Petal is the last place Caroline Mendoza thought she’d end up. Sixteen years ago she lost both parents there—her mother to murder and her father to prison for the crime. Since then she’s built a successful life, but she’s never let go of the belief her father is innocent.
Now she’s back in Petal to find the truth. With a new job and a mystery to solve, she’s got plenty on her plate. But when she bumps into Royal Watson, the sparks fly hard and fast.
When the whipsmart, opinionated lawyer blows into town like a beautiful storm, Royal has a reason to make the time to get off his organic farm and pursue her. And soon their intense attraction is tipping into something more.
As Caroline’s dogged investigation digs up ghosts of the past, there’s not much time for basking in love’s glow. The closer she gets to the truth, the more threatened the real killer gets…and the greater the danger that all her digging could lead to her own grave.
Warning: Laid-back ranchers who are really sneak alpha males, tight butts in wranglers, and creative use of belts and buckles. Bad words, hot sex, and lots of pie—sometimes all at once.
This is only the second book this year I’ve rated as 5 Stars. And my review will be an entirely unprofessional fangirl missive spelling out how much I LOVED this book. If you’re looking for something more critical or objective, you’re in the wrong place. You’ve been warned.
To get a 5-star review from me, a book needs to really stay with me. It needs to be something that when I finish the last page, I just can’t let it go. I’ll find myself reading bits and pieces (and sometimes the entire thing) over the next few days. Count on Me by Lauren Dane was one of those books.
To start with, I love the Petal, Georgia books. Yes, even the freebies. I’m a huge fan of the Chase Brothers books, too, and reread all these books a lot. But above all, I’m absolutely head over heels in love with Edward Chase. Edward and his wife Polly are the parents of all the Chase brothers, and they are amazing. Polly is sweet and generous and has a heart as big as the ocean, but lord help you if you mess with someone she considers HERS. She will cut you and walk away before your body falls to the ground. And Edward….Oh, Edward. He’s an amazing father who raised his boys to be strong, decent, hard-working men. By loving Polly the way he does, he showed them all how a real man treats a woman. He’s also a loving, generous father in law. One who treasures his sons’ wives as if they were his own daughters, for in his heart, I believe they are. And all this goes for all their extended family, too. I’ve mentioned Polly’s big heart, right? She’s adopted quite a family, and Edward just smiles and adds more tables to the chaos in the backyard.
Okay, now onto the rest of the book.
Count on Me opens when Caroline Mendoza walks into the Law Offices of Chase and Chase. This is the law firm Edward owns with his brother. They’re interviewing Caroline to come on board as a Criminal Defense attorney. Of course she gets hired, and quickly meets Royal Watson while grocery shopping. Royal is a farmer who knew Caroline when they were in school before she moved away. He also used to date Anne Murphy, so we’ve seen him in the last few Petal books. His relationship with Anne ended a while back, so we know Royal and Caroline aren’t in danger of being a rebound relationship.
I love Royal. And I love Caroline. And I especially love Royal and Caroline together. They’re a classic Lauren Dane couple: Smart, successful, and sexy. They know what they want and aren’t afraid to go for it.
In this case, all the tension in this relationship comes from the outside. That’s my favorite kind of story. I love it when it’s an “us against the world” book. Caroline is trying to clear her father’s name. Her father died in prison for killing her mom, and she never believed it, and there was too much not investigated or proved for him to have been the killer. Of course she’s right, and the real killer is still out there and NOT HAPPY she’s stirring things up.
On Royal’s end, Anne turns into the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She doesn’t want Royal, but she doesn’t want Caroline to have him either. Anne does, actually, see the crazy in herself and sorts herself out, but it takes a while. She pulls a stunt about halfway through the book which Caroline handles with a lot more poise and grace and eloquence than I ever could. I’m afraid I’d become the hair pulling stereotype.
And then there’s Caroline’s grandparents and various other factions. Oy. There is no shortage of outside drama in this book. But it’s okay, because Caroline and Royal can face anything as long as they have each other.
This book had everything I love in one book. Caroline and Royal were an awesome couple who knew each other’s flaws and foibles and didn’t care. They loved each other and were there for each other totally and completely. We had more Edward than we’d seen in previous books, and since I’m a fool for Edward, I was one happy guppy. Finally, there was an amazing cat who had so many of my own cat’s traits I began to wonder if Ms. Dane had been spying on Rani.
It took me nearly a week after reading this book to move on to something else. It was amazing and wonderful and emotional and I can’t even tell you how much I loved it. Ms. Dane even listed her playlist in the front of the book, and I loved Count on Me so much I went and bought the few songs on that list I didn’t already have.
And now every time Luke Bryan’s Shut it Down comes on, I grin and think of Caroline and Royal.
So thank you, Lauren Dane. This book now has a permanent place on top of my “Favorites” pile.
I may need to go reread this book right now. In the meantime….*hits PLAY*
Shut it down
Lotta work left to do, the sun’s still out
Any hay to make can wait for now
Take it on in the house
Shut it down
Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fishy Fangirl
aka The Fish With Sticks
Rating: 5 Stars