I have been looking forward to Zach' s story since Bittersweet, the first book in the series, and I liked it well enough but it didn't rock my world like the first two books did.
Zach, sweet , soft spoken, quiet, polite, sexy as hell farm boy spent the first nineteen years of his life trapped in a religious, crazy cult (think multiple wives, forced marriages) who was thrown away by the people who should have loved and protected him. He ends up on the Shipley' s farm. The Shipley' s have taken him in and he has become more than another laborer but also a part of the family where he makes himself indispensable by working hard and demanding nothing. Zach' s life consists of working on the farm and being the de facto mechanic. His is a simple life and he is content if maybe a little lonely when Lark storms into it. Lark, referred to by Griff as the "Wild Child" is May Shipley' s BFF and after a harrowing experience in Central America leaves her floundering and more than a little traumatized, comes to the Shipley' s farm to work temporarily. Lark finds that her demons will not be conquered with fresh air and hard work. She starts to rely on Zach and his soothing presence when her nightmares get a hold of her. Zach can't help but fall for Lark and her adventurous, outgoing ways. Though he knows her outward cheerful personality is hiding a fractured psyche and he can only hope his love is enough to hold her together.
I loved Zach so so much. A blushing hottie who's unaware of his sex appeal. What's not to love? He is far and away the best part of this book and if the focus of the story had been on him and his issues, which I felt were woefully underdeveloped, this book would have been as good as Steadfast if not better. Steadfast was Jude' s book, while it was dual POV and the heroine had her own baggage, it was his story in every respect and it was amazing. In Keepsake the focus is on Lark and her struggles when it should have been on Zach and his insane and heartbreaking background and his abandonment issues that were only lightly touched on. His issues take a backseat to Lark and her problems and I felt that weakened the book because Lark was just not as interesting as Zach. Plus, the reader has been getting to know Zach during the course of the series so I for one was already emotionally invested where this is Lark' s first appearance. I also felt that Lark was a bit underdeveloped. She was supposed to be this wild child but I was told not shown this fact. She seemed pretty tame and conventional for such a wild reputation. I was also surprised by the lack of sexual tension since sexual tension is something that this author does so amazingly well. The first two books were chock full of it but here it was surprisingly tame and low key.
Still, the love scenes were steamy and the writing, as always, was solid. I loved seeing the awesome Shipley' s again and their farm which has given me an enormous urge to visit Vermont. The secondary characters are are well developed and as always my favorite part of Sarina Bowen' s books is that they are populated by characters who just leap off the page in their realness. No billionaire CEO's or wedding planner heroines (seriously contemporary authors: not every heroine has to be a wedding planner!) but real people with real jobs and real everyday struggles. Her books are just such a breath of fresh air and while this one fell a little short, it is still a good read and part of an excellent series. I think this book stands alone but I highly recommend starting with Bittersweet. Here's hoping the next book is about the bartender and her secret baby. 3 1/2 stars