After a lifetime of difficulties and disappointments, John "Rye" Ryan sets out to find the older brother he thinks abandoned him when he was very little. His search takes him to the small town of Baxter, Ohio, but he has serious doubts that the Sam McRae he's located there is the one he's looking for. He ends up on the McRaes doorstep, where he's welcomed in by their eldest adopted daughter, Emma, who is at home alone. Rye wasn't looking to fall in love, but Emma is everything he could hope for in a woman: sweet, kind, and caring. Although she's far too trusting of someone she's just met, Rye can't deny that he feels more at home with her than he has with anyone in his life. When he discovers that Emma's family is away and might not be back for a while and that she has a dangerous ex-boyfriend stalking her, Rye knows he can't leave her alone and vows to look out for her until her family returns. But if she discovers his checkered past and his real reason for being there, a relationship between them could be doomed before it even gets started.
Emma McRae has been away at her freshman year of college. There, she met a young man who she thought she might fall for, but when he turned controlling and hit her, she immediately rushed home to her family. Unfortunately they were about to leave on a family emergency, so not wanting to further burden them, Emma stayed quiet. No sooner has her family left, though, than a gorgeous stranger shows up on her doorstep. She doesn't hesitate for a second to welcome him when he tells her he's a friend of her adoptive father, looking for work. The two hit it off, and Emma begins to fall for Rye hard and fast. When Emma's ex-boyfriend begins stalking her, Rye is there to offer his protection. But when the confrontation turns violent, Rye is the one who ends up behind bars because of his past. Even if they can get him released, Rye feels that the significant age difference between him and Emma and their familial connection is a barrier too big to overcome. But Emma isn't about to give up so easily.
The Edge of Heaven is the second book in Teresa Hill's McRaes series. This one follows Sam and Rachel's oldest adopted daughter, Emma, who has just returned home from her freshman year of college for the holidays. She's also running away from an abusive boyfriend, but when she arrives home to find her family urgently leaving to go help an aunt, she chooses not to tell them yet. They've no sooner left, then a stranger shows up at the door. Rye is in Baxter searching for the older brother he barely remembers. He isn't even sure he has the right Sam McRae when he knocks on Emma's door, but even though he's keeping his real reason for being there on the down-low, she warmly welcomes him into her home and life. Emma immediately takes to Rye and feels safer when he's there, especially when her ex-boyfriend begins stalking her. When he finds out that the details of this Sam don't match the records he found of his brother, Rye plans on leaving town, but when he discovers that Emma was abused by a young man who won't leave her alone, he decides to stay just until her family gets back. One thing leads to another and they start falling for each other, but then Emma's ex shows up, leading to a fight that could put Rye back in prison for a long time. Even if he can avoid jail time, when Sam and the rest of the family finally return, he discovers the truth that Emma was reluctant to tell him. She's much younger than he suspected and between the significant age gap between them and their familial connection, it seems that their budding romance may be doomed unless they can figure out a way to smooth things over with Sam.
Emma and her two younger siblings were adopted by Sam and Rachel (Twelve Days) when she was eleven. Seven years have passed and she's now a college freshman. After her boyfriend knocked her around, she rushed home to Baxter, hoping for the love and support of her family, only to find them leaving in a hurry to help an aunt who is experiencing a dangerous pregnancy. Not wanting to further burden them during this difficult time, she chooses not to tell them. They've no sooner left, than Rye shows up at the door, claiming to be a friend of Sam's, looking for work. Emma welcomes him in, and feels immediately drawn to him. They start getting to know each other a bit, and even though he's rather secretive about his reasons for being there, she trusts him. Eventually she realizes that there are things about Rye that remind her of Sam and begins to suspect that he may be Sam's long lost brother. When her ex starts making threatening phone calls, she all but begs Rye to stay and he agrees, but only until Sam returns. Even though he's considerably older than her and possibly her adoptive father's brother, Emma can't seem to help falling for Rye. But then her ex escalates things by breaking into her house, resulting in Rye protecting her the only way he knows how and ending up in jail. Emma fights hard to keep him from going back to prison, but even if she succeeds, she failed to tell him that she's only eighteen, while he's thirty-three, and the age difference may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to an HEA.
