This is a sweetly written story, the third in the Silver Creek series, about the youngest sibling, Quinn Knowles, a young woman who has adored being around animals ever since she was a little girl. Her dream is to create an animal sanctuary on land she can purchase near her parents’ ranch. She has a rescue horse that she knows won’t be able to live away from her, dogs and even a parrot. After spending the weekend at a wolf sanctuary where she sponsors an abused and recovering wolf, her parents ask her to stop at the airport and pick up the son of old family friends who is coming to stay with the Knowles’ family.
Ethan is a photojournalist who has spent decades traveling the world documenting injustice and atrocities. His latest assignment was to be embedded with a military unit in Afghanistan. And when the group of soldiers he is photographing and travelling with are all killed in an attack, he is the only survivor, though he suffers grievous life-changing injuries. After being hospitalized in Germany and then at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, he knows he needs to get away from his parents’ worry and fear for him, because it’s only making him more anxious about facing his future. And the only place he can think of that he’d like to go is the Knowles’ ranch in California, which he lived near growing up and spent a lot of time at learning to ride and care for some of the animals.
And, yes, it’s not surprising that Quinn would discover the wounded spirit behind Ethan’s cold and unfriendly manner as she gets to know him. He’s adamant about not working in photography any longer and she’s not entirely sure what happened at the time of his injuries, but since she’s in charge of finding him a job on the ranch, she has him start working with her goats. She eventually decides a rescue dog for him to work with just might rescue Ethan, too. He claims not to be interested, but before long, the dog and Quinn’s other animals are allowing them to spend plenty of time together and he finds he’s enjoying himself.
There’s also a young, handsome cowboy named Josh who asks Quinn out and she’s sure her mother was instrumental in setting her up. Because, at age 24, she’s not really had even a serious relationship and is beginning to feel that there’s something lacking in her basic makeup that keeps her from being attracted to and comfortable with anyone. Being such a lovely young woman, Quinn has never lacked for male attention, but whenever dating would progress to intimacy, she just never wanted to take things any further and had been called frigid or, even worse, a tease.
So when Quinn starts to feel that Ethan might be more like her than he realizes, she’s intrigued but also a little afraid to pursue her feelings. And when Ethan finds himself feeling jealous of Josh, he tells himself that he’s too old and too damaged physically and emotionally for Quinn, but he’s angry nonetheless that the young cowboy would pursue her.
As their relationship progresses slowly and tenderly, it becomes clear that Ethan is exactly the man who Quinn needs in her life. But when he tells her that he had been contracted to put together a showing of his photographs in New York and he flat-out refuses to look at the photographs, Quinn feels that Ethan has to face his fears head on if he’s ever to get past them. It seems as though the perfect opportunity arises when Ethan finally agrees to go with her and her family to her brother’s upcoming wedding in New York, but Quinn wonders if her interference will help or ruin things between them.
I loved the tender way that a relationship developed between Quinn and Ethan before they took things to a physical level, not something you see that often in contemporary romances.