ARC Review: To Have and to Hold (Returning Home, #3) by Serena Bell

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3.5 stars

This is a really sweet read with a lot of heart – a second-chance-romance with a twist that had me so excited to get my hands on this book. This is the third book in the Returning Home series, but can definitely be read as a standalone.

Hunter and Trina are the single parents of two girls who are best friends. They have found something special with each other and just before Hunter goes off on his final deployment, they make promises to each other and plan for a life together upon his return.

“I know my feelings, and they’re not going to change”

A year later when Hunter returns, it’s following a traumatic injury and Trina’s dreams of a happy reunion are shattered when Hunter has no recollection of their time together. It turns out that Hunter is suffering from amnesia, and though he knows who Trina is, he can’t remember falling in love with her, or what they meant to each other.

Their situation is all kinds of complicated. Not only has Trina been caring for both hers and Hunter’s daughters while he has been away, but she has been living in his house, and now she is heartbroken that the love of her love has forgotten everything that they shared together. She is understandably torn between wanting to stay and help her man, and allowing him space to reconnect with his daughter and come to terms with everything, and I thought her struggle was really well written.

Hunter’s turmoil is just as heartbreaking. He is happy to be home, but he is frustrated and guilty for the pain that he is inadvertently causing Trina, and of course he’s lost a year of his life. And apart from the physical injuries he sustained, what traumatic event caused his memory loss and what else has he forgotten?

Can Hunter fall in love with the same woman twice? Does he even want to? And the man that Trina loved is different from the man who has returned. Will she wait for him? Can they possibly have a future together?

They were each alone in these parallel realities – his, in which the whole last year hadn’t happened, and hers, in which it might as well not have.

This is an emotional story of reconnection that is really well written and heartachingly realistic. The more time they spend together, Trina’s decisions about what she needs to do for her and her daughter becomes harder and harder to figure out. And when she is there to help calm Hunter from his nightmares, he battles to figure out what is memory and what is fantasy as he starts to feel attracted to her.

“In the dark … I know you.”

It’s a great story that unfolds beautifully as Hunter starts to open up to what that he is feeling for Trina. I love how open she was in sharing their past with him, how brave and honest she was when talking about her feelings, and how absolutely amazing Hunter was in listening to her and being strong enough to embrace what he was feeling for her. And the way they slowly started to reconnect was so gorgeous.

“Hunter. You don’t – you don’t have to compete with him. With the old you. You know that, right? … I just want you to know that for me – I’m past that. Past where you have to impress me.”
“I know,” he said. “But – I don’t want to feel like I missed it.”

“Was it always – like this?” he asked.
… “Like this?”
“This good.”
She tried not to smile at that, but he saw the hint of it. “Yes.”

It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride for both of them as they move between doubt, fear, fun and happy times, fantastic sexual tension, breathtaking passion and back again. It’s a unique and complex journey, but it’s really well handled and I could understand and empathise with everything that Hunter and Trina were going through.

Their two daughters add some extra heart to the story as they try to make sense of everything that is happening, and I really liked their part in the story. The characters from the previous books in the series also make an appearance and I thought it all tied together really nicely. And then there’s the happy ending which ends the story beautifully.

I enjoyed this book. There’s a great balance of drama and romance, and I really liked the characters and their journey. It didn’t evoke the intense feels that I was hoping for, but it was still a really good read.

3.5 stars.

An Advanced Review Copy was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Returning Home series

Hold on Tight  Can't Hold Back  To Have and to Hold

Hold on Tight (#1)
Buy:  Kindle Ebook

Can’t Hold Back (#2)
Buy:  Kindle Ebook

To Have and to Hold (#3)
Buy:  Kindle Ebook


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