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The Road to Rose Bend

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If it was only about her, she might never have come back to Rose Bend. But it’s not only about her anymore. Sydney Collins left the small Berkshires town of Rose Bend eight years ago, grieving her sister’s death—and heartbroken over her parents’ rejection. But now the rebel is back—newly divorced and pregnant—ready to face her fears and make a home for her child in the carin If it was only about her, she might never have come back to Rose Bend. But it’s not only about her anymore. Sydney Collins left the small Berkshires town of Rose Bend eight years ago, grieving her sister’s death—and heartbroken over her parents’ rejection. But now the rebel is back—newly divorced and pregnant—ready to face her fears and make a home for her child in the caring community she once knew. The last thing she needs is trouble. But trouble just set her body on fire with one hot, hot smile. Widower and Rose Bend mayor Coltrane Dennison hasn’t smiled in ages. Until a chance run-in with Sydney Collins, who’s all grown-up and making him want what he knows he can’t have. Grief is his only connection to the wife and son he lost, and he won’t give it up. Not for Sydney, not for her child, not for his heart. But when Sydney’s ex threatens to upend everything she’s rebuilt in Rose Bend, Cole and Sydney may find that a little trouble will take them where they never expected to go.


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If it was only about her, she might never have come back to Rose Bend. But it’s not only about her anymore. Sydney Collins left the small Berkshires town of Rose Bend eight years ago, grieving her sister’s death—and heartbroken over her parents’ rejection. But now the rebel is back—newly divorced and pregnant—ready to face her fears and make a home for her child in the carin If it was only about her, she might never have come back to Rose Bend. But it’s not only about her anymore. Sydney Collins left the small Berkshires town of Rose Bend eight years ago, grieving her sister’s death—and heartbroken over her parents’ rejection. But now the rebel is back—newly divorced and pregnant—ready to face her fears and make a home for her child in the caring community she once knew. The last thing she needs is trouble. But trouble just set her body on fire with one hot, hot smile. Widower and Rose Bend mayor Coltrane Dennison hasn’t smiled in ages. Until a chance run-in with Sydney Collins, who’s all grown-up and making him want what he knows he can’t have. Grief is his only connection to the wife and son he lost, and he won’t give it up. Not for Sydney, not for her child, not for his heart. But when Sydney’s ex threatens to upend everything she’s rebuilt in Rose Bend, Cole and Sydney may find that a little trouble will take them where they never expected to go.

30 review for The Road to Rose Bend

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Women's Fiction/Romance, and the is the first book in the Rose Bend series. This romance is sexy and steamy at times, but it also has a great storyline with great developed characters. This book is told in the point of view of Sydney, and She is strong well woman with a great sense of humor. I really loved her character. Her character comes to right off the pages of the book. I did not want to put the book down because I really wanted to find out what was going to happen behind Sydney This is a Women's Fiction/Romance, and the is the first book in the Rose Bend series. This romance is sexy and steamy at times, but it also has a great storyline with great developed characters. This book is told in the point of view of Sydney, and She is strong well woman with a great sense of humor. I really loved her character. Her character comes to right off the pages of the book. I did not want to put the book down because I really wanted to find out what was going to happen behind Sydney and Coltrane. Coltrane was a good guy that has had to life though losing his wife and child. This book was so well written, and the characters was everything. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Harlequin) or author (Naima Simone) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that. (*)

