What Price Paradise by Katherine Allred

All his life Tate McCullom has been taught to be responsible, and he is the very model of what a respectable man should be. Until the night he gets drunk and sleeps with a woman he barely knows.

Now, six weeks later, she’s pregnant, alone, and broke. Once again, Tate must take responsibility for his actions, and makes plans to marry his child’s mother. There’s only one problem…he has to tell his fiancée.

Abby Grayson hasn’t had an easy life. As the daughter of the town whore, people either avoid her or think she’s like her mother. For Abby, it’s a struggle just to fill her belly and keep a roof over her head.

Loneliness and a secret yearning for this man she thought she’d never have led her to spend the night with Tate. But the last thing she needs is a baby when she can barely take care of herself. Desperate, but too proud to ask for help, she finally agrees to accept a job from Tate – the job of being his wife. Now she has almost everything she’s ever dreamed of.

Unfortunately, only one thing will gain her Tate’s love – his realization that the night he spent with her was no drunken accident. It was a last-ditch attempt to win the woman he really wanted.

review

If you have never picked up a Katherine Allred book, you’ve been missing out. Her stories are like a warm cup of soup on a cold winter’s day – they soothe you, wrap you up in their goodness and leave you smiling.

This is the story of two people brought together by unexpected events but kept together by destiny. Tate is a man solely driven by his responsibilities – responsibilities to a troubled and loveless relationship with a woman who is everything but devoted or faithful to him, to a younger brother who dotes on him and sees him as a father figure, to a large ranch that has belonged to his family for generations. Tate is dependable, stable, never loses his temper or does anything just for himself … until Abby.

Abby is alone in the world with no one to look after her or care for her. People attach her late mother’s reputation to her but in reality Abby is a good girl, she has never been with a man before and she has only ever fantasised of being with one – Tate. She has been watching him from afar, envying the woman on his arm, convinced that he doesn’t even know she exists. But Tate has noticed Abby, so much that she haunts his dreams. He has felt just as lonely in his life as she has and one drunken night he no longer fights the pull.

“Let me come in, please. I’m tired of being alone.”

They share a passionate one-night-stand and soon after Abby finds herself pregnant. She never intends to tell him, but when Tate discovers that she is expecting his child, he makes his current break-up with his fiancée a permanent one and convinces Abby to move in with him and marry him. They keep separate bedrooms and initially her role is more of a house-keeper rather than a wife, but their constant proximity to each other and the knowledge that the fruit of their one night of passion is growing in Abby’s womb eventually awaken suppressed feelings for each other and, as they say, the rest is history.

“Tate stood there gazing down into Abby’s smiling face and knowledge slammed into him, staggering in its intensity. He wanted her. Wanted her more than he’d ever wanted another woman in his life. His body had been trying to tell him that for weeks now, but he hadn’t listened. Couldn’t afford to listen.”

But as passion comes easy to them, love proves to be the real challenge.  Abby’s feelings for Tate have always been evident to her but he struggles to grasp his.

“She knew that she belonged to Tate McCullom heart and soul. If she lived to be a hundred, never would she love another man the way she did him.”

A story of heartache, unspoken feelings, letting go of one’s past and embracing the future – this is truly a delightful read. Abby is a heroine you can’t help but want to protect from harm. She brings the best out in people, she is loving, caring and this is her journey of independence and self-affirmation. Tate, on the other hand, has much more deeply-entrenched obstacles to overcome – he needs to learn to listen to his heart before he loses the one person he has loved all along.

If you loved The Sweet Gum Tree, you will like this story as well. It is a little bit less epic and the agonizing moments are less heartbreaking, but it is a heart-wrencher all the same.

4halfstars

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The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans – everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.

Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer. Suddenly, Nick is gone – leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant.

For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy – until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back… and he’s not alone.

Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions – the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.

review

Hands down, the most ENJOYABLE book I have read this year. I know that I say that a lot and I do read a lot of incredible books but I guess the reason why I am making such a statement about this particular book is because it had me from the first page. I was smiling from the moment I started reading it because I immediately had a gut feeling that I was going to love it. It was just my kind of book from the get-go.

The more I kept reading, the more I was certain that it was going to be a heart-wrenching journey, but nothing prepared me for everything that happened in this book. Katherine Allred has such a unique writing style – the only way I can describe it is by comparing it to someone giving you a shoulder massage, getting you to slowly relax and find your happy place, and then suddenly slapping you on the back of the head. I felt like that throughout the book. Just when you think that you can relax again – slap! And the worse slaps were the ‘pre-emptive’ ones where Ms Allred throws a hint here and there, usually at the end of a chapter, of what is to come and it never sounds good. This story had so many ‘gasp’ moments that I had to remind myself to breathe.

The book is written from Alix’s POV and that never changes. However, what changes is her voice – we meet her when she is 8 years old and her POV then matches her age. As she grows older, so does her POV. I just loved that. We get to fall in love with this vivacious and kind little girl who sees the world through such a pure and untainted filter. She meets young Nick, two years her senior, and she immediately wants to save him from his horrific life. She offers him kindness and friendship rather than pity and he slowly becomes Alix’s whole world. While they are young, their bond is purely a friendship but as they grow older their relationship blossoms into a lovely romance. Are you relaxed yet because here come the ‘slaps’? Nick’s father is shot, Nick has to leave town, Nick leaves town, Alix is heart-broken, Alix is pregnant, Alix marries someone else. What follows made me shake my head and cry “No, no, no, no …” so many times that I got dizzy in the end. I won’t spoil the story for anyone by telling you what happens next because I think the book’s synopsis already reveals too much for my taste, but I will tell you that you will laugh, you will curse and you will cry like a baby.

For me, this book is about whether love truly conquers all. It is about our ability to forgive unimaginable hurts and put love first. Alix and Nick’s story spans over a long period of time and the only thing that we are truly certain about throughout the book is Alix’s love for Nick. I really liked Alix as a character and as a woman – she followed her heart and truly did what she thought was best. Not just for her but for everyone she loved. She goes through hell and I just expected her to explode one day, it was inevitable. You can only accumulate so much pain and sorrow inside you before it starts spilling out. I was angry when she was angry, I was heart-broken when she was heart-broken, and I wanted to scream when she just held it all inside.

Nick is truly as perfect as you’re ever going to get in a leading man, in my humble opinion. At no point did I doubt his love for Alix but I did question some of his actions. He made mistakes but he had his reasons and they were always born out of concern for others. He did not consider himself good enough for Alix, he loved her so damn much but he wanted to become the man she would be proud of. I hate that he left but I understand why he left and let’s not forget that he came back. I suspect that a man like Nick would carry the burden of his mistakes for the rest of his life and I was happy that they allowed forgiveness to heal their broken hearts rather than allowing hurt and regret to torture them forever.

The ending was just perfect, I think it couldn’t have ended better. It takes time to erase years of pain and it takes time for broken hearts to heal completely and start embracing happiness. It wasn’t rushed, it was realistic and it satisfied the HEA junkie in me.

A beautifully written book, an elegant and experienced writing style, a delightful story that you will carry in your heart for quite some time, I promise you. I would give this book 10 stars if I could!

5stars

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