Review: The One I Left Behind by Piper Rayne (Plain Daisy Ranch #1)

Note: An advance reader copy (ARC) was provided by the authors via Valentine PR.

The bestselling writing duo of Piper and Rayne, aka Piper Rayne, have done small town romances before, but this time, they're going more country. The One I Left Behind is a second chance romance and the first novel in the Plain Daisy Ranch series. (There is a prequel novella, One Last Summer, that is available for free on e-retailers, so if you want to have a bit of a back story on the main characters, I highly recommend you check that out.) The ranch is owned by the Noughtons, led by patriarch Bruce, who is a widower with three sons, Jude, Benjamin, and Emmett. The series starter is about the middle child, Ben, who is thirty-two and has recently retired from professional football, having played with the San Francisco Kingsmen. (For longtime Piper Rayne readers, you'll recall that Ben was a supporting character in their Kingsmen Football Stars sports romance series.) He's paired here with his first love and high school girlfriend, Gillian Adams, also thirty-two and currently a court stenographer in their hometown of Willowbrook. She's also a single mom to a fourteen-year-old son named Clayton. And yes, she's "the one" he "left behind" in the book's title.

There's a lot to like about this book. Piper and Rayne deliver the heart, heat, and humor that they're known for, and having a setting that isn't in the city or in Alaska certainly piqued my interest. There was a bit of groveling and a hint of resistance, but as expected, Ben and Gillian simply never really anyone the way they did each other. Naturally, fourteen years apart is still fourteen years, and they've both done quite a bit of growing up. I appreciated Clatyon's protective nature when it came to his mom, and it was clear from the get-go that Ben was going to have to earn the teen's trust. The bits and pieces we get of Ben's brothers were exactly that--bits and pieces--so the spotlight remains on the middle Noughton son while providing just enough to have readers look forward to what awaits the two others. My one quibble with the book has to do with the timeline. Ben and Gillian were apart for fourteen years, and they didn't end their relationship soon after Ben left for Clemson, yet Clayton is fourteen. The timeline is just a tad off. There's also a point where Gillian tells Ben her son is fifteen and another where Ben says he's waited fifteen years to be with Gillian. Other than the whole timeline thing, I enjoyed the heck out of this novel, and I can't wait to see what awaits Jude and his best friend, Sadie, in the second Plain Daisy Ranch book. 4.5 stars for The One I Left Behind.

Release Date: 14 May 2024

Date Read: 08 May 2024

Learn more about Piper Rayne.

Pre-order The One I Left Behind on Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | Google Play | Kobo.


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