Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TBR Challenge: Nancy Herkness - Country Roads

When sheltered artist Julia Castillo flees her family home, she has just one goal: to prove to her overbearing family once and for all that she can make it on her own. In Sanctuary, West Virginia, her horse paintings promise to take the art world by storm. Yet Julia finds her courage tested as never before—by her love for a handsome country lawyer, by her bond with a dangerous black stallion, and by the secret she is so desperate to keep…
Paul Taggart abandoned his high-powered legal career to return to Sanctuary, giving up his own dreams to care for his troubled brother. But the day he rescues Julia Castillo from the side of the highway, his staid, responsible life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to the fiery but unworldly artist, Paul will do anything to protect her—even sacrifice his own happiness to guarantee hers. Dramatic and emotional, Country Roads is a heartwarming tale of two people struggling to balance the bonds of family with a passionate love of their own.

Comment: This is another TBR Challenge read. This month the theme is Contemporary and I picked this book because of that and also because I wanted to read more about the characters I've met in the first book in this Whisper Horse trilogy. The books are set in Virginia and revolve around the idea of people needing a whisper horse to lay their issues and problems down and the horse's presence will help them come to terms to any decision or step they would need to take. However, I think this is only a secondary element, to be honest.

We first met Paul Taggart in the first book and he's a gentleman although part of his life seems to be constricted somehow. One day he helps Julia Castillo, someone we also know from the first book because she's a famous artist, with her car and somehow he becomes her lawyer too.
But Julia is running from a situation she feels she can't control and Paul and her newfound whisper horse will help her come to realize what she wants to do with her life.
Paul and Julia start off as friends but their relationship quickly changes to something more... but can the two of them let go of all the things bringing them down to take a step towards not only happiness but self worth?

I enjoyed reading this book. I think the author has a good control over her story, she writes well and the narrative is fluid and polished, carefully presented and executed.
All seems perfect except... it's too perfect. I think the plot was thought about and prepared but it lacks more passion or closeness to what one would expect of a small town and romantic characters...
I also had this issue, sort of, with the first book. I had a good time but I didn't feel I was being dazzled by everything that was happening, it was more like being led through well staged scenes. It doesn't mean there are no feelings expressed here or more intense scenes showing us the characters' wishes and thoughts, but... too easy to read.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with the writing. I can understand what's happening, what we are supposed to believe in or wonder about when it comes to the character's, but something is definitely lacking and I can't think of the right word.

The two main characters, Paul and Julia, face personal issues that influence their decisions and choices in life and it can get frustrating to read about. But if we think about it a bit more, in real life, how difficult it is to do radical changes in our lives, to makes ourselves believe we can do it... things do work out in the end because this is a romance novel, but there's food for though for us too.
Their relationship progresses well, rather quickly to be honest, I think I would have liked a little less polite agreement and a bit more fighting their feelings so the book could have more strength, more vibrancy or something... everything is too perfect with them.
Sure, part of t is their personalities...I liked Paul more, I think his character is better developed, especially with little references here and thereto his thoughts, to what other think of him, how he feels about it...
Julia is someone we just met, I do have to say she sounds a bit whiny even if she has reasons for it! And she does, but it's my impression.
Still, they get a HEA, again too convenient and perfect and not as romantic as I imagined despite the interesting scene where Paul tells her he loves her...

The plot has some interesting elements. I liked knowing more about art and expectations artists face, I liked seeing how two people can rationalize even when they face difficult challenges in heir personal lives, I enjoyed seeing friends offer a hand and how Paul and Julia found comfort in their friendship and intimacy...
But then the main characters, despite their notions about reality and what should be done, still took too long to act in certain situations. I've said it's something expected in real life but in a story it would have been great to see them be braver or be decisive sooner.
I know it sounds complicated but what endeared me to the story can also be seen from a different, less "magical" perspective.

All in all, Paul's life as lawyer and falling in love and Julia's change of art inspiration and falling in love are wonderful themes to develop a romance plot, but all things considered, the narrative was  a little bit too perfect, too polished to make this as captivating as I hoped. It's enjoyable, fluid but I wanted a bit more out of it...
I'm still curious about book #3 and will read it soon.
Grade: 7/10


  1. I've has this series sitting on my TBR for a while now and keep dithering over whether to actually sit down with it or not.

    1. Hello, thank you for commenting.
      I think the books (the two I've read so far) are well written and structured... but they seem to be too perfect, too polished..I would have liked a bit more spark in everything lol
      Perhaps it will work for you!

  2. I've been curious about this series so I enjoyed reading your review.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting!