Sierra Jones was the youngest of four children, who were raised by highly dysfunctional parents, including a father who was a paranoid schizophrenic. All of her siblings left home before she was grown, leaving her itching for the day she could do the same. However, being on her own didn't bring her the peace she sought, so she turned to alcohol, not even realizing that she had a problem until a one-night stand turned into a violent stalker who sent her running to rehab. Now finished with the program, Sierra needs a quiet place to continue working on her recovery, so a visit to her brother, Cal and his wife, Maggie, at Sullivan's Crossing seems to be just what the doctor ordered.
Sierra hasn't quite decided what she wants to do with the rest of her life and thinks this might be a temporary sojourn, but soon she finds herself connecting with Sully, Maggie's dad and the owner of the Crossing, who ends up becoming the father figure Sierra never had. Then she rescues an abused puppy who steals her heart and starts making friends with some of the locals, including handsome firefighter/EMT, Conrad "Connie" Boyle. Connie is still working through the pain of finding his ex-fiancée in bed with one of his co-workers, so he and Sierra try to take things slowly, but before long, they discover that their chemistry is off the charts. Soon Sierra is convinced that she wants to make the Crossing her home, but when she thinks she's spotted her stalker in a nearby town, things change for her in a heartbeat. Now she has to face up to mistakes from her past, while hoping that she doesn't end up in jail, or that Connie can't handle her revelations, or worse yet, that the stalker doesn't get to her first.
Robyn Carr's new Sullivan's Crossing series got off to a slightly shaky start for me with the release of the first book, What We Find, last year. I picked up Any Day Now with the hope that the author would shore up some of the weaknesses I'd detected in the first book and solidify this as a series that I would most definitely want to continue. While I did enjoy this book a bit more than the first one, I still saw some missed opportunities for deepening her character and relationship development that left me feeling slightly disappointed. I did enjoy the feel-good nature of the story and I admit that Sullivan's Crossing and the surrounding Colorado communities of Timberlake and Leadville are slowly drawing me in. Ms. Carr has become the queen of small-town romances, and in that respect, this series isn't much different than her Virgin River or Thunder Point series. However, the way it does differ from those books, particularly some of the earlier Virgin River books, is that I didn't feel quite as connected to the characters. They're very nice and likable people, but ultimately I didn't think their backstories were given the weight they deserved. So overall, Any Day Now ended up being a rather light, fluffy read that's the kind of story you might like to pick up on a cold, rainy day to enjoy in front of a warm, cozy fire.
I would say that the bulk of the story is about the heroine, Sierra, who is the sister of Cal, the hero of What We Find. I can't recall if she was actually introduced in that book or just received a mention, but I believe she was in rehab at the time. After finishing the program and spending a few months in a halfway house, Sierra decided to get away from her dysfunctional parents but still wanted to be close to family, so she moved to Colorado for a new start. She acknowledges her alcoholism and is doing everything right, working the 12 steps, going to AA meetings, and getting a new sponsor right away. As the story progresses, we learn that she didn't originally think she had a drinking problem, only that she occasionally partied a little too hard. But an encounter with an abusive man who turned stalker and eventually ended up drugging and sexually assaulting her, as well as causing a hit-and-run accident while driving her car, scared her straight. Now Sierra is putting the pieces of her life back together, while working on improving herself and being independent. Since she has a poor track record of picking the wrong guys who always turn out to be jerks, she's reluctant to get involved with anyone new, but before long she can't resist Connie's romantic overtures. He's sweet and supportive, something she's never had before in a guy.
I like Sierra as the heroine and think she was probably the most well-drawn of all the characters, but there were still a few things about her that didn't quite sit well with me. The strength of her character was in the focus on her alcoholism and how that affected her, but everything else kind of faded into the background. We don't even learn about the stalker, the hit-and-run, and the sexual assault until quite a ways into the story, when she thinks she may have spotted the guy at a nearby shopping mall and decides it's time to tell her brother so that if anything happens to her, he'll at least know where to start looking. We also learn, toward the very end of the book, that she's had all these fears of the stalker that she was dealing with, but there was never an inkling of that in earlier parts of the story. I was also rather skeptical of her being able to have sex with a new man (the first since the assault) and have absolutely no issues whatsoever, not even a flinch or a twinge or a single conflicted feeling. Nada! So while I did like Sierra, I felt that if her fears and other issues surrounding what happened to her had been brought up much sooner, she would have been a much more compelling and fuller character.