  2. 4 out of 5

    JenReadsRomance

    this was a total angst fest, which I wasn't quite expecting from the cover, and I think it was just too much for me. Everyone has heard me say this, but in a romance, I think the recovery needs to be equal to or greater than the trauma or illness. And this just wasn't. There was TOO MUCH suffering, and even though a lot of it was in the past, I didn't feel enough progress was made on healing. YMMV, but this felt out of balance. this was a total angst fest, which I wasn't quite expecting from the cover, and I think it was just too much for me. Everyone has heard me say this, but in a romance, I think the recovery needs to be equal to or greater than the trauma or illness. And this just wasn't. There was TOO MUCH suffering, and even though a lot of it was in the past, I didn't feel enough progress was made on healing. YMMV, but this felt out of balance.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    DNF @ 65% If you are looking for easy-going contemporary romance, don't let the cover fool you, The Road to Rose Bend ain't it. I stuck it out til 65% and I just can't be arsed to read anymore. I've read and loved many books by this author before and even enjoyed the prequel novella for this series, but my god talk about throwing the proverbial trope bucket at it and hoping it all sticks. I am not a massive angst fan, but I liked Cole & Sydney, so was happy to keep reading, this is a couple th DNF @ 65% If you are looking for easy-going contemporary romance, don't let the cover fool you, The Road to Rose Bend ain't it. I stuck it out til 65% and I just can't be arsed to read anymore. I've read and loved many books by this author before and even enjoyed the prequel novella for this series, but my god talk about throwing the proverbial trope bucket at it and hoping it all sticks. I am not a massive angst fan, but I liked Cole & Sydney, so was happy to keep reading, this is a couple that are literally carrying dumpsters of baggage around on each of their shoulders, but as I said I liked them both so carried on reading. At the halfway point there has been very little romance, so the author decides to add some 'drama' with the inclusion of a 'mean' woman, yay! Even better something I dislike even more than angst. 65% the ex-husband rocks up and makes his less-than-friendly intentions clear, and I've lost the will. Rather than read anymore, I've made up my own ending, which leaves them skipping off into the sunset pushing a buggy. That works for me, if you like a heavy dose of angst and erroneous drama, give it a go! ARC generously provided via Netgalley in exchange for the above honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    b.andherbooks

    Overall, this is a confusing book to review. The cover is gorgeous, but is not really reflective of the content. I for one am all about steamy, small town romances, but ymmv. The blurb on the back does promise high angst and tough topics, which I'm grateful for, but also I neglected to read it before jumping in (which is my fault). I love Naima Simone's writing, and I eat up her words even when the story makes me want to yell. She's a wizard like that. I loved the immediate chemistry between Sydn Overall, this is a confusing book to review. The cover is gorgeous, but is not really reflective of the content. I for one am all about steamy, small town romances, but ymmv. The blurb on the back does promise high angst and tough topics, which I'm grateful for, but also I neglected to read it before jumping in (which is my fault). I love Naima Simone's writing, and I eat up her words even when the story makes me want to yell. She's a wizard like that. I loved the immediate chemistry between Sydney and Cole and the sheer uncomfortable anguish and lust Cole struggles with due to his attraction. Sorry, I like to see em' suffer. Sydney is pregnant and never, not once is Sydney judged for her choices by Cole (but oh wow she is by a lot of the other characters in this town). There is a lot of heavy plot, including Cole's dead wife and baby, Sydney's little sister who died from cancer and whose death Sydney believes her parents blame her for, and Sydney's ex-husband threatening to take legal action to sue for custody rights because she's isn't a "fit parent." I felt a bit overwhelmed by all of these on top of the struggle for Cole to realize he is ready for another romantic relationship. There's also the inclusion of a jealous woman who is awful to Sydney because she wants Cole. There's so much trauma for everyone that the HEA, when it came, felt really sudden at the end, and we are left without an epilogue to reassure all is still well after the birth of Sydney's baby. This was especially tough for me as Cole lost both his wife and baby to childbirth, so I was left a bit worried about how he would be dealing with that. All in all, a mixed bag but I definitely was riveted by the writing and wanted to see how it all ended up. Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Women's Fiction/Romance, and the is the first book in the Rose Bend series. This romance is sexy and steamy at times, but it also has a great storyline with great developed characters. This book is told in the point of view of Sydney, and She is strong well woman with a great sense of humor. I really loved her character. Her character comes to right off the pages of the book. I did not want to put the book down because I really wanted to find out what was going to happen behind Sydney This is a Women's Fiction/Romance, and the is the first book in the Rose Bend series. This romance is sexy and steamy at times, but it also has a great storyline with great developed characters. This book is told in the point of view of Sydney, and She is strong well woman with a great sense of humor. I really loved her character. Her character comes to right off the pages of the book. I did not want to put the book down because I really wanted to find out what was going to happen behind Sydney and Coltrane. Coltrane was a good guy that has had to life though losing his wife and child. This book was so well written, and the characters was everything. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Harlequin) or author (Naima Simone) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    3.5 Stars The Road to Rose Bend features a wonderful romance about second chances that is more angsty than the cover implies. Sydney Collins left her hometown of Rose Bend eight years ago and swore she'd never go back. But now, newly divorced and pregnant, Sydney is looking for a place to raise her child and call home. The last thing she was looking for was an attraction to Rose Bend's widower mayor, Coltrane Dennison. After losing his wife and son, Cole has thrown everything he has into being may 3.5 Stars The Road to Rose Bend features a wonderful romance about second chances that is more angsty than the cover implies. Sydney Collins left her hometown of Rose Bend eight years ago and swore she'd never go back. But now, newly divorced and pregnant, Sydney is looking for a place to raise her child and call home. The last thing she was looking for was an attraction to Rose Bend's widower mayor, Coltrane Dennison. After losing his wife and son, Cole has thrown everything he has into being mayor. Despite his attraction to Sydney, he'll never let go of his grief which is the last connection he has to his family. But when Sydney's ex threatens to take her child, the pair find themselves entering into the most unlikely of bargains. Sydney was always considered the black sheep of her family and after losing her sister at such a young age, she drifted further from her parents. Sydney lost herself in her marriage and returning home is one of the first things she's done for herself in a long time. I admired Sydney's strength and her willingness to do what's right for her despite pressure from her ex or family. Cole lost his wife and son two years before the start of the story. In that time he has struggled to work through his grief and tends to avoid situations that remind him of the past. Instead he works to an excessive degree to try and keep himself too busy to think of his loss. Cole's pain is tremendous and incredibly hard to read about which I was not expecting going into this book as the cover implies a much lighter tone. Sydney and Cole's relationship starts out as friendship with an attraction that neither of them wants to act on. I liked getting to see the two become friends again after years apart and I found their friendship to be one of my favorite aspects of their relationship. After the threat from Sydney's ex, the two enter into a relationship believing they're doing so without love being on the table which is a trope I enjoy. Sydney and Cole's physical relationship is incredibly well done with a number of very steamy scenes throughout. Ultimately the only thing I disliked about the story was due to my dislike of pregnancy in romances. I initially picked up this book without reading the description which is my fault, so I was unaware going in that Sydney was pregnant and how large a role it would play in the story. But as my dislike is a personal preference when it comes to books, it shouldn't be an issue for anyone who doesn't share that dislike. Overall The Road to Rose Bend was a fantastic read that I mostly enjoyed. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind pregnancy in their romances as outside of that I truly did enjoy the book. **I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**

