Title: A Man to Hold on To by Marilyn Pappano
A Tallgrass Novel (Book Two)
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 400 pages/95,000 words
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Therese Matheson doesn’t know if she’ll ever get over losing her husband in Afghanistan. Surviving Paul’s death has been hard, but raising his sullen son and his thirteen-going-on-thirty daughter alone has been even harder. All they need is a fresh start, and Tallgrass, Oklahoma, could be the perfect new beginning . . . especially when Therese meets Sergeant Keegan Logan. The sexy combat medic and single dad soon awakens a desire she’d thought long buried.
Keegan always wanted to be a father . . . someday. So when his ex-girlfriend disappears, leaving her daughter in his care, Keegan’s hands are tied. He has to find the girl’s father. His search leads him to Tallgrass and to a beautiful brunette widow who has no idea her husband was ever unfaithful. What begins as a friendship soon ignites into something far more and gives him the courage to be the kind of man-and father-he always dreamt he could be. But his secret still stands between them. Can Keegan reveal the truth and convince Therese they share something too special to lose-a love that can bring two families together?
After reading A Man to Hold on To I am officially hooked on Marilyn Pappano’s delightfully heartwarming Tallgrass series. In this latest installment centered around a close-knit group of war widows, Therese Matheson and Keegan Logan are facing difficult decisions about the children unexpectedly left in their care.
Three years after her husband Paul’s death in Afghanistan, Therese is struggling to build a healthy relationship with her two grieving stepchildren when she meets Keegan. Therese loves Abby and Jacob, but she is on the verge of relinquishing custody of the unhappy and resentful kids after they return from a visit with their self-centered mother. The last thing she needs is another complication in her life and when Keegan arrives looking for Paul, she is surprised by her attraction to the handsome soldier.
Keegan has never met Paul, but their lives intersected when Keegan’s girlfriend Sabrina had an affair with Paul right before Paul’s last deployment. The affair ended Keegan and Sabrina’s relationship but when his ex abandons her daughter, Mariah, Keegan becomes the little girl’s guardian. The only problem? Keegan is not Mariah’s father; Paul is. Keegan travels to Tallgrass with the intention of leaving Mariah in Paul’s custody but after he learns of Paul’s death, he keeps quiet about Paul’s connection to Mariah. A surprising friendship blooms between Keegan and Therese and when their feelings deepen into love, Keegan continues to keep his secret but how long will it take for Therese to uncover the truth about Mariah?
Following an incident with Abby, Therese’s relationship with her stepkids has deteriorated to the point where she is considering giving up custody of them all together. Not having arrived at a final decision when they return from their mom’s, she is encouraged by the changes in Jacob’s attitude but she is disheartened by Abby’s renewed hostility. Keegan is a welcome distraction from the current turmoil in her life and she enjoys the serenity she finds in his company. Of course, underlying all of their interactions is a spark of attraction that neither can ignore and they decide to explore their burgeoning emotions.
At first, I was not sure if I was going to like Keegan since I did not understand why he was so determined to give up Mariah. Once I figured out what motivated his decision, my reservations about him began to disappear. But he completely won me over when he decided to protect Paul’s memory for Therese but then I kept holding my breath waiting for her figure out the truth about Mariah! All in all, I thought this part of the storyline was very well done and the final resolution was not as dramatic as I thought it would be.
My heart really went out to Jacob and Abby. Jacob is such a typical boy in so many ways, but he has a really good heart. I think he finally saw his mother’s true nature during their visit so he came home with a new appreciation for Therese.
And then there’s poor Abby. Yes, she was awful, but with all that she has been through, Therese was an easy target for all of her anger and unhappiness. As easy as it was to feel sorry for Therese, she also bears some of the blame for their problems and I was glad when she finally realized that.
Marilyn Pappano weaves all of the various story arcs in A Man to Hold on To into an emotional and heartfelt novel of love, loss and new beginnings. The overall plot is poignant but it is perfectly balanced with plenty of humor. The characters are fully fleshed, three dimensional and easy to relate to. Tantalizing glimpses of Jessy Lawrence and Dalton Smith neatly set up the next book in Tallgrass series, and I must confess, I am very eager to read their story.