Sierra's hero is Conrad, who's known as Connie to everyone around the little town of Timberlake, which is the one nearest to the Sullivan's Crossing campground. He's a firefighter/EMT who also does search-and-rescue in the surrounding mountainous areas, so he's very fit and loves a physical challenge. He was first introduced in What We Find, where he was one of the first responders to Sully's heart attack and also helped with a treacherous cliff-side rescue involving the heroine of that story. Connie has a rather troubled background of his own, with a mother who, much like Sierra, picked the wrong guys. Both his father and stepfather were emotionally abusive toward both him and his mom. Then Connie ended up picking the wrong girl. He fell hard and fast for the woman who is now his ex-fiancée, but then she ended up cheating on him with one of his married co-workers. I thought that both of these things would have left him with a few scars and might impede his relationship with Sierra, but other than a little bit of initial uncertainty, things pretty much go off without a hitch. Overall, he's a confident, laid-back, easy-going kind of guy, who never really questions anything about Sierra and allows her to open up at her own pace. I liked that he was so sweet and gentle and supportive, almost more of a beta hero, which I love, but something about him ended up seeming a bit bland. I also felt like he didn't get enough of his own POV scenes, which might have helped to build his character better. Much like with Sierra I liked him, but I just didn't find him to be particularly compelling.
The first book of Sullivan's Crossing was all about the hero and heroine, Cal and Maggie. With Any Day Now, the author diverges back to the familiar territory of bringing in secondary character POVs. Cal gets a few of his own scenes as he helps Sierra with her problems, while at the same time he and Maggie are expecting their first child and remodeling their old barn into a habitable living space. Tom Canaday, a jack of all trades and single father of four, who was introduced in the first book, helps Cal with the building project, while finally putting his first marriage to rest. After that, he's free to pursue Lola, an old acquaintance who he'd previously overlooked, but not anymore. Lola is a singe mom, who has two part-time jobs at the local diner and Home Depot, so they bond over their shared love of remodeling work and the challenges of parenting. They make a cute couple but Lola is a little gun-shy. She's been without a man for so long, she's not certain she wants to give up her independent life for a relationship. Of course Sully is the familiar face, always there running the Sullivan's Crossing campground year-round and welcoming tourists to the area, while also giving Sierra a place to stay and free advice. Cal and Sierra's brother, Dakota, puts in a brief appearance near the end, but he's a military man headed out on a deployment. Sierra's sponsor, Moody, is a rather curmudgeonly but lovable older man, who doles out sage advice as well. Sierra's one attempt at making a female friend and possibly switching to this woman, Neely, as her sponsor doesn't quite go as planned. Although I don't think we've heard the last of Neely, she wasn't a very nice person, so I kind of hope she isn't in the running to become a future heroine. Last but not least, was Sierra's new dog, Molly. Sierra bravely saved the pup from a camper at the Crossing who was abusing her, and she became Sierra's loyal best friend.
If you're looking for one of those nice, easy, rainy-day reads, then Any Day Now might just have your name written all over it. It kind of reminded me of a Hallmark channel movie in its sweetness and predictability. I usually like these types of stories, so I did enjoy it for what it was. It lacked a certain sophistication in its characters, but I did very much like the setting. Everything was just a little too easy-peasy for our lovebirds, though. They never really had to face any major challenges as a couple that would have solidified their relationship more strongly in my mind, but they were still very likable together. A few of Robyn Carr's writing quirks that I've complained about before came into play here again, namely the lack of blocking during dialogue and the skimming of certain events when I wanted a deeper perspective. Also, I noticed that many of her scenes and chapters ended somewhat abruptly, rather than flowing naturally into the next one. Overall, though, it was a nice story that left me with warm fuzzies at the end, so I can't complain too much. This series may not have quite made keeper status for me yet, but I do still look forward to seeing what comes next, although once again, I feel like I've been left totally in the dark as to whom the next book might be about.
Note: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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