters and story-lines that hook the reader from the start. And yet, I wouldn’t call these similar stories. Where Notes & Roses had a suspenseful undercurrent, in Love & Hope it is the emotional tension that captured me.
Danny’s life doesn’t resemble what he imagined he would be. Gone are the days of touring with the boy band he was a member off, gone is the woman who was supposed to love him, and gone is most of his money. He’s left with his fragile baby daughter and no clear idea what the future might hold for him.
Rachel appears to be a fun and confident young woman, but underneath the disguise she wears like armor, hides a broken woman who doesn’t believe she deserves the sort of happy ever after her cousin and business partner Megan has found. Not that she’ll tell anybody about her insecurities, never mind the reasons she has them. No, she hides behind a happy façade while making sure to only date no hopers.
Danny and Rachel are attracted to each other from the start. But between Danny’s concerns about his daughter and Rachel’s determination not to have feelings for any man, a future for them appears impossible.
This is a very touching story. To the observant reader it is clear, almost from the start, what Rachel’s secret has to be even if she only admits to it later on in the story. And while her issue is serious and heartbreaking, this story is remarkably angst free. Sure, Danny and Rachel have more than their fair share of problems to face and overcome, but they do it with a refreshing lack of belly-aching. Those who know me and my reading preferences won’t be surprised when I say I greatly appreciated that fact.
I loved that Rachel, despite the hurt she carries, was portrayed as a strong and self-reliant young woman almost as much as I appreciated that Danny came across as a sensible yet sensitive young man. The lack of stereotypes (as in a fragile girl being ‘rescued’ by the alpha male) was refreshing. And Rozenn Scott’s writing is flawless and smooth, resulting in a delightful reading experience.
I had one minor issue with this story. For me Rachel’s transition from closed off and distant to relaxed and willing to embrace life and love, happened a bit too fast. While it made sense for her change after she made her breakthrough, the complete turnaround almost in the blink of an eye felt a bit too good to be true. Having said that, in what was otherwise a wonderful and intriguing story, this really was a minor hiccup and even I can’t deny that after everything the girl had been and put herself through she more than deserved that happiness.
Over all Love & Hope was a great and hard to put down story. I can’t wait to spend more time with these characters and am very much looking forward to others finding their own happily ever afters. Bring on book 3; I’m ready.
Related review: Notes & Roses
RJ Scott is the bestselling gay romance author of over ninety MM romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.
RJ also writes MF romance under the name Rozenn Scott.
The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.