Author: Willa J. Brand
Series: Mountain Ranch
Publication Date: May 30, 2020
Synopsis: Taylor is a mother on the run from an abusive husband, searching for a safe place for she and her young son. Convinced that her possessive spouse is hunting them, she is paranoid, exhausted and virtually penniless. Finding herself stranded in rural Montana, she is taken in by a couple who help her not knowing her past, and she is able to find work on their ranch. She intends on staying only long enough to save the money needed to move on to a large city where she believes they will be safer. But as time passes friendships develop, as does a love interest, and Taylor struggles to hold on to her secrets. Inevitably, her past catches up with her and her worst fears will become reality.
Refuge is a story about one woman’s search for identity after leaving a toxic relationship. The story begins when Taylor’s car breaks down. Fleeing with her infant son from an abusive husband, Taylor wants to get as far north as possible. She’ll do whatever it takes to escape Jackson’s clutches, but with a broken-down car and no place to stay in rural Montana, Taylor accepts a kind man’s offer of refuge. It is upon meeting Greg and his wife Dana that Taylor feels a small sense of safety, and when they offer her a job on their ranch, Taylor gladly accepts. She needs to save money to repair her car, and this quiet, simple life is the perfect place to hide.
But Taylor lives in fear of Jackson. Will he find her and their son, and what will he do once he finds them? Taylor won’t go back to the terrible marriage, especially now that she’s found happiness and a sense of purpose on the ranch with Dana and Greg. Plus, there’s Owen, Dana’s handsome and kind brother who Taylor has growing feelings for. They don’t know about Taylor’s tormented past, and she fears their reaction if she finally reveals the truth. What will happen if Taylor’s past catches up to her?
I enjoyed following Taylor’s story. Her character goes through so many changes throughout the story, and she learns who she is independent of her husband’s violence and demands. However, Taylor is slow to trust and never feels safe. She wants to move forward, but scars from the past and the threat of being caught by her vicious husband weigh heavily on her.
To her, there was no such thing as something for nothing.
Taylor’s been so emotionally, verbally, and physically defeated that she is suspicious of sincere, genuine people. The new, kind people she meets are foils to the callous, demanding, shallow, and abusive family she fled from. Dana, Greg, and Owen are so patient with Taylor. They know she’s keeping secrets, but they give her the time and space she needs and never pressure her to reveal or do anything that makes her uncomfortable.
Dana is one of my favorite characters in the novel (besides Taylor and Owen, of course!). Kind, smart, and loving, she is very family-oriented. She’s also a devious matchmaker, continuously manipulating situations to push Taylor and Owen together. It’s clear she loves her brother and wants the best for him. She also loves Taylor and senses how well-suited the pair is. I think she realizes that Taylor and Owen are hesitant and feels they need a little nudge. She is a true friend to Taylor, and their relationship is one of the highlights of the novel.
Owen and Taylor are afraid of their developing feelings, which isn’t surprising considering their past relationships. Owen is “a man of habit and solitude.” He demonstrates from the start how patient, practical, and kind he is. As Taylor gets to know him, she also learns that he is dependable and supportive with a strong work ethic. His quiet strength, simplicity, and loving support of people he loves is the antithesis of what Taylor experienced with Jackson. Charismatic, elitist, and unethical, Jackson is a spoiled man obsessed with keeping up appearances. He thrives on abusing and demeaning Taylor and betrays her in every way possible. It’s no wonder Taylor struggles to open up and trust people.
I also enjoyed the strong themes in the book. Female empowerment, embracing simplicity, protecting those you love, infertility, and finding happiness are just some of the topics that are addressed in the book. I like how the author offers messages of hope and optimism in the midst of escaping an abusive situation and starting over.
Refuge is a lovely story that highlights the bonds of friendship and found families as well as the healing power of love. Thanks so much to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
The romance, of course! Taylor is a strong and kind woman, and Owen is the perfect compliment to her.
The strong messages.
She needed someone to rely on, and there was no doubt that a part of him wanted to be that someone for her.
Readers who enjoy contemporary stories with a slow-building romance and dynamic characters will love this quick read!