This HaBO request comes from Jennie, who is looking for a contemporary romance:
This was a contemporary romance that I read it in about 2005, and I think it was published a few years before that. It was a longer book that provided a significant amount of back story to the characters.
Early in the book there were two scenes regarding the heroine’s back story—her mother and soon-to-be stepfather were separately preparing their respective daughters for the parents’ marriage and becoming part of a blended family. The stepfather was rich and told his daughter to be prepared that the new members of the family were poor and not used to the economic life they led. The next scene was the mother telling her daughter (the heroine) to be prepared that the new members of the family were poor, meaning not used to a family-rich life. The two sisters became great friends. There was also a back story where the family was camping in Yellowstone (I think) and the girls got lost. The heroine told the sister a story about how the rangers move the wolves to the other side of the park for certain months. It sounded reasonable to the girl; it calmed her down, and it became quite a joke later because the sister believed that into adulthood.
There was also some back story for the hero. He had been a stable hand or horse trainer for the rich family that the heroine and her friends were associated with. He was slightly older than the girls (they were in high school at this point in the story), and of course they were all in love with him. There were bets, meaning real money, on who could seduce or romance him first. The heroine was absolutely in love and would have given herself body, mind, and soul, but she didn’t want the other girls to know. She pretended that she didn’t really care for him, and she held the money. He was fired because the horse owner’s wife tried to get the hero in bed and he refused, so she told her husband that the trainer had tried to assault her. It wasn’t true, and there’s more about that later in the novel.
Fast forward to the present age, the hero returns to the area (maybe Texas?). The heroine has just broken up with her fiancée. (She either caught him with another woman, or he broke up with her. I can’t remember, but he was a complete jerk whatever it was.) They are all at a charity event where they are auctioning jewelry, and the women are the models. It’s understood that the fiancé/boyfriend/husband of the woman will be the one to win that particular bid. As the hero watches the action, he understands that the jerkwad ex is supposed to win (jerk is either not bidding, or heroine will be miserable—can’t remember). To save the heroine from humiliation, he wins the bid. He takes her on a private plane to give her some space from the people. She gets drunk because she’s so angry and upset that her life isn’t wonderful at the moment. They have sex (maybe on the plane, maybe not). Angst, misunderstanding, finding they like each other—all the romancey plot feelings happen.
As the relationship develops, there’s angst about being together, along with business angst, and there are things from his back story that become live problems in their present. They marry. I don’t remember exactly the circumstances, but it was possibly spontaneous or a friends’ agreement. When life starts blowing up from the back story issue, he tries to let her out of the marriage by announcing to the press on her behalf that they’re getting a divorce. She refuses and follows him to where he’s hiding in his old hometown (maybe Kentucky?). He has a mansion there, and a beloved uncle lives nearby. Hero had a really crappy childhood. The hero and heroine visit the old house, which is dilapidated. They throw rocks into what’s left of the windows. It’s cathartic and a bonding moment for the two. I don’t remember how the problems are resolved, but everything leads to HEA, and in the epilogue, they’re with their son, Conner.
After reading too many formulaic romances of the 80s, and I had no interest in romance novels. I found this one in the library, and something about the title or the back cover really drew me to it. This was the first romance novel that had something more than the formula, and I’m grateful that it helped me rediscover romance novels. I’d love to read it again to see if I like it as much now as I did then.
Kudos to Jennie for remembering so much!