First Step Forward by Liora Blake (Grand Valley #1)

first-step-forward-by-liora-blakeAvailable: November 29, 2016 Amazon/B&N

Type: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Pocket Books

My Copy: Sent

Reviewer: Nikki

After eight seasons playing pro-football, Cooper Lowry knows all the right answers.

Is he stubborn, short-tempered, and impatient? Yes. Are jersey chasers more trouble than they’re worth? Absolutely. Has he ever imagined a life beyond the game? Nope.

Cooper has built an enviable career—the result of staying focused, working hard, and keeping his head on straight—even as his body takes the brunt. So when a hard hit during a Sunday home game leaves him in a dazed heap on the field, it’s nothing more than another day at the office. The only thing that’s different about this Sunday is a chance encounter with a certain fascinating, beautiful free-spirited woman. And some sternly-worded instructions from his coach to take a little time off and give his body the TLC it craves—before he does lasting damage.

Whitney Reed is a few months away from losing the organic fruit orchard she bought three years ago in the tiny town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. At the time, she was just looking for a place to get lost. Instead, she found a home, somewhere she could finally put down roots. Now foreclosure is knocking on her door—along with a grumpy, gorgeous football player who might be just what she never knew she needed.

Sometimes a straight contemporary romance is exactly what I need. They sneak up on me really. I generally don’t even pick them up on my own. I tend to gravitate toward the dark, the erotic, the paranormal. Sure, of course I’ve read other contemporary romances here and there. Some Jill Shalvis (LOVE HER) or Carly Phillips (ALSO LOVE HER) but it’s not a genre I usually crave. Yet when First Step Forward showed up and I read the back, I wanted to start it right away. Maybe it was just the right time to send it, maybe it was because I hadn’t read a straight contemporary in a while, but I think it had more to do with the phenomenal sounding story the back cover painted for me as a reader. In addition, this was also my first book by Liora Blake which probably also played a part in my curiosity since I’m always on the lookout for new or upcoming authors.

First Step Forward is, at its core, a story about accepting change and learning to open up to that change. Cooper Lowry is staring down change in the face. His career in pro football is slowly slipping out of his grasp after a series of injuries coupled with his age. Even though he knows all the correct answers to give in the game he doesn’t have any clue how to answer the question, “what comes next?”. After a particularly bad hit in a game, he finds himself sidelined and ordered to take a few days rest.  He ends up in the last place he expected, across the state looking for the woman he had a chance encounter with in a drug store who he hasn’t been able to get off his mind.

Struggling orchard owner, Whitney has run out of options. Her dream is going to be foreclosed on and the bank is going to take everything. Her life has been a series of bad events and decisions all leading up to this point. One bad season and her dream is gone. The only place she’s ever felt at home or felt she belonged. When the surly football player she met shows up at her front door asking for more of her canned apple butter, she’s shocked, and a bit leary. With the bank knocking down the door soon, Whitney knows now isn’t the time to become distracted. She just needs more time to find an investor in her dream. Cooper isn’t about to take no for an answer, and they soon find themselves in an unlikely relationship. One that’s about to be tested by life changing events and unspoken truths.

Loved, loved, loved this book! There was just something about the writing that drew me straight into the story from the get go. I understood Whitney’s need to belong, to feel at home and I loved her ambition to do it on her own. She could have very easily accepted Cooper’s offer for help early on, but pride kept her on the path she was already on. She was headstrong without being overly so. Determined and lovable in her quirky, hipster traits. She was a character who just seemed real. Even though they seemed radically different, Cooper and her just fit so well. Never once was it about the money he made or the life he lived. It was about him. What he wanted, who he really was, and Whitney go that from the beginning.

Cooper was so afraid of his career ending because he never had anything outside the game waiting for him. When he met Whitney everything changed. His priorities shifted.  He began to see that life outside the game could be just as good. Just different. Maybe even better. Sure, he made it a bit difficult on himself at first, but as the story progressed and his character grew, I knew he’d find his way in the end.

I didn’t like how long it took Whitney to wise up at the very end. Without spoiling the story, I will say it took way longer than I thought necessary to come to the conclusion that Cooper was it for her. I mean…weeks. And the author made it seem like she simply didn’t notice how long it had been. She was painted as a bit of a scatter brain at times but…WHAT? Not cool.

Overall, a great start to a series I will definitely be back for. Contemporary romance at its very best, heartfelt and light, something you start and cannot put down!

I give First Step Forward by Liora Blake 4.50 stars! 



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