I have to admit that there were a number times that Emma frustrated me. For starters, she lets Rye into her home and trusts him implicitly in spite of what just happened with her ex-boyfriend and her biological mother's history of abuse at the hands of her biological father, something that Rye himself chided her for more than once. I just didn't feel like the author established strong enough reasons for her doing so. She eventually realizes that Rye reminds her of Sam and suspects they're brothers, but still she didn't even know him. Emma also has a martyr complex when it comes to what happens with her ex. I understand that many women blame themselves when abuse occurs, but her self-flagellation got to be a bit much after a while with her trying to take responsibility for every bad thing that occurs, even when Rye and her family keep telling her it's not her fault. Then much later in the story, when Emma has lost hope that a relationship with Rye will ever materialize, she decides to try to forget him by getting drunk and losing her virginity to some dude she barely knows, which again, given her background seemed like a foolhardy move on her part. She even admits that she tried to do it with some other guy at college who she'd been seeing for a while and couldn't, so why she thought this would work better, I couldn't really fathom. It just seemed like a weak set-up for Rye to come to her rescue when the guy gets a little rough with her. But the thing that really bugged me is that all throughout the story, Emma keeps touting that she's very mature for her age, because she had to grow up so fast when she was younger. However, after she and Rye finally make love for the first time, she behaves like an immature teenager, running away from him in embarrassment (something I didn't really get at all since it's what she'd wanted for years) and then refusing to answer his calls or have a mature conversation with him about it. Emma is a kind, caring person, so I didn't exactly dislike her, but she often didn't make much sense and definitely wasn't a standout heroine for me either.
Rye was adopted by a couple who rejected his older brother, Sam. He was too young to remember much and they changed his name, so he didn't learn the truth about his background until his teens. It upended his life and led him to get into some trouble with the law. However, a stint in juvie ended with a felony manslaughter conviction for killing another kid who was trying to kill him, and he spent ten years in prison for it. Since getting out, he's been trying to live on the straight and narrow and got a job in construction. Rye recently decided to start searching for his brother, but he's running out of Sam McRaes when he ends up on Emma's doorstep. He doesn't have much faith that this is the right Sam either, and even if he is, that Sam will want anything to do with him. The only problem is, the man isn't even home and according to Emma might not be back for some time. However, Emma welcomes him in a way he wouldn't have expected under the circumstances. He's deeply attracted to her, but when he finds out she's just a college student, he figures she's too young for him. But things start to heat up between them anyway when he decides to stay after finding out what her boyfriend did and that he's still stalking her. When the ex breaks into the house, Rye once again finds himself fighting for his and Emma's lives against someone who's trying to do them harm, and it ends with him in jail and possibly going back to prison for violating parole. He's surprised when both Emma and Sam go to bat for him, but even if they can get him off the hook, he's now become aware that Emma is only eighteen and the age difference doesn't prove to be an easy thing to overlook. Overall, I liked Rye pretty well. He's a chivalrous guy who wants to protect Emma right from the start even though he barely knows her. I appreciated that he also wanted to give her some time to experience life and grow up a little before getting into a lasting relationship.
After finishing The Edge of Heaven, I found myself having mixed feelings about it. I'm not usually bothered by age-gap romances like some readers are, but this is the first time I've read one that wasn't a historical in which there's such a big age difference and the heroine is still a teenager at the beginning. It's also the only one I can recall reading in which there was some kind of familial connection. Granted she is a legal adult and in college, and in spite of Rye being her adoptive dad's brother, he and Emma had only just met, so it wasn't like she'd grown up around him. However, I have to admit, it all still felt a little strange. I suppose things like this occasionally do happen in real life, though, so I guess it wasn't that bad. Given the subject matter, I'd say the author handled it as sensitively as she could have without entirely changing the story. She fast-forwards two and a half years until Emma is twenty-one and finishing college before allowing things to really progress between her and Rye, so that was a good thing. Also, during that time apart, Rye and Emma's feelings for one another never changed even though they both tried to fight them, so it was clear that they were crazy in love. I enjoyed the small town vibe of the story and the close-knit ties within the McRae family are heartwarming. I got a little teary when the entire extended family welcomed Rye that first Christmas, giving him something he'd never really known he was missing. The plot is rather slow-paced with the main excitement being Emma's ex coming after them, and then at the end, when Rye and Emma finally get together. I waffled a bit on whether to rate it lower than I did due to my misgivings, but ultimately decided not to. Overall, I thought it was a decent story as long as the reader won't have issues with the somewhat taboo nature of it all.
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