  7. 4 out of 5

    Korrie’s Korner

    This book was incredible! I want to live in RoseBend with all its multicultural goodness. The family dynamics, the small town, the diversity from Sydney being a black woman to Cole being Puerto Rican..the whole town is a melting pot of diverseness and I am HERE FOR THIS IN ROMANCE!! Naima has an incredible gift, and her personality really shines through in this book. I will love her forever!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms

    *I received a free copy of The Road to Rose Bend from Harlequin. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review which is honest and unbiased.* Oh. My. Feels!! I'm utterly broken. But I'm also completely happy. Not sure how that's possible, but Ms. Simone managed to do both in this beautifully written, heart-wrenching story! Cole and Sydney were everything. Cole thought his heart was made of stone after his wife, Tania, and his son Mateo, died during Mateo's birth. And Sydney had felt like she w *I received a free copy of The Road to Rose Bend from Harlequin. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review which is honest and unbiased.* Oh. My. Feels!! I'm utterly broken. But I'm also completely happy. Not sure how that's possible, but Ms. Simone managed to do both in this beautifully written, heart-wrenching story! Cole and Sydney were everything. Cole thought his heart was made of stone after his wife, Tania, and his son Mateo, died during Mateo's birth. And Sydney had felt like she was never first - especially after her dear sister died when Sydney was still very young. When these to met again, there was definitely chemistry from the start. However, it seemed as if fate herself as against them. Sydney was divorced, but pregnant with her former husband's child. And Cole was still grieving for his wife and son. It really didn't feel like anything good could happen for either of them. Star crossed lovers, anyone? That's what I thought I would get. Plus, don't get me started on Sydney's parents. I wanted to hit both of them at the back of the head more than once. Of course, I have no idea how it feels to lose a child. But at the same time, they did still have Sydney - and she felt like she should have either died along with her sister, or died instead of her. And that hadn't changed even after the time Sydney had been gone. The Road to Rose Bend is a humongous emotional rollercoaster. My heart soared in some places, and plummeted so low in others it ached more than it has from a novel in a very, very long time. (And yes, I loved that.) Between tentative hope, sizzling hotness, friendship, love, fear, and some characters that only deserve the worst life can ever give them, I still have trouble sharing any kind of coherent thoughts of this. Apart from maybe - run and get it! If your heart can take all the feels, you'll thank me later.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Denver Public Library

