Stefan Talbot likes order and control. He approaches his life with the same meticulous precision that he uses to put paint on his canvas. Nothing good comes from chaos, and that is why he has refused to allow himself to get close to Jennifer Waters. They are like fire and ice. Though she is younger, her talent as an artist is unquestionable. But she lives her life like she paints—with wild, passionate abandon. It is intoxicating and terrifying, and he can’t get her out of his head.
Jennifer ran from Bliss to put Stef behind her. She had come to the mountain town seeking a mentor but found much more than she bargained for. Cool and distant, Stef was like a marble statue and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t break through his shell. She moved to Dallas to start over, but nothing is going as planned. When the art gallery where she works is robbed and a precious painting is stolen, Jen is accused of the theft. Jen is thrilled when her bail is met, until she realizes her savior is Stef and he has a few conditions. First and foremost, she has to return to Bliss.
Against the backdrop of the Winter Festival, Stef and Jen’s attraction catches fire. But the dark forces behind the robbery in Dallas have followed Jen home. A criminal syndicate believes she still has the stolen painting and they’ll kill to get their hands on it.
I keep going back and forth about my feelings on this book. Stefan and Jennifer’s relationship was difficult to understand, more difficult to root for, yet there was something intrinsic about their coupling that left me no choice but to hope they could figure things out.
It’s been a long time since I have found a character as frustrating as I found Stefan Talbot. He’d been aloof and untouchable in the other novels in this series, so I was so interested in finding out what made him tick in this book. He was a broken boy, who’d never really dealt with his parents’ abandonment but seemed utterly unaware of how deeply it had affected every facet of his life. His treatment of Jennifer was maddening, but ultimately it was obvious he was trying to protect himself while making sure she had every opportunity he could provide for her.
Jennifer was the perfect counterpart to Stefan once she realized why he had been pushing her away for the entirety of their acquaintance. Despite her youth, she was exceedingly patient with the man and continually gave him what he needed the moment she knew he needed it. Though her choices were occasionally aggravating, she knew what she wanted and took the steps she needed to ensure she ended up with the man she’d loved for years.
I kind of loved the plot of One to Keep, even if it was a little over the top at times. The Russian mafia element drew me in completely, and I loved Alexei and his backstory. I almost found myself wanting to skip through Jen and Stefan’s story so I could get to Alexei’s. The way Ms. Blake weaved the art and mafia together and brought in all kinds of other little details was interesting and kept me invested in the book.
In keeping with my indecision about this book, I’m not sure if I wish anything was different about this book. If Stefan were different, it would be a disservice to his character. If they didn’t have the struggles, they had with Jennifer’s situation they’d have never given each other another chance. As frustrating as much of this book was, it was faithful to who Stefan and Jennifer were.
One to Keep is the third book in Lexi Blake’s Nights in Bliss, Colorado series. These books were originally written under the pen name Sophie Oak and have been re-released with added content. Ms. Blake’s series are interconnected, and we got to see a few of our favorites from other series. One to Keep can be read as a standalone, though the characters from the first two books in the series make appearances in this book. The novel is written in third-person limited perspective, alternatively following Jennifer, Stefan, and Alexei’s thoughts.
Stef turned back to Jen. “Let’s move, Jennifer. I have a plane ready. We need to be at Love Field in an hour. I have an officer waiting to process you out.”
Jen’s head whirled. “Plane?”
“Yes, plane. We’re going back to Bliss.”
Cool, gray eyes slitted, and she could practically feel the will rolling off him. Stef was tense, and she knew it was a bad idea to push him, but she couldn’t help it.
“I’m serious, Stef. I’m not going anywhere with you.” She couldn’t go back to Bliss. Panic threatened to swamp her. He was here. He was right here in front of her, and her heart didn’t give a damn that he was a bastard. For the first time in months, she felt desire for something besides her art. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, go down that path again.
He got into her space, a move he’d perfected seemingly long before he met her. She held her ground. Even though he didn’t touch her physically, he seemed to surround her. Suddenly her whole world was Stef, his gray eyes, the heat of his body, his masculine, clean scent. He filled her every sense.
