Type: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Montlake Romance
My Copy: Sent
Zoe Brown may have been voted Most Likely to Never Leave River Bend, but the paper-thin walls and suffocating air of her family’s double-wide trailer were not what she wanted for her life. Other than BFFs Melanie and Jo, the only thing that kept Zoe sane during high school was her boyfriend, Luke.
She didn’t just leave, she escaped—turning her back on the shame of her black-sheep siblings and imprisoned dad. Now a celebrity chef in Dallas, she can afford all the things she never could have growing up. But when she returns to rustic, ruggedly beautiful River Bend, Zoe has to face all that she abandoned—including Luke.
While Luke was a refuge for Zoe in the past, he knows they inhabit totally different worlds now. Anchored by his parents and his job as a mechanic in his father’s shop, Luke never felt the urge to leave River Bend—until Zoe’s return.
But when the two rekindle their old flame, Zoe is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: remain in River Bend and confront her past before it destroys her, or say good-bye to everyone she’s ever loved…again, this time for good. Life is good when I get to read a Catherine Bybee story, she writes characters that are intriguing and genuine.
This is a second chance story that brings us back to River Bend, a small town with drama and secrets but good friends and special people that bring a wayward gal back home.
Zoe could not wait to get out of River Bend after high school, when she was voted the most likely to never leave, she was bound and determined to not be “that” girl. She grew up in a rundown trailer with an abusive father, who is now in prison and a mother whose self esteem is nonexistent. When she left, she not only said goodbye to her two best friends but also a special someone who stood by her through all the heartache. She visited at times, her siblings are still there along with her mother and her friends Mel and Jo and even saw Luke at times, but still left to the life she built for herself in Texas as a very famous chef.
Luke never left River Bend and although he has a successful business in town with his father, has never really felt he has done much for himself since Zoe left. He still thinks of her and wonders what might have been and when the opportunity to visit her comes along, he jumps on a plane (with some prodding from his friends) to see if things are still the same between them.
Neither Luke or Zoe moved on from where they were in high school, sure, if you looked at their careers it seems like they are doing well however emotionally, they were stagnant. When they get another chance they both realize their feelings have not changed and they will do anything to make it work, even dealing with her drama filled family.
This is a sweet romance, Ms. Bybee always draws me into her stories and this was no exception, as I rooted for this second chance romance through laughter and drama, until the end.
This romance had a different feel for me, it was as much about Luke and Zoe finding their way back to each other as it was a story about family and friends. You could tell fairly quickly that the two still had feelings for each other, so for me the story took on a different tone. As she comes back for Mel’s rehearsal dinner, it is more about the crisis her family was facing, then about their romance. They had already decided it was their turn at happiness, they just had to make decisions on how to make it work.
I love the relationships in this series, Mel, Jo and Zoe have a great friendship that has lasted for decades, you can feel the love between the three and I loved their trip to Las Vegas which is full of fun and mischief. I also enjoyed the many characters living in this small town, quirky and fun people who bring so much to the story. Zoe’s family is hard to take, but Ms. Bybee shows a realistic view of abuse and how some are dragged down by circumstances and emotional issues. Zoe rises above her childhood trauma and she has high hopes for her family as they rebuild their lives. This can easily be read as a standalone, and as usual it is a great romance from an author who is on my auto buy list.
I give Staying for Good by Catherine Bybee 4 Stars!