Rachel Myers never meant to stay in the small town of Payton. Her eyes are set on bigger things than waitressing at Clark’s Bar. She wants to perform on a stage of her own with bright lights, fame, and fortune. But her dreams seem too far out of reach and so she stays put, content with the love of her boyfriend, Joshua Clark. He’s a good man, a solid rock she can depend on. She wants that to be enough, but it hasn’t quelled her yearning for the big city.
Josh has never loved anyone the way he loves Rachel and he dreads the day she might leave him. He’s happy in his small town home. Running the bar that has been in his family for two generations is a dream come true. He couldn’t be happier with his life… until one night, a city boy from Hollywood promises Rachel a record deal and destroys everything.
Jumping at a chance she never thought she’d have, Rachel leaves Payton. And Josh. But the sparkle of Los Angeles is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Rachel quickly figures out that some sacrifices are not worth the risk. Is she too late? Will Josh forgive her, or has her desire for fame ruined the best thing she’s ever had?
Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say forever.
3.75 stars — While these books are all standalone, you do get something a bit extra when you read them all. And I actually skipped over 2-4 the first time around, so after reading True Love and Rather Be, I was hella interested in finally reading Josh and Rachel’s story. And it’s funny, b/c while I’m a romantic at heart, this wasn’t a typical love story for me. Which is not a bad thing, it’s more that there were many other aspects that drew me into this story, and for once the romance wasn’t the biggest part.
Both of our characters are hecka flawed, with a lot of growing to do, and in this story we see them as an established couple at the beginning, and then they end up on separate paths to do their own growing before finding their way back to each other. The problem with this is that I didn’t necessarily feel *quite* the same investment in them as a couple as I normally do in my romance novels. It wasn’t that they weren’t super cute together, or they didn’t make me smile…or that I wasn’t rooting for them. But it just felt a bit different than my normal romances. I was rooting for them not because I knew much about what they were like together, but because I believed them when they told me that the other was their “person” and that they were their true love, and so I wanted them both to find their happiness. Does that make sense? Probably not.
As with most of the Songbird novels, I felt a smidgeon more for Rachel’s story than for Josh’s. It wasn’t that Josh didn’t have his own path to go on, but I just felt more invested in Rachel’s path. Maybe it’s because Josh was so bad with open emotions, I always felt like I wanted just a bit more from him. BUT he really was the perfect big intimidating man with a marshmallow center. I loved that he was so quiet and reserved, but would not take crap from anyone. I loved the way he was protective of Rachel. So many of his reactions felt just very young. He was an interesting dichotomy in that sense, in that he had all this responsibility with the bar, but I felt like he still had a lot of growing to do with relationships. Not that I could blame him with the heartaches he experienced in his past. I really did understand why he was so quick to jump to conclusions, and why he turtled to protect himself. And while I wouldn’t have minded a bit more groveling on his part for the mean words he said to Rachel, as a man of few words I understand that was probably more than could be asked for.
Rachel also suffered from being young and naive. It was PAINFUL to see her get taken for a ride…it’s so hard being a reader and seeing all the pitfalls, and wanting to yell at your character “OPEN YOUR EYES!! DON’T SIGN THAT!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING???” But I could totally see how this probably happens every day to young girls with more dreams than common sense… But it hurt to read. And while it sucked to see her believing the threats, they felt real to me, and I could see how she would assume she didn’t have another out. I felt like the time it took her to figure things out was realistic too, even if it sucked. I was happy with the turns that story took, and it was actually really gratifying to see her figuring herself out, what she was capable of, and what she wanted from life.
And I think that’s where this story wins. It’s a love story where the couple really *needed* to separate and learn to stand on their own, so they could really understand what they needed from each other. And it made that moment where she sings, and then the whole phone call part just so gratifying, I wanted to whoop out loud!! I love when a climax is that satisfying.
I also ADORED the cameos from Jody, Leo and Angel. That was so satisfying. I’m sure it would be interesting even if you’d never read Everything, but it was like awesomesauce after reading it. AND! I loved seeing more of what happened between Nessa and Josh!! That always felt a little bit unfulfilling in True Love, so while these are all truly standalones, you really do get more out of the experience if you read them all (and in order). Now I’m going to reread til the end of the series!! It’s so fun seeing the little glimpses of where characters weave in and out of each book, connecting them all in some way.