This third and final book in the Moonlight Ridge trilogy is the whole reason I started reading it! I love Reese Ryan’s books, and I’m the sort of completionist who can’t just jump in with the third book, but I’ve definitely enjoyed discovering new authors. And this is the perfect finale for me with a mix of the second chance and fake relationship tropes!
“Unlike his lovestruck brothers, Travis would happily stick to his “bachelor life,” get Moonlight Ridge’s kitchen and catering services in shape, find the elusive embezzler then get back to his busy life in Atlanta and LA.”
Travis has mixed feelings about being back in Moonlight Ridge to help out with the resort after his father’s illness. While he’s happy to mend fences with his brothers, he’s got a busy career as a celebrity chef and training up the resort’s, well, not so good chef seems like a nonstarter, not to mention figuring out who’s been embezzling money from them. But if they want to get the resort back on its feet, they need better food and more bookings soon – if only the perfect chance to help didn’t involve his ex.
Riley comes from money, but unlike her brothers, she can only access her full trust fund if she’s married to a “man of independent means.” She’s convinced that particular condition was added after her parents watched her get involved with Travis when they were teens. Now the head of her family’s charitable foundation, when the chef she’s hired to cater the latest gala has to bow out, he suggests Travis – after all, the reason they both know the chef is that he used to work at Moonlight Ridge. Hiring a celebrity chef will surely sell more tickets for the foundation, and Travis’s condition to move it to Moonlight Ridge will mean more business for the family resort. But their attraction – and all the baggage from the accident that cost Travis his football career years ago – is still there, and maybe Travis can help her out with more than just a gala…
“I’m fake-married to my childhood sweetheart.” Riley raised her head and laughed. “I’m pretty sure it can’t get any weirder than this.”
The first thing you have to know about Riley is that she’s a workaholic, partially because she’s so committed to her causes. Even accessing her trust isn’t for herself – it’s to help out two organizations she supports that are having money troubles. She’s too used to being dated for her money (and family connections) so Travis would be perfect for her marriage of convenience idea. There are so many things that need to be updated at the resort to make it competitive and not enough money to do it, so if he’ll marry her for a year so she can get access to her trust, she’ll bankroll the renovations for him to open a lakeside cafe at Moonlight Ridge. And yeah, maybe Riley does still have a thing for Travis, but she’s also carrying a lot of guilt for setting off the chain of events that ended in the brothers’ car accident.
Travis, for his part, is mostly over it – or at least that’s what he says. While he was angry at first with his brothers, after a lot of time and therapy, he’s come to accept that it was an accident with no one at fault, though that doesn’t mean he’s forgiven the cruel note from Riley that night. He’s not particularly inclined to give her a second chance, even if he still feels pulled toward her. Ever since his mother abandoned him as a child, he’s had issues trusting people and that’s extended to his romantic relationships. Travis doesn’t believe in true love, only that the best anyone could hope for in a relationship is a mutually beneficial alliance. So it’s not terribly surprising that he does eventually agree to Riley’s proposal. But it’s only due to Riley’s dad’s complete jerkishness that he finds out the real reason she broke up with him so many years ago, and he finally allows himself to accept that he still has feelings for her. Even then, they think they can just have a fake-marriage-with-benefits, except that while many other things have changed, the characteristics that drew them together are still there. But an unexpected visit throws a wrench in their burgeoning happiness, and Travis’s knee-jerk reaction is to believe the worst of everyone involved. Has he grown enough to rely on his family and Riley instead of shutting everyone out again?
“Watching you fall apart is the hottest thing I have ever seen.” There was a hint of reverence in his husky voice.
“I’ll bet you say that to all the pretty girls you’ve been fake-engaged to.”
As the last book, this wraps up several of the plot lines quite well, including the thieving employee and the relationship between Jameson and Giada. It also leaves the brothers and Jameson, as well as Moonlight Ridge in general, not completely healed but on a better path. But the star of the book is the relationship between Riley and Travis. It’s both sweet and very steamy, and the reasons for their breakup – and the bleak moment – are very understandable. Modern marriage of convenience novels are always a bit hard for me to swallow, but I found this one at least mostly reasonable and I appreciated Riley and Travis’s honesty and, well, snark, when it came to discussing it.
Overall, this has been a very enjoyable series, and I definitely hope these authors team up again!
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.