4.5- 4.75 stars
This book was so good! It has to be my favorite book by Jay Crownover. I think I highlighted 75% of the book because the writing was amazing. This book is a road trip story and a homecoming story rolled into one.
Dixie is an always-smiling, sweet and happy waitress in Rome's bar. She is always the first person to offer help or kind words to anyone else, but rarely does anyone give the same to her. Church has worked in the bar for 6 months after returning from being stationed overseas in the military. Dixie has been interested in Church since she met him. She knew he was the one for her when, one night after some customers got handsy and sassy with her, he was the only person to ever ask her if she was okay. Dixie has always believed in true love and there being only one person out there for every person, based on her parents and sister's relationships. But she doesn't think Church likes her. He has never returned her advances, treating her life a friend, because of his past and not feeling like he has anything to give in a relationship. But he is called back home when an elderly family friend gets hurt. He finally must return to Mississippi to face his past and the family he left behind after being gone for ten years. He asks Dixie to come with him for support. Over the course of their trip, Church and Dixie get to know each other better and realize how much they fit together. Their love story is sweet, sexy and emotional.
I loved Dixie and Church! I loved Dixie's sunny attitude. She was a breath of fresh air. She didn't have a perfect life, but you would never know from meeting her. She was strong and sweet. I admired and identified with her so much. She didn't know much about Church at first, but as she got to know him more, she saw the hurt and pain in him and wanted to help heal him. Church was the strong silent type. He had been through so much, from losing his mother and stepmother, to trauma and strife when in the military, to his childhood where he never felt like he fit in because he was biracial. He deserved the sunshine that Dixie brought into his life, but it took him awhile to see it. They were really perfect together. Church knew how special Dixie was and he had to be brave enough to take the risk of getting close enough to her, even though he had lost two women he loved already (in his mother and stepmother) and was afraid to lose another. But he realized he already loved Dixie and there was no way he could let her go. I very much enjoyed watching them fall in love and seeing the growth they both went through together.
Their chemistry was amazing. The sex scenes were hot and different! The sizzling scene outside the bar was amazing. And there is a sexy and inventive scene involving a weight bench that was scorching too. The connection, physically and emotionally, was very strong.
I loved the road trip aspect and the coming-home-to-Church's-small-hometown aspect. I loved the side characters, especially his brother and stepfather. I can't think of anything I disliked about this book. It was that good. And that's rare for me because I'm a picky reader.
My favorite quotes:
"I was used to guarding my heart but somehow she had slipped under those ironclad defenses and embedded some of her optimism and unshakable belief in the territory inside of me I thought was toxic and contaminated. Everything needed sunlight and care to flourish and grow. Dixie had both in spades and was relentless in her quest to turn my insides from something barren and lifeless into something that flourished and thrived with light and color."
"Fair warning before we fall into that bed together, if you put your hands and your mouth on me, Church, I'm going to want more. My stupid heart is going to spin big dreams that lock you and me together forever even though my head knows better. You gave me the little bit you just did and I can already feel every single piece of me wanting to gobble it up and demand more. I'm happy right now, but if you take me to bed and make me feel special I won't be happy when I realize that isn't true. I'd rather stay happy and if I had to guess I would bet you want to stay happy, too." Her lips twitched and she leaned into me, "Well, as happy as a big, broody soldier and prodigal son can get."
"Fear can make a smart man do very hurtful things, but eventually the heart wins out because fear is fleeting and love lasts forever."
"There was one fall he couldn't prevent or help me up from. That was the fall that had started when I walked into the bar and felt the warmth of the sun after what felt like a lifetime spent in the frigid cold. Slipping, sliding, skidding, tripping, tumbling, flailing... falling in love with Dixie Carmichael. "
I have to admit that I had overlooked this book prior to reading it, because after having read the other books in the series, I was really looking forward to book 4, Poppy and Wheeler's book. I am so happy that I got to read this book. Dixie and Church's story was so sweet and heart-warming that I will be thinking about it for a long time. It is the best book I have read in quite a while. I very much look forward to more from the Saints of Denver and more from Ms. Crownover!
*arc provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *