Always the Hero
by Anna J. Stewart
Series: Butterfly Harbor #4
Published by Harlequin Heartwarming
Publication Date March 6, 2018
Genres: Clean Romance
Setting: California Contemporary
Main Character Ages: 25-34
Written for: Adults
He never relied on anyone but himself...
But he needs her now!
Butterfly Harbor deputy Matt Knight wants two things: to date Lori Bradley and the chance to adopt Kyle, a troubled teen. Wounded in Afghanistan, Matt knows he can't move forward anchored to the past. But once he regains the guarded hotel manager's trust, will his need to protect those he loves cost him a future with this extraordinary woman?
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The characters in Always the Hero are so real!
Matt is such a great guy and makes such stupid mistakes! The very fact that he is so in love with Lori for what an amazing woman she is and then keeps withholding important things from here makes him very endearing. Not because he is withholding, but because he doesn’t know how to tell her and then spends too much time agonizing over the process until it is too late! He does have such a hero’s heart and is always rescuing others. My heart melts that he wants to adopt a very troubled teenager. . .
Lori is one of the kindest women and is always serving others with little thought for herself. Yet she has been crushed, by her parents and those she went to school with. She is large and has a very hard time moving beyond her own terrible self-image. She has to learn to see herself as others do so she has the confidence to trust.
The story is touching.
There are some references to events that most likely happened in the previous books in the series, but this book does stand alone. The other stories do sound intriguing from the mentions here, so it might be worthwhile to read the entire series from the beginning.
“What’s wrong?” Matt rested his arms on the table and leaned in. She could feel the warmth of his breath, feel the heat of his concerned gaze.“Nothing.” She shifted in her seat. “It’s…nothing.”“Now who’s lying?”Her chin shot up at his accusation but it was then she saw he was teasing her.“Come on, Lori. Tell me what’s bothering you. You’ve been acting weird since before we came in here. Are you embarrassed to be seen with me?”“Why on earth would I—” She took a deep breath. “You’re making fun of me.”“How else am I going to disarm you enough to tell me what’s going on in here.” He reached up and tapped a finger against the side of her head.“It’s not important.” Darn it, why did she always let this get to her? Why hadn’t she just been honest and told him she didn’t want to go to breakfast?“Given we’ve spent the last couple of minutes debating that fact, I’ll say you’re wrong. What is it?”“I just…” Could her face feel any hotter? “I don’t like eating out, okay? There. You got me to confess, copper. Take me to jail.” She held out her wrists, palms up.“Why don’t you like to eat out?”“Oh, for…” She tucked her hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s silly.Stupid even.”“Clearly, it’s not. Tell me.”Tell him? Tell him one of her most embarrassing secrets? Tell him about how even her own parents were disgusted by her? Yeah, that should kill off any residual feelings he might have for her. “When I was a little girl and we went out to eat, my mother would constantly criticize me. I shouldn’t have that or what will people think, a chubby girl like you eating that. I embarrassed her. And she made sure everyone knew it.” All these years later and it still messed with her head. “I told you it was stupid.”“It’s not stupid. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.” He reached over and held out a hand. She stared at his open palm, heart pounding as she realized how much she wanted to take it. Instead, she pulled her hands into her lap and locked her fingers together. “No child should ever be made to feel less than. For any reason.”“I totally agree. Which is why I haven’t talked to her in about a gazillion years.” That neither of her parents seemed interested in reaching out to her—or Fletcher—didn’t help the situation. It was one thing to be a child and suspect your parents didn’t like you; it was another to be an adult and know it to be true. “So, there you go. I don’t like to eat out because my mother used to make fun of me for being fat. Bring on the chocolate pudding.”“Have I mentioned how much I loathe self-deprecating humor?” He sat back and pinned her with a stare that made her shiver. “We’re being honest with each other now, yeah? Stop making fun of yourself. I don’t find the jokes funny and I don’t agree with them. What on earth does your dress size have to do with the type of person you are? I like who you are, Lori. I have from the first time I saw you, so suck it up and deal with it. And while you’re at it, stop making light of things that cause you pain. It’s irritating.”“Yes, it is.” She didn’t want to take what he said to heart. She didn’t want to believe he meant what she’d always wanted someone to say to her; someone who might actually care for her, love her. “It’s also the one defense mechanism that’s worked for me, so forgive me if I don’t bow to your lack of expertise in this matter.” She meant for the comment to tick him off, drive him away. Offend him to the point he’d settle her firmly in the friends column. Instead, she watched the anger lines around his eyes ease and thecorners of his mouth flicker.“You’d be surprised what I know about parental disapproval, but that’s a conversation for another time. Look at us, getting to know each other. Being honest with one another. It’s almost like we’re starting a new relationship or something.”Lori shook her head, wanting nothing more than to walk away and forget that whenever she was with him she didn’t want to be without him. He had a way of making her forget everything that shouldn’t be important. “What’s wrong with you? Everything that should make you angry makes you laugh.”“And sometimes vice versa,” he confirmed with a shrug. “You have your coping mechanisms, I have mine. And for the record, I’ll give you time to work on that bad habit of yours. Not a lot, but some.”
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