Bailey's old flame has just learned about their daughter, and Bailey has to decide whether or not to let him back into their lives--a decision made far more complicated by their dire financial situation and her father's poor health. Bailey Cross is a single mother who lives on her family's ranch and trains horses when she's not working at the Hash-It-Out Diner to make ends meet. When she was 22, she spent the summer hanging around the rodeo crowd, and bull rider Cody Jacobs broke her heart and fled. When he joins Alcoholics Anonymous and makes a list of the people he needs to apologize to, Bailey is at the top of the list, and more than five years after he left Bailey in the dust, he shows up at her doorstep to make amends.
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At first, Bailey wants nothing to do with Cody Jacobs. But Jerry, Bailey's father, has terminal cancer, and between the medical bills and the second mortgage, she has more on her plate than she can handle. Cody, for his part, feels torn between being a good father to a daughter he hadn't known about, and living up to his duties as a bull rider with corporate sponsorships and a contractual obligation to be away traveling for weeks at a time.
One of the more prominent subplots has to do with the way the community of Bailey's small town comes together to support Bailey and her father during his illness, and the way Cody struggles to find ways for him to support her as well without damaging her pride or making her feel dependent on him.
Over the course of more than a month, Bailey deals with her father's worsening health and then his eventual death. She becomes reacquainted with Cody, and suffers a certain amount of gossip once the Bakers and other busybodies learn that a famous bull rider is in town and is helping Bailey on her ranch. She also deals with an ongoing financial crisis, selling more than a hundred acres of land in order to pay off the mortgage debt.
At the story's end, an injury has made Cody Jacobs decide that he really does want to be present in his daughter Meg's life over the long term, and Bailey Cross has come to trust him as a friend and genuinely decent person. Realizing that they want to be a true team and that they both care for one another as well as their daughter, they start to discuss more permanent plans, including probable marriage and Cody's withdrawal from the life of a bull rider on the rodeo circuit.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that the serious financial and medical problems weren't glossed over. There are stories where some variant on True Love makes those problems go away, but Bailey's life isn't suddenly easy just because Meg's dad is back. And they have to learn to communicate with one another, and to deal with misunderstandings and doubts, which felt more realistic than love stories where the love interest is obviously compatible in every way right from the start.
Best scene in story:
There's a scene when Bailey is at work and deeply worried about finances. A Bible study group comes in, and Bailey groans internally because they always leave small tips. But then the group talks to her for a while and reveals that they've pooled money together to help Bailey out, which is an interesting reversal and reminds Bailey that her friends in the community support her even if they don't have a lot of money to help her with.
Opinion about the main character:
For Bailey, I was somewhat frustrated by her handling of the financial situation; I felt that she reacted much more negatively to Cody's suggestion that he might buy the land than made sense at the time, because she needed the money right away, and at least this way her daughter might inherit the whole parcel and therefore maintain the family ranch even if Bailey and Cody never grew very close. For Cody, although I liked his willingness to help and his general competence, I thought he was awfully pushy about instantly being part of Meg's life, given that he'd put her mother in a bad spot before, and hadn't actually demonstrated that he was capable of being a decent father figure.