    Sydney Collins, newly divorced, and pregnant with her ex-husband’s child (long story), has decided it’s time to come home to Rose Bend. While she bolted from her small town existence eight years before, she knows in her heart that this will be a good place to raise her child. Upon her return, she encounters widower Coltrane Dennison, and sparks immediately fly! Both have been traumatized—Cole by his wife and son’s deaths, Sydney by her sister’s death and her parents’ subsequent coldness and dism Sydney Collins, newly divorced, and pregnant with her ex-husband’s child (long story), has decided it’s time to come home to Rose Bend. While she bolted from her small town existence eight years before, she knows in her heart that this will be a good place to raise her child. Upon her return, she encounters widower Coltrane Dennison, and sparks immediately fly! Both have been traumatized—Cole by his wife and son’s deaths, Sydney by her sister’s death and her parents’ subsequent coldness and dismissal. But, with unconditional support and love from Cole’s family, and despite numerous complex issues, they just may be able to make it work. The protagonists were lovely (and molten!), but I also enjoyed the supporting characters and how they fit into each other’s lives. With a wonderful, diverse cast of characters, Simone aptly demonstrates a strong focus on the adoptive and blended family experience, issues with racism, and all of the different ways that love and devotion can look.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rosie J.

    As mentioned in other reviews, the book cover evokes the feeling of a sweet small town romance. This is not that story! When newly divorced Sydney arrives in town, the first person she sees is Colt. The brother of her childhood best friend. She’s there to visit her sister’s grave and she’s shocked to find out he’s there to visit the grave of his dead wife and child. When Colt visually discovers Syd’s pregnant, he’s rocked to his very core and he emotionally shuts down and in reaction to his reacti As mentioned in other reviews, the book cover evokes the feeling of a sweet small town romance. This is not that story! When newly divorced Sydney arrives in town, the first person she sees is Colt. The brother of her childhood best friend. She’s there to visit her sister’s grave and she’s shocked to find out he’s there to visit the grave of his dead wife and child. When Colt visually discovers Syd’s pregnant, he’s rocked to his very core and he emotionally shuts down and in reaction to his reaction, so does Syd. Days later, Sydney begins to reacquaint herself with Rose Bend and its residents. A town, 10 years ago she’d sworn she would permanently leave in her rear view mirror. Get out your tissues, this is an angst ridden tale of enormous loss. You feel for these two people, both full of guilt and remorse for things out of their control. Unfortunately, they suffer in silence instead of seeking professional help. Here is where the story suffers, because then we have to buy in that there are some people that can heal themselves with the power of love from family. Syd is also dealing with her judgmental parents and some town folks that can’t let go of her past. When Syd runs scared after talking to her ex-husband, she runs straight to Colt who is a lawyer. He frustratedly runs hot and cold—so much so, I wanted him to snap out of it. He refuses to allow himself to feel anything for Syd, or her baby. He spirals from the sheer guilt of having it all go wrong. Instead of discussing his feelings with a therapist, he hides. When Syd needs his expertise again, he comes up with an outrageous plan. One that will bring them together or completely destroy the friendship they’ve built. This story is not perfect, and yes you have to suspend disbelief on a couple of occasions, but I still enjoyed the journey. I like my stories neatly wrapped up—complete with a house, a baby and a dog. There is something that doesn’t happen that I think is vital to this story. Why it wasn’t addressed is beyond me, because it would have been the cherry on top, so to speak. I like this town and I like some of the people, particularly—Ms. Eva, The Dennison’s and The Narvaez’s. Don’t let my perception of this story stop you from reading it, because I still ... highly recommend you read it and judge for yourself!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Louise

    I received a copy of The Road to Rose Bend from the publisher in exchange for review. Although pretty, don’t let this serene cover convince you this romance isn’t filled with heat. It was such a pleasant surprise! I love the traditional story of a character returning to their hometown, and The Road to Rose Bend really delivered with such heart. Recently divorced, pregnant, and back in Rose Bend after eight years, Sydney simply wants to give her baby the opportunity of a warm and safe environment t I received a copy of The Road to Rose Bend from the publisher in exchange for review. Although pretty, don’t let this serene cover convince you this romance isn’t filled with heat. It was such a pleasant surprise! I love the traditional story of a character returning to their hometown, and The Road to Rose Bend really delivered with such heart. Recently divorced, pregnant, and back in Rose Bend after eight years, Sydney simply wants to give her baby the opportunity of a warm and safe environment to thrive in. Despite her parents disproval, I loved seeing Sydney take ownership of her happiness, refuse to settle for companionship over love, and finally put herself first in her own life. There she is reacquainted with Cole, the local mayor who lost his wife and child two years prior. As his attraction to Sydney causes his guilt and fears to fester, my heart absolutely broke for his resistant to find love again. He was such a protective hero and I loved his journey, including his role as mayor. If I had to critique anything, it would be the constant use of “baby girl” as a term of endearment. It distracted me from enjoying a few scenes, but of course that’s just a personal preference. Overall, this was a great small-town romance with real-world conflicts and such a satisfying conclusion.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gaele