“I’m not going home with you.” She forced herself to say the words.
His lips hitched up. “At least you admit Bliss is your home.”
That wasn’t what she’d meant. Bliss, Colorado, had felt like home when she’d been there, but she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bliss wasn’t big enough for the two of them. “It’s your home. Hell, Stef, it’s your little kingdom, and you like to play the king, don’t you?”
“Yes, because everyone does what I say.” Stef’s low growl made her breath speed up. “Everyone in Bliss bows down to me. Have you been gone for so long that you forget Max regularly kicks my ass? And Nell and Henry are currently protesting my gardening practices.”
He was too close for comfort. She gave in and took a step back. She could see plainly that he was satisfied with her discomfort. “Don’t try to play the poor rich boy with me. You’re a puppet master. You like to pull the strings and see how people dance. Well, I’m not in your kingdom anymore, and there’s no way you can get me there again. So you can take your money and go back to Colorado.”
It was stupid. Even as she said the words, she wanted to take them back. She’d spent the last twenty-four hours terrified in a jail cell. She would have to be the stupidest woman in the world to turn him down, but she’d never thought around Stef. Since the moment she’d met him, she’d been a quivering mass of emotion and desire every time he entered a room.
“Stubborn thing. I’ll make it easy on you.” His hands caught hers, and before she could think she felt cold metal surrounding her wrists. He flicked the cuffs on with the cool precision of a man who often cuffed the women in his life.
“What are you doing?” She stared at her hands. At least this time they were in front of her. She preferred it that way. Damn, her life had taken a wrong turn when she could compare and contrast her experiences with men who handcuffed her.
“Taking you home, Jennifer. Whether you like it or not.”
He leaned down and picked her up. She was in his arms, nestled close to his chest. She looked up at the square, inflexible line of his jaw. His arms tightened around her, and she was caged more closely than she’d been in the holding cell. She had the suspicion that this time Stef would be harder to escape from than before. He kicked open the door and started down the hall.
Yep, like it or not, she was going back to Bliss.
Re-released in a second edition with two new chapters and additional new content.
Rachel Swift is a woman on the run.
A stalker sent Rachel’s world reeling. Now she’s running for her life, and Bliss, CO, seems like the perfect place to hide. Bliss is a strange little town, filled with artists, nudists, and the occasional conspiracy nut. It’s a good place to start over.
Max and Rye are just the men to catch her.
Horse trainer Max and Sheriff Rye gave up on their dream of finding one perfect woman to share long ago. Rachel walks in, and they’re both in love and fighting their true natures.
A town like no other….
When Rachel’s past catches up with her, all of Bliss is in danger. Rachel knows she should run, but how can she leave behind the love she’s found with Max and Rye and the home she’s built in Bliss? With her whole town behind her, Rachel is ready to make her stand. It’s time for her to get back in the saddle and ride.
Re-released in a second edition with new content.
Three lost souls
Growing up in the eclectic, small town of Bliss was wonderful for Callie Sheppard. She loved everything about it, except for the lack of potential romantic partners. She only went wild once in her life, sharing a perfect weekend in Dallas with two incredible men she never thought she would see again. When they parted, she was left with a hole in her heart she feared would never be filled.
One romantic weekend
DEA agents Nathan Wright and Zane Hollister were thrilled when Callie agreed to spend the weekend with them. Just days away from a long, undercover assignment, they considered this passionate affair to be an ideal way to spend their last days of freedom. They never expected to fall in love. Leaving her behind was the hardest decision of their lives.
An unexpected reunion
Six years later, Callie is preparing to break in a new sheriff after Rye Harper walked out on the job. Her heart skips a few beats when the man walking through the door is none other than Nate Wright. Nate and Zane have come to Bliss, but their time undercover has left them broken and scarred. The boys are determined to win back Callie’s heart. But when the criminals they took down come seeking revenge, Nate and Zane may have to save the strange little town of Bliss before they can reclaim the woman they love.
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.