Series: Grand Valley #1
Published by Pocket Books on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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Pro-football player Cooper Lowry is off the field and into some troubleÔÇöin the form of a very alluring, very free-spirited apple orchard owner named Whitney ReedÔÇöin the first installment in Liora BlakeÔÇÖs all new Grand Valley series.
After eight seasons playing pro-football, Cooper Lowry knows all the right answers.
Is he stubborn, short-tempered, and impatient? Yes. Are jersey chasers more trouble than theyÔÇÖre worth? Absolutely. Has he ever imagined a life beyond the game? Nope.
Cooper has built an enviable careerÔÇöthe result of staying focused, working hard, and keeping his head on straightÔÇöeven as his body takes the brunt. So when a hard hit during a Sunday home game leaves him in a dazed heap on the field, itÔÇÖs nothing more than another day at the office. The only thing thatÔÇÖs different about this Sunday is a chance encounter with a certain fascinating, beautiful free-spirited woman. And some sternly-worded instructions from his coach to take a little time off and give his body the TLC it cravesÔÇöbefore he does lasting damage.
Whitney Reed is a few months away from losing the organic fruit orchard she bought three years ago in the tiny town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. At the time, she was just looking for a place to get lost. Instead, she found a home, somewhere she could finally put down roots. Now foreclosure is knocking on her doorÔÇöalong with a grumpy, gorgeous football player who might be just what she never knew she needed.
A charming love story for romance and sports fans alike, First Step Forward is a sexy, heartwarming romp perfect for readers of Jennifer Probst, Kristan Higgins, and Julie James.
When I saw Liora Blake had a new series I eagerly signed on to read it. Add in the fact that it’s set in Colorado and I instantly became fixated (and promptly planned a day trip to Hotchkiss only to have my plans thwarted by who knows what). Anyway, one chapter in and I was enamored. I learned in reading the True North series that Blakes writing is flawless; her characters are magical and her story lines well developed. First Step Forward is everything I hoped for and more. Blake does one amazing thing in that I found myself appreciating football in an entirely new way.
When the story opens, we meet Denver wide receiver Cooper Lowry . Within a few hours, Cooper has a chance meeting with Whitney Reed, a central valley apple farmer whose is so close to losing the only tangible thing she has left, her over leveraged farm. Despite the miles between their homes, the vast differences in their professional and financial status’, these two are strongly drawn to each other. That magic that Blake creates with her characters is well represented here. Cooper and Whitney have that immediate connection that’s hindered only by proximity. The predicament of closing the gap of miles between them creates some of the sweetest facets of their involvement. The length that they will go to to see each other and the expectations set up a fabulous story line.
Blake delivers the story to us through alternate POV’s and I so loved being in Coopers head. Cooper is a jock totally in touch with his feelings, he’s observant and he understands why he does things a certain way. He cycles through his emotions for Whitney, at times overthinking things, but usually he’s just very in touch with how his actions may reflect on who he is and impact the people around. He promptly shot to the top of my favorite male characters in 2016 with his earnest and genuine nature.
Whitney is an absolute delight. She uses terms like “squicky” and challenges a very competitive Cooper leading to Cooper some usually awkward reactions on his part. She’s forthright when she herself feels awkward (which is often) but she’s funny and playful with him. Basically she gives as good as she gets – she just has a hard time leaning on anyone, accustomed to being on her own in this world, so she’s isolated herself and it’s hard not to feel sorry for her. We are very aware of the struggle she faces and the only knock against her is that she is a little slow to trust Cooper, but she has good reason or at least her logic is understandable. With the situation she is in, the standard new relationship fears are amplified by Coopers financial position and Whitney’s desire to remain self sufficient.
I can’t stress enough what a great read this is! The angst is perfectly balanced with the joy of falling in love. I adore Blakes description of Coopers life living in the LoDo area of Denver and his struggle as an NFL player facing career threatening injuries. It’s sexy, sweet and heartwarming and another 5 star read from Liora Blake and I’m very excited about Second Chance Season (Grand Valley, #2) coming in early 2017 and rescheduling my day trip to checkout Hotchkiss 🙂
~Review by Cyndi