    Let’s start with the good stuff – the characters are complex, complete and add levels of diversity and sameness to everyone’s day. And I loved the writing, even as I felt that some of the angst and issues were recurring far too often. Yes, grief (and both of our main characters had that in spades) and recovery are intensely personal and everyone moves through the process in their own time, but some of the moments were dragging for me. But, we have Sydney, expecting things to be “rough” when she Let’s start with the good stuff – the characters are complex, complete and add levels of diversity and sameness to everyone’s day. And I loved the writing, even as I felt that some of the angst and issues were recurring far too often. Yes, grief (and both of our main characters had that in spades) and recovery are intensely personal and everyone moves through the process in their own time, but some of the moments were dragging for me. But, we have Sydney, expecting things to be “rough” when she returns to her childhood home despite having long-standing kerfuffles with her family. And we have Cole who is still reeling from his own losses of wife and child. And loss is heavily featured here – with Sydney’s sister dying, Cole’s wife and child dying – and everyone still dealing with (or not) that trauma. In fact, it is the catalyst to much of Sydney’s problems with her own family, and when you add in her divorce from a truly despicable human, pregnant with his child, and truly trying to feel her own way through all the changes to come. We’ve got Cole who seems to be working harder than everyone to be ‘something for everyone’ without seeing that he’s got his own needs and issues that need to be dealt with. And we can add in other issues from recurring ‘side’ stories of a particularly annoying secondary character, a challenge to custody, a political campaign, the usual back and forth of a new relationship and …. Suffice it to say, I kept reading to see where things would go and how they would end. I didn’t think that there were enough ‘solutions provided (when I closed the last page) to the multitude of issues, but the connections between all the characters did stand out. Cole and Sydney have an electric (and quite steamy) connection, and while I wanted more of an escape read than what this book provided, it did hold my interest although I had to put it down, frequently, because of the angst and issues. Others will LOVE this book and not find that the angst overwhelmed the romance and connections, but for me – the characters and how they are built combined with the writing made it a book to read and one I’d recommend to those who like their smaller town, coming home stories to have plenty of teeth on the way to the end. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. Review first appeared at I am, Indeed

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kim Reads (Read Your Writes Book Reviews)

    If Naima Simone is an author you haven’t read or heard of before, I strongly recommend that you remedy that now. I’ve been a fan of hers for years. Her stories are solid, with pop culture references, strong friendship/family bonds, sassy and spunky heroines, and heroes who make you want to throttle them, while at the same time weak in the knees. Oh, and I can’t forget about the passionate smexy times. Naima is an author who brings it all. Naima makes her full-length Harlequin HQN novel debut with If Naima Simone is an author you haven’t read or heard of before, I strongly recommend that you remedy that now. I’ve been a fan of hers for years. Her stories are solid, with pop culture references, strong friendship/family bonds, sassy and spunky heroines, and heroes who make you want to throttle them, while at the same time weak in the knees. Oh, and I can’t forget about the passionate smexy times. Naima is an author who brings it all. Naima makes her full-length Harlequin HQN novel debut with The Road to Rose Bend. The story is different from Naima’s other books, but she still includes everything I love her for. She just adds more family and different dynamics. In The Road to Rose Bend, Sydney Collins is returning to Rose Bend, MA, eight years after leaving and swearing she would never return. “Family. Acceptance. A sense of belonging. Those had never been hers to have in her hometown.” But when she finds herself divorced and pregnant with her ex-husband’s baby, she’s hoping her parents and the town she knows is capable of loving will welcome its black sheep and child into their loving fold. Cole Dennison has overcome the tragic death of his parents and is now an attorney and newly elected mayor of Rose Bend. He’s also a loved son and brother. From the outside, and only looking on the surface, Cole seems to be a happy man. At times, he is. In those moments when no one is looking, Cole is a grieving man who believes in faking it until he makes it. Two years after the tragic death of his wife and son, Cole still grieves for them and all that he’s lost. Cole’s world is turned upside down when he runs into Sydney, his younger sister’s childhood best friend. He’s not prepared for the feelings Sydney awakens in him. Sydney isn’t looking for anything from Cole besides his friendship. But she can’t deny the pull she feels towards him. When Sydney’s ex informs her that he’s not on board with her plans, it’s Cole who jumps to her rescue and proposes a marriage of convenience. Can two people who have endured more than their share of tragedy let go of the past and find love? Naima shows the creativeness and amazing things that truly brilliant authors can do. She’s written a story with characters you want to embrace and have in your life. She’s given them wisdom and depth, making them multi-dimensional. She manages to bring out a variety of emotions; from anger and sadness to laughter and love. And I can’t forget about the tears. There are definitely moments when the tears flow freely. I’ve thought in the past that Naima couldn’t outdo herself. I was wrong. She can and she has. Naima has set up her Rose Bend series very well. I’m looking forward to more of the Dennison family and watching them all find and fall in love. **Received a copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it. Also personally purchased a paperback copy.**

