Nom de Plume Rating: ★★★★★
Reading Time: 5 minutes
*FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of Benediction from Kelly Moran in exchange for an honest review. I have in no way been influenced by the author and/or publisher's generosity. You can't fake these stars, baby!
As a child, Nakos Hunt left behind the familiarity of his Native American Arapaho tribe for time on Cattenach Ranch. Now the foreman, he's happily settled into his life, but the girl who befriended him all those years ago suddenly has him twisted inside out. He craves stability and purpose, and Amy Woods is anything but a calming presence. Though she's unbelievably gorgeous and about the only person who can drag a laugh from him, he's never been able to understand her. Then a moment changes everything, and an urgent need to protect her rises inside him. And doesn't let go. So does an aching desire and a bond he can't seem to control, no matter how hard he fights the need.
She's no one's version of ever-after...
Amy's not a stranger to disappointment. She's spent the majority of her life pulling up her bootstraps and flipping Karma the bird. Once, she may have dreamed of things like happiness and love, but those were for other people. Nakos has never been someone she deserves, yet the attraction between her and the meticulous sexy-as-sin cowboy is undeniable. And too tempting to ignore. Not only is he strong, patient, and respectful, he's showing her a kind of romantic passion she didn't think existed. But the secret she's keeping could shatter their perfect bubble, and when an old nightmare comes crawling back from the past, she realizes losing Nakos will be the one thing she can't recover from.
First Line: "Ribs screaming in agony, blood dripping from her nose and lip, and her right eye swollen almost shut, Amy Tarcher stumbled through the Cattenach Ranch iron gate onto her best friend's property..."
All aboard the Kelly Moran! 🚢 Kelly is giving us passion, survival, strength. I've got chills! They're multiplying! ⚡️ This book. THIS BOOK! It's dark, daunting, and oh-so delicious!
Strength is getting back on your feet after some jerk took something precious from you. Strength is picking up the pieces when your sense of security, your very trust, has been stolen.
Let me introduce you to Amy. No, that blue and black face she is sporting is not her typical look. Tis the season to be abused (yet again) by her soon-to-be-ex-husband. In fact, there doesn't NEED to be a season because he beats her to a pulp year-round. He's that fugly perennial weed you can't seem to kill.
It's no surprise she runs away seeking help from her best friend, Olivia. (We met Olivia and her hunk-o-man in Redemption, another standalone novel by Kelly Moran.)
Insecure, emotional, and completely wrecked, Amy finds refuge with Olivia. What she isn't prepared for are the emotions she feels for Nakos - Olivia's foreman on the ranch and an old friend of both girls.
Well, so much for good impressions. Amy isn't feeling very... err-sexy right now... bloody face, bruised body, weakened soul. This girl is past the point of no return!
"I’m trying to drop a couple pounds.” She’d only managed ten and was going for twenty more... Due to the number of times Chris had called her “fat ass” the past few years... And it wasn’t as if other men had looked her way since the divorce, proving him right...
Girlfriend girlfriend GIRLFRIEND! What are you doing to yourself?!
And so we have our first conflict - and you already know that Kelly Moran is the QUEEN of conflict. Amy is insecure about herself. I don't blame her. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! Every fiber of her heart has been broken down and pulverized. If only someone could save her...
Entering: Nakos 😏
Ok here is where the juju gets delicious because Nakos is quite the specimen. I can honestly say that Nakos is one of the best heros Kelly Moran has ever written. He's patient, he's devoted, he's flawed. And he's in love with Olivia.
And it hit her. Painfully. He’d been in love with Olivia since they were teenagers...
Kelly Moran has just introduced our second conflict: Amy and Nakos want to... rendezvous 😏... but Nakos is freaking in love with Olivia! Ever since the three were young, Amy has stood in second place to Olivia. Amy's family wishes she were more like Olivia (conflict #3), the judgement and criticism Amy receives is endless (conflict #4), did I mention that Nakos is in love with Olivia? (Conflict #5... #6... #7)
How is Nakos going to prove to Amy that she is worthy? How is Amy going to allow herself to love again? What about her abusive husband?? The snot-licker-wife-beater isn't going to just disappear. (If only humans could evaporate, right?) Is Nakos really over Olivia?
So many unanswered questions! Kelly Moran, why must you make my heart feel so hollow!
Benediction is strength from weakness. Benediction is trust. Benediction is one of the best books I've ever read!
Kelly Moran gives us friends-to-lovers unlike anyone else! Amy is insecure, eventually finds peace, and she learns to give herself permission to finally LIVE. Nakos acts as her catalyst and leads her on this journey of self-discovery and the two inevitably fall in love. I mean a helpless, raw, primal love. Benediction is honest to gawd epicness.
We are introduced to Amy and her self-doubts in the first chapter, and I felt uncomfortable reading about her; Amy is... so real. Her problems are real. Her evolution is real. It's borderline haunting how powerful this book is.
Nakos... ummm HELLO HOTTIE! Gaaawd this man is patient, kind, and reassuring. Gimme one of THEM, will ya?
Let's just pray Amy's ghosts don't come back to haunt her now that she's finally found a life worth being proud of - yes, they come back - and there are still endless conflicts to be resolved. But let's make one thing clear: Nakos is most DEFINITELY not in love with Olivia.
"Do you remember what color dress Olivia wore to prom?”
Amy needed the reminder she was never the one he wanted. If he answered correctly, and she had no doubt he would, she’d stop torturing herself with what-ifs. She’d shove friendship down their throats and ignore the chemistry until he moved on.
He glared at her like he couldn’t fathom why she’d ask such a random question, then dug his fingertips into his eyes. “Blue. Dark blue and knee-length. Why?”
Bingo. However, verification only made her belly clench. She should be used to disappointment.
“Here.” She passed him the ice cream and stood. “It’ll only go straight to my ass.” Turning, she forced one foot in front of the other.
“Your dress was green.”
The quiet, determined timbre of his tone froze her in place. Facing the door, her back to him, she tried to catch her breath. The fine hairs on her arms rose.
Clothing rustled. His boots vibrated the planks and stopped behind her. “I don’t know what name you females call it, but it was green. The color of grass. The material went down to your ankles. Every time you bent over, one of the thin straps fell off your shoulder and you spent half the night tugging it in place. Your shoes were black, your hair was up, and you wore a necklace with a yellow stone in the pendant.”
Oh God... He remembered.
This is absolutely my favorite excerpt from the book - the turning point of everything. Le sigh. Kelly Moran has captured my heart, yet again, with this unforgettable tale of love.