Series: Chikalu Falls, #3
Release Date: December 1st, 2021
CW/TW: Mentions of parental abandonment, drug use, violence
Since then, we’ve spent the last 15 years in this small town circling each other and pretending neither remembers how right it felt when we were best friends.
Now she’s a single mom and doesn’t need a “broody, grumpy cop” like me complicating her life. No matter how many times her heated gaze scorches my skin, I can never have her in the way I want.
So I push her away––but it’s for her own good.
Because if she knew the truth of what I did, she wouldn’t just have hurt feelings, she would truly hate me.
She has a guarded heart and it’s all my fault.
But I don’t have a heart at all. I gave it to Maggie O’Brien a long time ago.
PROTECTING YOU is a seriously steamy, interconnected stand alone small town romance. It’s the third book in the Chikalu Falls series set in the fictional Montana town, Chikalu Falls.
Ever since Lena introduced us to the Chikalu gang, I’ve been looking forward to Cole Decker’s story. We’ve gotten glimpses of him and Maggie over the past two books, so we know that there’s something interesting going on there, so to finally have an entire book dedicated to their bickering and bantering and their secret love for each other was so wonderful.
Protecting You is the third book in the Chikalu Falls series and like the first two features a strong and badass female lead in Maggie O’Brien. She’s a single mother and raising a teenager is hard, but she does the best she can while also running her flower shop and holding her head above water. Maggie’s not perfect and she’s fully aware of it. She works hard, she moms hard and she still manages to find quiet moments to spend with her girlfriends––Jo and Honey. And all the while, she’s fighting with and trying to figure out why Cole Decker dislikes her so much. For Cole, it’s because of secrets he’s holding really close to his chest and clearly has nothing to do with Maggie itself. He’s a cop and that requires him to be vigilant, but he’s also one of the most eligible bachelors, so every single woman is eyeing him. He’s got his boys and his job and all of it keeps him busy enough, but there’s still some pieces that are missing. Including Maggie.
The book is told through both Maggie and Cole’s point of views, but also through flashbacks to a time when life was simpler. I loved how much insight we got into Maggie and Cole’s history and just how much longing and pining existed before they became the people they are that we meet in the beginning of the book. I am such a big fan of the best friends to lovers trope, because that’s what they were till everything got topsy turvy and now it’s a best friends to frustrated humans to lovers, but it still does the trick. With every flashback, I fell deeper in love with Maggie and Cole and their friendship. But truly, the star of this book is Maggie because she’s so so strong. And not only do we get insight into their history, we also see Maggie’s pregnancy and how all of that plays into the choices she makes and the relationships she builds.
“Maggie lived in my bones, soaking down deeper every moment, with every touch.”
Maggie’s daughter is an absolutely entertaining character. In typical teenager fashion, she’s rebellious and she’s moody, she makes life hard for Maggie, but she craves normalcy all at the same time. And man, this kid and her desperate need for a pet will amuse you to no end. I mean, she does research and picks the craziest and most adorable pet for them to have because she believes it’ll teach her responsibility. Another favourite element in this book is Cole’s ability to hand out nicknames and never run out of them. He started it when he and Maggie were kids and now he does it with Lottie as well and they are all so entertaining. Think of the weirdest nicknames for characters named Maggie and Charlotte and Cole will outdo you in a heartbeat.
Their romance is a bit of a slow burn, but the sexual tension is alive and well. They’ve pined for each other all these years, of course the tension is delicious. But it’s the deep feelings that neither of them can escape that really gets me. There’s handcuffs involved, because duh, Cole’s a cop. There’s also a lot of protective and possessive behaviour which is so hot. I wanted to smack Cole so hard every time he pulled away from Maggie though, but I loved how Maggie didn’t back down and gave it back just as hard. The book was steamy, because it’s Lena, but it wasn’t as steamy as the first two books. Which is fine, because their frustrations and tensions and build up was totally worth it.
I loved the friendships too! Maggie’s relationship with Honey was perfect, and since I love Honey so much it was good to see more of her. Lena does such a good job with the friendship between Cole, Lincoln and Colin––that is a solid bromance that I have loved since book one. And I love Chikalu Falls. This small town might be one of my favourites and I really hope this isn’t the end. Because this town bands together and loves each other, which is so great. Plus, you see a lot of familiar faces with every book you read in the series.
Thanks to Lena Hendrix for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.