Now that I’ve arrived at the end of Roni Loren’s conclusion to her four-book series based on the adult survivors of a Texas high school shooting, I can confidently say that, with Molly O’Keefe’s Crooked Creek Ranch series, Loren has written one of the best contemporary romance series of the past ten years. Though #4 wasn’t my favourite (my heart remains with The One You Fight For) it was a most satisfying conclusion. The One For You tells the romance of two of Long Acre High’s shooting’s survivors, prom queen beauty Kincaid Breslin and her best friend, Ashton Isaacs. Cue sixteen years. Ash returns to Long Acre from NYC (after having left soon after the tragedy, abandoning Kincaid) to stay with his deceased friend’s parents, Grace and Charlie Lowell (his ex-fiancée left him homeless). Ash is a globe-trotting successful writer and the opportunity for some down time to let the Muse have her way with him is welcome, even in the town he’d hoped to never see again … and the friend he can’t forget. Meanwhile, wrong-side-of-the-tracks Kincaid is now a successful realtor and in the midst of clinching a sweet deal on a charmingly dilapidated farm house … except, like most things, Kincaid can’t resist the call of the broken, so she buys it instead, hoping to juggle job and renos and start her own B’n’B. Like estranged friend Ash, Kincaid is still close to the Lowells; their son, one of the shooting’s victims, was her high school sweetheart. The Lowells own Long Acre’s sole bookstore, but decide it’s time to sell and retire. They ask Ash, who’s staying in the bookstore’s upstairs apartment, and Kincaid, to spruce it up and put it on the market for them.
Herein lies one of The One For You‘s weaknesses: the plot lines are thick, deeply rooted (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except for one flaw), and convoluted. Kincaid and Ash, both easy to like and root for, have a long and complicated history, and the shooting isn’t the only tie that both binds and estranges. Though Ash has had an exciting career and plenty of girlfriends, heck, even a fiancée, his heart has only ever beat for Kincaid. She, the golden hair and statuesque beauty, is stuck in her only-love-was-her-hs-sweetheart-and-he-died phase, going from guy to guy and never seeing herself committed and in love. Except for her friend Ash, whom she still loves. She’s hurt, though, when he left and never looked back. Kincaid is “someone a person could walk away from without looking back … she wasn’t worth staying and fighting for.” (A woman whose lack of family growing up helped her make her own, with the three woman whose friendship she cherishes and who were the heroines of the first three books, Liv, Rebecca, and Taryn.)
When Grace and Charlie ask loyal Kincaid and loving Ash to groom the bookstore for sale, neither can deny them. But this means Ash and Kincaid will be thrown together and those pesky unanswered physical and emotional calls will get louder and louder. Like many a friends-to-lovers romance, Ash and Kincaid foolishly believe they can have all the benefits of familiarity and attraction, be lovers, and put a finis sign on their affair.
As Ash and Kincaid’s affair plays out, and beautifully too, with great banter, affection, a meeting of minds and souls, a real talent for kindness, and smoking-hot attraction, we also get to piece together their past and the fateful night that changed their and the town’s lives. I could see why Loren had to structure her romance with a double narrative of lengthy flashbacks and present affairs. It deepened her characters and lent weight to their conflicted feelings. I, however, found the device clunky because while I LOVED present Ash and Kincaid, I found the flashbacks to their high school selves flat. I rushed through the flashback chapters to get to adult Ash and Kincaid. The flashbacks should have lent poignancy to the present, but they made the novel feel like 90210, or The OC, which I know many readers may have loved. I’m not one of them.
What I loved, though, was Kincaid and Ash, wonderfully tender, loving people, funny and smart, playful in the bedroom, supportive and affectionate, out of it. It’s easy to imagine them happy together. They bring out the best in each other and promise a marriage of equal and true minds when their HEA rolls around. I have to say the dark moment and subsequent reconciliation/epilogue were beautifully handled: not too long-drawn, no Big Mis, honest conversation, hurts exposed; wrongs, corrected. I loved it and the epilogue, a perfect ending to a wonderful series. With Miss Austen, we say we’re sad to see the series go, but we’re looking forward to seeing what Ms Loren will write next. As for The One For You, it offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Roni Loren’s The One For You is published by Sourcebooks Casablanca. It was released in December 2019 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Sourcebooks Casablanca, via Netgalley.