Worth the Risk
The McKinney Brothers # 2
By: Claudia Connor
Releasing Feb 3rd, 2015
When a McKinney brother falls in love, powerful emotion and overwhelming desire are never far behind.
Two hearts locked away . . . Hannah Walker spends her days coaching children through injury and trauma, one therapeutic horseback ride at a time. She knows all too well how violence can change a child and leave scars that never heal. It’s easy for her to relate to the kids; what isn’t easy is the thought of facing her own harrowing past.
Millionaire playboy Stephen McKinney could use a little coaching himself. Five years ago he encountered his most horrible nightmare—and the nightmare won. No matter what he achieves, nothing can make up for that awful night . . . or so he believes.
Both desperate for a second chance . . . Stephen is used to getting what he wants. And he wants Hannah. So when she turns him down, he’s intrigued. What he doesn’t know is that her secrets will lead him to a place he never wanted to go again . . . to a side of himself he’s tried to forget . . . a side that would scare Hannah away from ever loving him. Now his only chance to win her trust is to bare his soul, risking everything he tried so hard to protect.
Claudia Connor is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of heartfelt contemporary romance. Claudia attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. Always a lover of happy endings, she enjoys movies, reading, and travel, but spends most of her time typing out the love stories of the almost real people that live in her head. Claudia lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.
“I hope the rest of your day was better.”
It took her a second to think. Oh, right. He’d seen her crying and she knew from her brothers that nothing made a man more uncomfortable than a girl crying. “Yes. It was. Sorry about that.”
“No problem. I have a sister and . . .” His eyes locked with hers. “I’m not scared away that easily.”
Her lungs seemed to freeze up at his look, his tone, and she glanced over the white-cloth-covered table, searching for something to say. “How was your day?”
“It was good.” Surprise touched his eyes and his lips curved past half smile straight into deadly zone.
“So you ride horses?”
Her heart dropped with a burst of panic. He shouldn’t know where she lived. “What?”
“You had on riding pants earlier. Boots.”
“Oh. Yeah.” She took a calming breath, willed her pulse to slow before she started to sweat. “I’m a physical therapist, but with horses. It’s called hippotherapy.”
“Interesting. So you make people feel better.”
“I hope so. That’s the goal, anyway.”
“I’m sure you do.” The look in his eyes and the tone of his voice left no room for uncertainty. Like if he said it, it must be true.
The waiter interrupted with their appetizers and gave her something to focus on other than the ultra-intense man beside her. Though sitting this close to him, even eating took concentration. She took a small sip of water and tried to relax. “What about you?”
He cut into his filet. “Real estate and property development. Hotels mostly. Resorts.”
“So you make people feel better too, I guess. If it’s a nice hotel.”
“I never thought about it like that, but yes.”
She reached for her water again and bumped the glass, nearly tipping it. Stephen righted it with sharp reflexes and a steady hand, his warm fingers brushing against hers. As much as he was calm and cool, she was taut and twitchy.
“My mom called me the king of spills,” he said and casually sipped his iced tea.
“That’s hard to believe.” More like impossible, but he was trying to make her feel better.
“It’s true. Though I usually blamed it on whichever brother was sitting beside me. Or better yet, my sister.” Amusement warmed his eyes and in turn warmed her.
“How many brothers?” she asked as the waiter set down their entrees and left.
“Five brothers. One sister.”
“Oh, Lord. Poor girl.”
He laughed, a deep male rumbling sound that made her smile. “Trust me, there is nothing poor about Lizzy. She’s been busting our balls since she was in the cradle.”
“Are you the oldest?”
“No. Tony’s the oldest. Then Matt, Andrew, me, Patrick, Lizzy, and J.T. She’s almost the youngest, but still in charge. What about you?”
“Four brothers, all older.”
“I bet you ran the poor guys ragged.”
She’d caused them a lot of trouble for sure. Had there ever been the good kind of trouble? The fun kind? “Yeah, I guess, but . . . it was a different situation. They’re all a lot older, and . . . our parents died when I was two.”
Stephen paused and returned his fork to the edge of his plate. He covered her hand with his, made a light caress with his thumb. “I’m sorry.”
The soft expression in his eyes combined with his touch had her heart melting, her guard slipping. “It turned out okay. I was raised by wolves, but . . .” She shrugged and he uncovered her hand.
“You don’t look like you were raised by wolves.”
He picked up his fork as he spoke and, dear God, that lopsided, dimpled grin could kill a woman. She forced her attention to her plate lest she become the next casualty.
“My sister might say the same thing. About the wolves,” he added.
And just like that he had her smiling again, the tension easing, and they fell into easy conversation about families. He shared childhood antics of the McKinney boys, and her nervous stomach eased as she ate and listened, so completely sucked in by his smooth voice and the movement of his lips when he talked.
They lingered over coffee and dessert, two hours passing more easily than she ever thought they could. Twenty-six years old and she’d lived through her first date. Well, the dinner portion anyway.
I am speechless.
