His name is Hardy Cates. He's a self-made millionaire who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He's made enemies in the rough-and-tumble ride to the top of Houston's oil industry. He's got hot blood in his veins. And vengeance on his mind.
She's Haven Travis. Despite her family's money, she refuses to set out on the path they've chosen for her. But when Haven marries a man her family disapproves of, her life is set on a new and dangerous course. Two years later, Haven comes home, determined to guard her heart. And Hardy Cates, a family enemy, is the last person she needs darkening her door or setting her soul on fire.
Haven Travis is the youngest in the Travis clan and the most rebellious. She fights their excessive and rich lives and is bound and determined to do the exact opposite of what her father, the infamous Churchill Travis, demands. When Haven falls in love with the man she wants to marry, she doesn't necessarily seemed surprised that her father despises her choice of Nick and cuts off her monthly allowance and any gains from the family will. Haven, while hurt by her father's actions, is more bruised by his unwillingness to speak to her as opposed to her being dropped from the Travis Will. Thus, Haven boldly turns her back on a life of privilege and elopes with Nick and the couple moves to Dallas, TX.
For the next two years Haven endures a marriage of pure hell. It started off with little things like Nick's insistence that Haven press and starch his shirts to his exact specifications. Then there was Nick's sudden desire to refer to Haven by her middle name, Marie. Haven complies with Nick's wishes because she desperately wants to please him and make their marriage work not only because of her love for him but for her pride as well. Things deteriorate rapidly with verbal abuse escalating into physical. Finally, after a physical blow out, Nick kicks a bloody Haven out the door.
This time period of Haven's life was extremely difficult to read through but very informative regarding Nick's abuse and his reasons behind it. Kleypas sheds light on the warning signs that women and men need to be aware of so that a couple, if capable, can receive counseling or treatment. If things have escalated beyond hope than a person has a view of the possible future abuse through Nick and Haven's story, and thus hopefully giving them courage to leave the situation.
Haven is rescued by her older brother Gage and even I felt immediate relief when he calls her darlin' and cradles her gently in his arms promising to keep her safe. Yet a battle between siblings is not far behind with Gage pressing Haven to divorce Nick immediately. Haven, having been systematically abused, is incapable of making any decision and opts to sleep on it before delving hastily into a divorce. But after a few days of rest and a hefty unloading of pain and suffering to the welcoming and understanding ears of her sister-in-law, Liberty Travis, Haven agrees to a divorce and once her mind has been made up the proceedings cannot be completed fast enough.
Haven, finally rid of Nick, embarks on her road to recovery. She learns that Nick's pattern of behavior fit that of a someone with narcissistic personality disorder, which unknown to both Haven and me is a very common abusive disorder for husbands. Unfortunately, this disorder is highly untreatable because narcissists are very resistant to therapy for with their sense of superiority, don't feel the need for any change. Haven is also dealing with her rash behavior when any man, even her trusted brothers, make any move to touch her. She reacts almost uncontrollably by flinching or pulling away sharply before any physical contact is made. This sort of behavior, while understandable, is very hard on not only her family but Haven as well.
It is during this recovery period that Haven runs into Hardy Cates, the suitor once vying for Liberty Jones' hand in 'Sugar Daddy'. But he no longer has eyes for Liberty, he wants Haven. And while she wrongly assumes it's for revenge, Hardy soon opens her mind to the fact that he no longer and will never desire Liberty in that way again, nor does he wish for vengeance (which is in complete contrast to the blurb printed on the back cover).
Hardy hasn't changed much since we last saw him except for the fact that he's acquired more wealth. Yet, he doesn't brag. He describes his business as "We're doing okay" and with regards to his mature oil fields "we're getting some good play out of it" while in fact the man is turning over millions in profits that would soon rival the Travis wealth. This behavior fits with Haven for while she has been reinstated into the Travis will and a very wealthy heiress in her own right, she doesn't care to call it out to any who would care to listen.
Hardy moves quickly with Haven, knocking down every road block she constructs. While she refuses to see him in a personal way, he makes a point that she sees him in a professional way and after a daring rescue Haven finally opens her heart to him. I craved every moment the two had together. Hardy swept me off my feet as much as he did with Haven's. And when she finally describes for him the marriage she endured I wept with her and fell in love with Hardy.
Yet danger still lurks with Haven's husband making a final attempt to get Haven back resulting in Hardy injured and Nick behind bars.
I loved this book from beginning to end and would recommend it to any woman not only for the romance but for an eye opening education as well.