“JUST A KISS,” BY DENISE HUNTER
PUBLISHER: THOMAS NELSON; SEPTEMBER 6, 2016
Synopsis: Watching the love of his life falling for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.
But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return, he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.
Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances, he’s adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. He has nightmares and mood swings, and his unwavering independence keeps him from accepting help from anyone, including her. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up the money needed to save it.
As the weeks wear on with the two in such close proximity, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his corded arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?
“Just a Kiss” is the first book I’ve read by Denise Hunter, and if you haven’t read her either, don’t worry because you can still easily catch on to this story! This is the story of Riley and Paige who have been best friends forever, except that he’s also been in love with her for years. Back when she started dating his brother, Beau, he enlisted in the Marines to avoid seeing them together. Now he’s coming home after losing one of his legs from the knee down and learns that he is staying with Paige while he recovers. Paige and Beau have long since broken up, but Riley is still uneasy about staying with Paige and her seeing him without his leg and needing help. Paige has no idea that Riley has been in love with her for years, but starts to notice her own feelings changing, leading her to wonder what it would be like to have a relationship with Riley. Although Riley starts physically healing and adjusting to losing his leg, Riley is struggling on the inside with anger and doubt about himself. Paige thinks that things may work out for them, but then he pushes her away. While reading this story you find yourself hoping and wishing for Riley to start healing emotionally so that he can move on with his life, hopefully with Paige.
This really was a fantastic novel from beginning to end. Being a dog lover myself, I was instantly crazy about Paige and her efforts working at the shelter and trying to save it from being closed. Her character was written so realistically in dealing with Riley. She tried so hard to do what he needed and check on him and worry about him, but she also got angry and frustrated when he was taking things out on her and being stubborn. Nothing was sugar-coated, but an honest look at a wounded Veteran coming home and those around him learning how to cope, when to help, and when to walk away. Riley was stubborn and moody for a good part of the novel, but you could still see the sweet, wonderful person deep down inside of him. He started out not wanting anyone or any help, but he eventually realizes that by allowing people in, he could start to heal and get back to somewhat of a normal life. Having heard my husband’s stories about his own service-related injuries and stories of other disabled Veterans that he has worked with over the years, Riley’s struggle for independence and confidence sounded very familiar.
“Just a Kiss” is a Christian romance so do not expect any spicy bedroom moments, but the novel does not need any of that. The author’s writing paints a very clear picture about the feelings and romantic tension between Riley and Paige and you have no doubts about how they feel about each other. The novel’s pace is just right and you will find yourself consumed from the first page to the last. There were a few parts that didn’t exactly make sense due to Riley’s injury, and there were plenty of moments that frustrated me to death because of the stubbornness of both Riley and Paige. But overall, this is a beautiful story about friendship, love, and healing that any romance fan will enjoy. If you have not yet read Denise Hunter’s “Just a Kiss,” I definitely recommend adding it to your list!
Learn more about Denise Hunter by visiting her web page.
Purchase “Just a Kiss” on Amazon.
*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.