Series: Gold Rush Ranch, #2
Release Date: August 13th, 2021
What happened between us online, in our chats, was meant to stay anonymous and in the past.
Until it didn’t.
It’s a small world, but Ruby Creek is even smaller. When I move to the tiny town, the grumpy facade I’ve created slips when we’re forced to live under the same roof.
Every flush of her cheeks, every time her eyes flare with heat, every time she begs me not to stop, the ice I’ve encased myself in melts. She has me wanting things I can’t want. Things I’ve been dreaming about since I first laid eyes on her two years ago—things I don’t deserve.
But my invisible wounds have the power to ruin us both. As a former soldier, I should have the discipline to walk away, but the more I open up to Violet, the more I want to keep her.
I came back from the war a different man, but my scars are older and deeper than anyone knows—and I planned to keep it that way. I planned to keep my secrets hidden.
Every now and then you stumble across an author who has a magical way of sucking you into her stories without trying very hard. And in 2021, that person is Elsie Silver. She had me hooked right from the first moment I met Dermot Harding in the novella that kicks off this series and then with Vaughn, she knew what she was doing to me. But does Elsie know what she’s done to me with Cole? Because I’m a sucker for a wounded, damaged soul who just can’t let anybody get too close because he’s afraid he’ll ruin them. Cole Harding is just everything that makes up the ideal book boyfriend and gosh, you guys are not ready for this.
But, it’s not just Cole Harding that will have you drooling. Violet Eaton holds her own. With her first two books (yes, the first is a novella, but it’s still a book!) Elsie introduced us to the Harding men, but she also brought into our lives the toughest, sassiest, smartest and bestest women too. Ada and Billie served us some absolute magic and in A Photo Finish, Violet delivers even more. If you’ve read Off to the Races, then you’ve already met Violet. She starts out as an employee on the ranch, but when she befriends Billie and gets comfortable with DD (the main man in Off to the Races), Violet suddenly becomes the jockey. And she’s really good at it too. She might be young and wild, but Violet is good at what she does and that means she’s also a threat to everyone around her – including the jockey she replaced for the ranch. She’s incredible. Violet is mouthy, funny, stubborn, sassy, smart, enthusiastic and has a big heart. For her, horses and the ranch are her whole world. Raised in a house full of men, Violet got out of there as fast as possible and paved her own way. She’s wonderful and badass and if you liked Billie, you’re going to love Violet.
“I should tell her she’s so much more. The thing that got me out of bed most mornings. My bright spot. My sunshine.”
But let me take an extra minute to talk about Cole. He’s a grump, he’s a broody and stubborn guy most days. However, when it comes to Violet, he’s unhinged. There’s so much more to the guy than what people can see and he keeps it all tightly locked away. Cole has had years of practice where he just distances himself from everything. He didn’t want to work on the farm, so he went into the corporate side of the family business and even though he’s back for a very specific reason, he’s still keeping himself tightly locked away. He doesn’t want to let anybody see him. But Violet does, she’s always seen him, even when their relationship was of a different sort. Cole is abrasive and offensive and he knows that he’s pissing Violet off, but it’s his defense mechanism and he deals with it in his own way. And guys, his own way is so beautiful and romantic and gah, if you aren’t swoony when you read his words, we need to talk.
Cole and Violet have the most incredible relationship. I loved how much of it was unexpected. Every time I turned the page, I felt like I knew what was coming, but I was surprised constantly. They drive each other crazy, it’s almost enemies to lovers, but there’s all this underlying sexual desire from years of pent up frustration. So are they really enemies if they don’t really hate each other? See, Violet and Cole know each other through the internet. Where Cole’s seen all of her, in every form possible, and Violet has never seen him. She’s heard his voice, she knows what he sounds like when he’s turned on and when she’s in front of him, but Cole knows everything there is to know about Violet. And that annoys her, because he’s got a leg up on her.
“She might be everything. The light at the end of the dark tunnel. The sunshine my dark existence so desperately needs.”
But all this sexual tension just makes things so great. The grump x sunshine trope is STRONG with this book, because Violet is the epitome of sunshine while Cole is the face you’d see if you looked for ‘grumpy’ in the dictionary. And they pick at each other constantly, riling the other up knowing how it’s going to all end. So there’s a lot of sexual tension, there’s a lot of history and there’s the most delicious slow burn. When they finally toss out all hesitation and all the drama and pain, boy oh boy…I don’t know if I said this for Billie and Vaughn, but Elsie writes some really good smut. It’s vivid, for the lack of a better word, and it’s hot, beautiful and so so damn good. I would read an entire book of just Elsie writing smut, that’s how fantastic it is. Because Violet and Cole are explosive to the point where you need to fan yourself and maybe take a cold shower.
What I loved the most about their relationship is how much they communicate. I love romances where the characters talk. Yes, there’s a lot of headbutting and stubbornness, but once they start to trust each other, that turns into conversations and they connect on a very deep level. Thanks to their history, there’s a lot they already know, but they dive so much further and it strengthens the relationship by miles. Another thing I absolutely loved? Cole’s relationship with Trixie, his therapist. It’s amazing to read about male characters getting help and using the resources available to them to be better for themselves, their partners and their families. I wish that it was as easy to talk about in real life as it is in books, because that’s one of the most appealing things about Cole.
“I don’t want you different. I want you with your jagged edges and your growly moods.”
My god, Elsie, you ruined me. It took me so long to put my thoughts down because I loved A Photo Finish so much. It made me feel everything, made me cry and laugh and just fall in love with your writing all over again. To have a little room in your brain would be a wonderful treat. I cannot wait for what else you have in store for us, because I am ready for more amazing stories from Gold Rush Ranch.
Thanks to Elsie Silver for generously providing me with an ARC. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.