I grew up with three brothers. They weren’t tied to me by blood, but our connection went beyond genetics or bearing the same last name. Our connection was forged the summer I turned thirteen, the summer my mom ended her life and left me in the custody of John Armstrong, a man I’d never met. Packing all I owned in a couple of boxes, I left the familiarity of the big city and headed west to Red Mountain Ranch, set in a lonely valley outside of Jackson Hole.
Nothing was as it seemed at Red Mountain—it didn’t take long for me to figure that out. John was kind to me but distant, as if he was afraid to let anyone get too close. His three teenage sons had their own devices for keeping love as far away as they could. The eldest distracted himself with cheap relationships that had a shelf-life of one night. The middle son threw himself into the rigor of running a ranch, and the third wielded cruelty and mind-games in his quest to keep people from getting close.
Time has gone by, and I’ve spent those years trying to forget the brother I’d fallen for—the biggest mistake of my life.
Finally, I’ve moved on. Finally, I’m back. But what I didn’t realize was that running away from the wrong brother meant I’d also run away from the right one. The one who’d been there for me all along, waiting in his brother’s shadow for the day I either would or could move on.
But a decade is a long time to wait. Has the brother I should have chosen all of those years ago moved on too? Am I about to discover that my biggest mistake wasn’t falling in love with the wrong brother, but failing to return the love of the right one sooner?
Does unrequited love have an expiration date?
I’m about to find out.
“There is no one better for me than you. There never has been, and there never will be.”
As someone who reads so avidly and is constantly seeking that next great story, that next unforgettable journey to hold me captive and overwhelm me emotionally, I am getting pickier and pickier the more books I read, and it takes more now than it used to for a story to rock my world and make me swoon over every word in it. But there are some authors who never fail to do just that, time and time again, their powerful prose never disappointing, and their stories always making me feel so much, and always in such different ways. This is one of those extraordinary books. A timeless tale, a tale in which powerful themes are approached with subtlety and sensitivity, a tale in which even the most understated of scenes has the ability to fill us to the brim with emotions, and while the deliberately unhurried pace of this story might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I personally needed it to be just as it is because it ensured that every message took root, that every life lesson got heard, and that every single deeper meaning was conveyed just right. I fell in love with these characters, so much that I never wanted to part with them, but even more than that, I fell in love with a touching story of love, loss, courage and forgiveness, a story that made my heart smile cover to cover.
“I’d spent more time away from that place than I’d spent there, but I’d learned that some places and people leave a deeper impression than others, regardless of time.”
Scout is a young woman in her mid twenties who has spent seven years of her young life running away from a place that made her the person she is today. A place filled with memories, both good and bad, she has allowed her heartbreak to keep her away from the only place she calls home, and from the only people in her life that she considers family. But when a tragic turn of events takes her back to that very place, Scout is forced to confront old demons while rekindling bonds that never should have been severed in the first place.
“I’d let one person and the memories of him keep me from this place for seven years. I’d never make that mistake again.”
Scout grew up with the three Armstrong brothers by having spent five of her most impressionable teen years living under the same roof, raised by the same man and treated as one of them, but she forged very different ties with each of the brothers, their differing personalities reflecting the type of relationship she formed with them—a loving best friend, a playful older brother, and an unrequited teenage crush. But when she returns to Red Mountain Ranch after seven years of absence, nothing is as it once was. And where once there was life and joy, now there is only despair and bereavement haunting the halls of her old childhood home.
“Life was heightened on those thousands on acres, and no one who entered its boundaries was exempt. The highs of life were higher, but the lows followed the same pattern, and in my experience, the lows outweighed the highs at Red Mountain.”
Taken aback by all the changes, Scout is forced to confront all that she has left behind, and the very reasons that drove her away from a place she loves so dearly. She is no longer the vulnerable young girl whose heart led her astray, and the Armstrong brother whose past actions have troubled her for so long no longer has the same power over her. Amidst past and present heartache, Scout has to finally recognise her unhealthy obsession for what it once was and allow her heart to see what had been in front of her all along.
“What I wanted to give and wanted to feel wasn’t hiding in the darkness… it had been in plain sight the whole time.”
But love is the very thing that the Armstrong men fear the most, and sometimes finding the love of your life does not necessarily mean you are allowed to keep it too. Especially when old family secrets are thrown into the mix.
A beautiful and at times heart-shattering story about learning to live life to the fullest, fearing nothing, not even death, and living it with no regrets, the entire story is akin to a nostalgic trip down memory lane, evocative of an old-fashioned world where life was simpler, more predictable, and where human bonds and their connection to the land they lived on formed the essence of a person’s life. With great finesse and unquestionable sophistication, Ms Williams has gifted us with a tale to make us reflect, to stop us in our tracks and make us evaluate our own life’s journey. This is not a story about the highs and lows of one’s life—this is the story about the space in between, the simple joys, the important joys, the daily joys, and about learning to appreciate and celebrate every last one of them.
“You make life fun, not matter what we’re doing. I wake up with a smile, even if the first thing on my list is scouring through a pile of cow crap to see why one of them’s sick, because I know you’re here. I know I’ll get to see you when you show up and chore the say away with me.”
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