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I love reformed bad boys, and in a Christian historical romance, it can be a bit difficult to pull off. However, Melissa Jagears did a great job of showing the journey from a childhood bully to a repentant man, in a way that tugs on the heartstrings and gives hope to those of us who wonder if redemption is possible when we've hurt someone badly in our past. While I felt that some of the tension was a bit overdone and dragged on far too long, the writing and colorful characters created a depth to the story that made it highly enjoyable from beginning to end.
Aaron Firebrook has returned to his hometown a changed person. Having been a merciless bully in his youth, he journeyed west and found faith through a persistent preacher who wouldn't give up on him. Now on a quest to right the wrongs he did to people in his past, his next step in his penance is becoming a teacher. Having received a request from one of his old victims, who had difficulty walking and speaking as a boy, he seeks to help those who struggle with learning and protect them from those who don't understand. His biggest roadblock in achieving this comes in the form of yet another former victim - Mercy McClain, a member of the local school board. Missing her arm below the elbow, she was tormented by him in the 5th grade and has never forgiven him. The question is now - can she forgive him and see that he has changed, or will she let old wrongs affect her decisions today?
As I said, I like reformed bad boys in my romances, and I loved hearing Aaron's backstory, his path to becoming a better person, and seeing the steps he continues to take towards redemption. Mercy was a character I found difficult to like, unfortunately. While I appreciated what she did for a living and recognized she had a difficult time growing up, I felt she had a holier-than-thou attitude towards a lot of people and didn't live up to her name in the slightest. It took a *very* long time for her to forgive Aaron in the book, and as someone who was bullied when I was young, I have to say - if someone who bullied me when we were 9 came back into my life in our 20s, I wouldn't try to keep them from getting a job, adopting a child, or moving on with their life. I would like to think I would be a bigger person that that. Mercy had some redemption to do in this story as well, and I think she learned that she had faults too. I would just have liked it to happen a bit faster. Too, many characters in the story behaved in, what seemed to me, an unreasonably harsh manner towards Aaron. By the end, I wanted to give Aaron a giant hug. Overall, they were a nice couple, but it was a big struggle getting to that point.
This is my first full-length book by Melissa Jagears, and I would definitely read another of her books again. I have the first Teaville Moral Society sitting on my bookshelf in my home, and I think now is a good time to finally delve into it.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**