If I said this book was fantastic it would be an understatement. If you’ve read my review of Worth The Fall (if not, you can find it here) you already know how much I loved the book and how bad I had it for Matt McKinney, the badass Navy SEAL who fell for a pregnant widower and her four little kids. Still suffering from a bad book hangover, I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for the tour of book 2, featuring another McKinney brother—the millionaire playboy, who was barely mentioned in book one. I was intrigued because I wanted to know why he’d grown distant from the very close McKinney clan I’d come to learn and love in book one, but I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect to like him much, since playboys are not really my kind of heroes.
Well, it turns out that with only two books Claudia Connor has ruined me and my dating life forever. After meeting the McKinney brothers no man will ever stand a chance! :) Now I know I’ll end up an old cat lady, fantasizing over fictional hunks named Matt and Stephen, whose stories I read once upon a time when I was still young and single—thank you, Claudia. I owe you big time.
Just like in book one, I got immediately pulled into the story and was hooked by page two. I loved Hannah from the start, and my heart went out to her from page one until the very last word in the book. She is fragile but at the same time extremely strong. She’s been badly hurt but she’s still standing, and I was cheering for her throughout the book. I loved the way she accepted her brothers’ extremely protective behavior but at the same time she tried to break free and stand up for herself, showing them she could stand on her own two feet even after what had happened to her.
I loved that Hannah is a dog lover, and that the horses played an important role in the story too. I love stories that involve animals.
I like insta-love and instant attractions stories, but only when they are very well written and believable—because, let’s face it, even though we know it’s fiction, we like feeling as if this was something that could happen to us, too. Or is it just me? *insert smiley face with quirked eyebrow here*
Well, this story is written so well that, even though their attraction was sudden and progressed very fast, I couldn’t help loving it! It felt so real I actually wished I’d meet someone like Stephen McKinney while shopping at the grocery store (and I realized I’m definitely shopping in the wrong stores.) :)
Now, let’s talk about Stephen. Well, I knew from the start that nobody would ever compare to Matt but at times I had a really tough competition going on in my mind for which brother would take the top spot in my chart—Matt won, of course but Stephen came close second, especially as the book progressed.
I didn’t like his playboy ways, but as I got to learn a bit more about why he’d started behaving like this, I sort of excused him a little. As I got deeper into Stephen’s mind and saw the way he felt for Hannah, how his feelings for her made him a better man, I fell more and more for him than I’d thought possible at first.
I think this is one of the abilities I like best of Claudia Connor’s writing. She can make you identify with the characters, feel what they’re feeling and be there with them all along the way. When you reach the happy ending, you actually feel as if it was your own personal happy ending, as if you’d achieved what the characters have throughout the book. Claudia can take you on a journey that will make you smile, swoon, cry and hold your breath till the very last word.
There are a lot more side characters in this book than there were in book one. I was extremely happy to meet Matt and Abby (and their clan) again, see how things had worked out for them and witness something at the end that I’d been wishing for from the very start of the book (great minds think alike, Claudia. LOL). I was totally enthralled by Hannah’s brothers, too and I really really really (like, really) want books on them, too!
If you’ve read book one, expect more (and steamier) scenes in this one. Even so, for a prude like me who likes her romance novels to have more behind-closed-doors scenes rather than graphic ones, I was okay with the heat level and totally enjoyed it. Which says a lot about the ability of the author to create chemistry and heat without being annoying or distracting.
Don’t expect a bed of roses kind of story, though. Even though the main theme is obviously the romance between Stephen and Hannah, there are lots of angsty moments, scenes that will make you hold your breath, as well as emotional moments that will cause a lump to form in your throat. You will root for Stephen and Hannah, suffer with them, share their fears, hold your breath and then release it in a whoosh while you say, “Oh, thank goodness!”. At least, that’s what happened to me.
I really like Claudia’s writing style and I think I will buy all of her works, even if she wrote a cook book. The settings, the dialogues, the characters, everything is perfectly described. Her writing shows how seriously she takes her job, making sure to take the readers on a beautiful journey they will never forget. I had the pleasure of chatting with Claudia personally (via FB, not exactly face-to-face) and she’s truly a wonderful person, kind and down-to-earth. It’s not everyday that you try to get in touch with an author whose books you’ve loved, and she actually takes the time to write back, with a detailed reply to your questions and comments. This earned her to get up an extra step on my favourite authors chart.
So, if you’re wondering if I would recommend this book, my answer is: Is that even a question? If you’ve read Worth The Fall, you simply CAN’T miss this one. If you haven’t read Matt and Abby’s story, you can still enjoy Worth The Risk (as whatever the reader needs to know about the other characters is well described), and I’m pretty sure once you’ve read this book, you will go and buy Worth The Fall, because if Stephen and Hannah’s story deserves 10 stars, Matt and Abby’s deserves 100!
If you’re still pondering whether to buy it or not, just go ahead and one-click: this book is totally WORTH THE RISK and worth the money.
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