  14. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Sydney is just AMAZING, Cole is pretty awesome (although he needed a slap with the hug I wanted to give him), and the side characters were mostly incredible, too. I loved their story, even as it broke my heart and put it back together again. I cannot wait to read more about this town!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jewlsbookblog

    Sydney has returned home divorced, pregnant, and ready to put on her big girl panties in order to giver her baby the happy home and family she remembered from her childhood...even when she felt she lost it as a teenager. I loved Sydney. She was a misunderstood, sarcastically quipped, emotionally damaged woman who paid for past mistakes and was learning to navigate life while figuring out her value and where she belonged. Cole knows grief up close and personal. After losing his wife and baby, he’ Sydney has returned home divorced, pregnant, and ready to put on her big girl panties in order to giver her baby the happy home and family she remembered from her childhood...even when she felt she lost it as a teenager. I loved Sydney. She was a misunderstood, sarcastically quipped, emotionally damaged woman who paid for past mistakes and was learning to navigate life while figuring out her value and where she belonged. Cole knows grief up close and personal. After losing his wife and baby, he’s thrown himself head first into work, doing everything he can to avoid the loneliness and guilt he feels for things beyond his control. Props to Cole for being an emotionally damaged guy who..mostly owned up to his issues, but always seemed to be a hair’s breath too late at times. His guilt complex sometimes overrode his own common sense, but I’ll give him credit for trying to fix things with Sydney. The Road to Rose Bend is similar to a Hallmark movie but with a fantastically diverse characters, understandable family dynamics and situations, and a lovely romance (okay, I admit I’d have liked more groveling from Cole because...you’ll see...!) ar any rate, I am in love with this new series and am looking forward to Wolf’s book!! Bonus short story—Slow Dance at Rose Bend—Cherrie and Maddox were a brief mention in the book when Sydney meets them at a rally and I loved their cuteness! So double yay for short stories and gingers;) This short explains Cherrie and Maddox’s hilarious first meeting and obvious chemistry while laying the groundwork for the very promising relationship Sydney got to witness in person. I hope to see future updates on this couple! I received an advance reader copy from the Harlequin/Netgalley. This is my honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vilma

    There’s a saying that you can’t go home, well that is exactly what Sydney does, she returns home to Rose Bend. From the moment Sydney crests the ridge into Rose Bend and sees the beauty of her home town until the very end, Sydney encounters a long, winding, and twisted road. Pregnant, divorced, and returning home, Sydney seeks the comfort of coming home, to raise her baby in the small town she was raised in. To her estranged family and her friend Leo and Leo’s welcoming family. All except for Col There’s a saying that you can’t go home, well that is exactly what Sydney does, she returns home to Rose Bend. From the moment Sydney crests the ridge into Rose Bend and sees the beauty of her home town until the very end, Sydney encounters a long, winding, and twisted road. Pregnant, divorced, and returning home, Sydney seeks the comfort of coming home, to raise her baby in the small town she was raised in. To her estranged family and her friend Leo and Leo’s welcoming family. All except for Cole, Coltrane Dennison, her friends brother. Cole and Sydney have both suffered losses, and feel the burden of failure, but somehow they form a bond together for the benefit of Sydney’s baby...... and eventually they heal through their connections, their chemistry, and learning to be brave and let go of past hurts in order to accept new love. Not a replacement love, but a new and growing love. A must read, it reminds all of us that you can go home... things may change and be different than you remember, but where there is love, there is ‘home’.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marisa Gettas

