By Matthew Robbins
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Felix is in real trouble this time. Not only did he wake up nearly naked in a foreign country — drugged and abandoned as a prank — but soon he finds himself being interviewed by the police after crashing the truck of his handsome rescuer, Ronan Malloy. The only way for Felix to make amends is to work off his debt on the injured Ronan’s shabby, struggling farm.
Ronan Malloy and his grandad Lorcan have big plans for their ancestral farm. Their new boutique cheese will put Malloy Cheesery the map. But he hasn’t struck it rich yet. Between the bank and his scheming neighbor, he has enough troubles and doesn’t want to deal with an untrained Yankee on top of it.
Although Felix resents having to stay behind as his friends continue their backpacking adventure across Europe, he begins to see that farm life isn’t so bad. Ronan’s charming smile and sparkling eyes are an added bonus. And Ronan learns soon enough that the Yankee isn’t as helpless as he thought.
Felix isn’t sure he’s up to the task of saving the deeply indebted Malloy Farm from calamity and devious plots for its downfall, but for Ronan, he’s willing to try.
There is certainly a lot going on in this story (plot and sub-plots), and though everything is tied together to make a complete story – which, by the way, about three-quarters of the way through, comes together quite impressively when it all finally clicks for Felix and you’ll be glad you kept reading – the reader needs to pay attention. Individual character development is good (I’m sure I’m not the only reader who wants to kick Felix’s friends Sam and Katelyn with steel-toed boots by the end of the book!), through the romance definitely needed more concrete development, focus, and play. The romance, affection, and emotional development may have been implied, but it needed to be intensified and emphasized more. That element dragged, and I kept waiting and wondering when it would appear.
It’s my understanding that this was debut work for author Matthew Robbins. The elements are there, and it’s evident he knows how to craft and thread together a cohesive, real life-type story that’s engaging enough to care about the characters (except for Sam and Katelyn in this one!, but that’s the sign of good character development) and want to find out what happens next. Once Robbins figures out how to weave in romance, he’ll be all set!
This is one of those books that simply feels good to read: beautiful Irish countryside, great canine sidekick, endearing characters (like Gordo), and emotional tug-of-war that’s never too overly heavy.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on February 5, 2017.