Courage to Live by Morgan Q. O'Reilly
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Contemporary, mystery/suspense
Length: Short Story (135 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aster
She’s living in fear. He’s a born protector. There’s a missing man holding them apart.
Candace Cutler intended to leave her abusive husband, until he vanished one snowy Alaska night. She lives in a limbo of dread, wanting only to care for her son. And now a cocky young pilot has moved in next door.
Cayden Shaughnessy is a born protector. He doesn’t like the rumors about the guy who left a single mom and cute kid next door—and who’s he kidding? He finds the mom pretty adorable, too, in a hot, can’t-resist sort of way.
But Candace doesn’t have time for games. Too many loose ends leave her unsettled, and she can’t help expecting violence to step once more from the shadows...
WARNING: Contains two brief descriptions of violence; however, justice is served. Also contains hot loving, a Top Gun-worthy fly-by, sex and more sizzling Shaughnessys.
Who doesn't love the idea of a big, sexy man swooping in to protect a woman from danger? To me, there's little better than a hunky alpha-male, particularly from the military, fighting for the woman he loves.
Candace is a sympathetic character, struggling to do her best for herself and her son after suffering years of torment from an abusive husband. Her son, Rob, is a child, acting as the man of the house and defending his mother against dangers he's not quite ready to face. Together, they cling to each other after the disappearance of their husband and father, picking up the pieces and trying to move on.
And then they meet Cayden Shaughnessy.
Cay is a sexy fighter pilot who takes an instant liking to the pretty young mother and son. He befriends them and seemingly won't take no for an answer as he tries to woo her. His charm proves to be irresistible and soon Candace's defenses are broken down.
For me, this was very much a tale of two stories. As soon as Cayden became part of the story, I enjoyed it very much. I loved Cay's confidence, and his strong, yet gentle approach to a woman he could see had been hurt badly in the past. The neighborhood rumors swelled about the "bitch" who lived in that house, but Cay knew early on that there was more to the story. He not only befriended Candace, something she needed badly, but he took young Rob under his wing and became the father figure the poor kid had been missing his entire life. Together they made a lovely, intimate family, which I enjoyed experiencing.
The other story, which engulfed much of the first half of the book, was the backstory of Candace and her abusive husband. While this story was necessary to tell, not only to further enjoy the happiness Candace finds with Cay, but also explain the difficulties she had in her life, and set up the major conflict in the book - what happened to her missing husband - it seemed it was focused there a little too long. There was major detail in the backstory, all told by inner thoughts of the heroine, which made it difficult to get through. The abuse filled almost all of the first 40 pages, and it was hard to continue reading at times with the heavy subject matter. As I said, however, once Cay became part of their lives, the story brightened up tremendously. I, much like the heroine, began to see the light at the end of a very difficult tunnel.
The writing was good overall, although I do wonder if there was a different editor for the first half of the story than the second. There were quite a few mistakes in the beginning portion of the book, but were later corrected. For example, in the first chapters, the author writes about Rob taking 'Tae Kwan Do,' which should actually be 'Tae Kwon Do,' and in later chapters it is spelled correctly. The author also uses many Karate terms in reference to TKD (i.e. names of uniforms, facilities, etc.), and unless you are familiar with the martial arts, you may not know the difference, but those details can be important to some. There were many phrases written as full sentences and occasional missed words or punctuation, which made it sometimes difficult to read, but that was mainly in the first several chapters of the book. Those errors ceased by the later portion of the text.
I felt sorry for Candace and, although she was as strong as she could be, the poor woman was riddled with bad luck. I would like to have known Candace as a healthy, uninjured woman. Thankfully, her son was close to her side, helping out as much as he could. The relationship the two shared was lovely to read.
Through it all, Cay stuck by her side. And, although it may seem strange for her to allow another man into her heart so quickly after her ex-husband left, Cay's confidence and no-nonsense attitude made it seem perfectly natural that he was there.
This was the second book in The Open Windows Series but it stands alone perfectly well. I liked Cay Shaughnessy very much, as well as his brother Brennan, who we meet throughout the story, and may consider reading other titles in the series, which follow the Shaughnessy family. If you like a strong man who helps a damaged woman take back her life, this is a good one to pick up.