    EDITED APRIL 30, 2021: I've read the prequel novella, SLOW DANCE AT ROSE BEND, and I loved it. None of the issues presented in this review are present there. REVIEW: DNF @ 45% I have previously read and enjoyed 12 of Naima Simone’s books. What I'm about to say re: THE ROAD TO ROSE BEND, does not transfer to her other work. I have three main issues with this book: 1) The portrayal of trauma 2) Some of the internal logic the book is asking us to accept 3) Marketing decisions by Harlequin (HQN) THE PO EDITED APRIL 30, 2021: I've read the prequel novella, SLOW DANCE AT ROSE BEND, and I loved it. None of the issues presented in this review are present there. REVIEW: DNF @ 45% I have previously read and enjoyed 12 of Naima Simone’s books. What I'm about to say re: THE ROAD TO ROSE BEND, does not transfer to her other work. I have three main issues with this book: 1) The portrayal of trauma 2) Some of the internal logic the book is asking us to accept 3) Marketing decisions by Harlequin (HQN) THE PORTRAYAL OF TRAUMA The Hero and Heroine are individuals with heaps of trauma in their lives. Here are the examples I saw in the 45% that I read: Hero - orphaned at a young age, adopted, of Puerto Rican heritage in a mostly white small town, lost his wife and child two years ago in childbirth, in a memory we learn that the Hero sat in the nursery with a gun in his hands contemplating suicide, receiving end of micro-aggressions Heroine - sister dies at 13, when heroine was 8, Heroine was asked to have countless painful procedures/surgeries in her first 8 years to save her sister, heroine at age 8 had a screaming fit on the floor of the hospital when she was asked and refused to have another surgery and painful recovery this time to give her sister a partial kidney - ever since she blames herself for her sisters death and feels her parents have regarded her as selfish - she has never even been able to visit her sister’s grave, married at 21 and divorced by 26, pregnant by her exhusband, everyone in her family questions her life choices, receiving end of micro-aggressions By 45% I had written in my notes 5 times "IF THESE TWO DON'T GO TO THERAPY, I'LL NEVER BELIEVE AN HEA". Here’s why I say that. People who have been traumatized, but have not successfully processed that trauma, will do things and behave in ways at times that make no sense to anyone, including themselves. Depending on the trauma, they may have trouble connecting with people, they may have may have trouble trusting people, they may have trouble sleeping, they may have self-esteem issues, they may have addiction issues, they may have trouble keeping and maintaining romantic relationships, they may feel lost and scared in their still-all-to-real feeling dreams/nightmares. None of these issues can be worked out without the help of a therapist and specifically a trauma therapist. I know this issue intimately, as I started working with a Trauma Psychologist in September of 2020. I checked with another reviewer friend who had read the whole book. Neither of these two characters go to therapy. Therefore, no matter what else happens in this book, I don’t believe in their HEA. Especially because the Heroine is due to give birth, and the sleep-deprivation that comes with being a new parent will only exasperate her trauma more. In the future, if one is going to write two characters with this much trauma, please employ a 'Trauma Sensitivity' reader, as I think it's a very dangerous notion to put in to the world, that trauma of this magnitude can be healed by romantic love. Very dangerous. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS TOPIC, I SUGGEST YOU LISTEN TO THE AUGUST 12, 2020 “FATED MATES" PODCAST TITLED "Representation of Trauma Survivors In Romance: Adriana Herrera and Jen Prokop". It changed my life. INTERNAL LOGIC The heroine of this book is pregnant by her ex-husband. She has left North Carolina, where she and her ex lived, to move back home to Massachusetts. I’m not sure legally, that you can cross state lines without the father’s permission. The book attempts to tell us why she is allowed, but it still didn’t make sense to me. Also, the logic about if the father wanting to be present at the sonogram appointment was confusing. He wanted to be there, but couldn’t. She agreed to film the appointment for him. Then, the author states that 'the father of her baby couldn’t be bothered to come to her doctors appointment when they were figuring out the sex of the baby. It's humiliating because contains a kernel of truth'. Which, what now? Then she forgets to film the appointment, which upsets the father, understandably. She takes responsibility for this. If he didn’t care to be there, than why was he so upset? MARKETING BY HQN This cover to me feels like a bait-and-switch. It does not say 'misery-fest with two traumatized people, one of whom is Puerto Rican and the other, who is Black, with high sexytimes heat'. I think some people will be shocked. The book cover I most compare it to was MEET CUTE by Helena Hunting. That adorable cartoon cover did nothing to prepare you for the heavy topics and subject matter held within. It’s the same here. I've already mentioned that a 'Trauma' sensitivity reader was needed. But this book also needs Content Warnings. It’s cruel to not include them, especially for big-ticket issues like childhood cancer, loss of a sibling to cancer, orphaned as a child, loss of wife and child in childbirth. This is not a Naima Simone issue. It's a Harlequin issue (HQN). Two last points. One, I see many people calling this an 'Angst Fest'. The word I would use is misery. I love my romances angsty. The angsty-er, the better. But this is not that. It’s just layering misery on top of misery that left me feeling not much of anything. Two, this is not the review I wanted to write, or expected to write for that matter, about a book with Naima Simone's name on the cover. I will continue to read her work and I look forward to whatever she writes next. I received an ARC in return for a fair review. I am friendly with the author on various social media platforms.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    This has all my catnip: small towns, second chances, a diverse cast, and complicated family relationships. This book is beautifully written, and the characters are fully realized people, but the romance ultimately fell a bit flat for me. There's so much grief in this book for things that could have been, and I really appreciate the depth and care that went into depicting the messy process of dealing with things like the death of a child, a spouse, or a sibling, and even the slow death of a marri This has all my catnip: small towns, second chances, a diverse cast, and complicated family relationships. This book is beautifully written, and the characters are fully realized people, but the romance ultimately fell a bit flat for me. There's so much grief in this book for things that could have been, and I really appreciate the depth and care that went into depicting the messy process of dealing with things like the death of a child, a spouse, or a sibling, and even the slow death of a marriage. (Honestly, a good therapist could really clean up in this town.) Sydney's many feelings about moving home because of her pregnancy are depicted well, but Cole and his one-track guilt train that ended in a spectacular crash left me wondering if he truly understood how much he hurt Sydney. One public declaration of love in front of friends and family isn't the amount of groveling Sydney deserved. The ending comes on abruptly, without Cole having to navigate through the process of being present for a birth or reliving the traumatic moments he literally hasn't been able to think about without running away previously. I'm left wondering if that one big moment truly resolved all his issues. Similarly, all of Sydney's other problems are handled with quick, straightforward conversations. I wish we could have seen some of Sydney and Cole's relationship post-love declaration, but the book closes as it opened: Sydney, still pregnant, looking for a place to live in her hometown.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    Please do yourselves a favor and try to NOT read the last half of this book while at work. Otherwise you’ll end up like me, sobbing and sniffling and trying to sound normal while answering calls. Trying and failing, I should say. This book was SO emotional and heart-rending and beautiful and complicated. I loved every moment of it. Sydney is my new hero, because even though she is in so much emotional pain, she still works hard to make her life better and make the best choices for her baby, and Please do yourselves a favor and try to NOT read the last half of this book while at work. Otherwise you’ll end up like me, sobbing and sniffling and trying to sound normal while answering calls. Trying and failing, I should say. This book was SO emotional and heart-rending and beautiful and complicated. I loved every moment of it. Sydney is my new hero, because even though she is in so much emotional pain, she still works hard to make her life better and make the best choices for her baby, and still is thoughtful and caring and such a wonderful person. Cole is lovely and has such a good heart but has been stuck in a cycle of grief since his wife and baby died two years ago. And then there’s the guilt when he sees Sydney for the first time since she left eight years ago and he desires her. Honestly, he is feeling all the feelings, even if he doesn’t want to acknowledge them. Watching these two grow together, it was simply beautiful.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Olivia's Bookish World

    Judging by the cover I thought this was going to be a sweet, HEA book. Boy was I wrong! It was a Happily Ever After, but there were so many crude and crass descriptions even in the beginning that I started to skim and then eventually just flipped to the end. I try and skip over sex scenes and I must have skipped 15-20 pages at a time on my kindle. Sex is not romance, and romance is not crass language. I felt no connection or bond between the two main characters. And I thought there was waaaay to Judging by the cover I thought this was going to be a sweet, HEA book. Boy was I wrong! It was a Happily Ever After, but there were so many crude and crass descriptions even in the beginning that I started to skim and then eventually just flipped to the end. I try and skip over sex scenes and I must have skipped 15-20 pages at a time on my kindle. Sex is not romance, and romance is not crass language. I felt no connection or bond between the two main characters. And I thought there was waaaay too many F words.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Pace

    I won a copy of this book in a giveaway on Goodreads. I wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. I found myself skimming paragraphs and pages just to get through it because they were so detailed but repetitive. They were constantly talking about how they each wanted each other but didn't think the other wanted them and blah blah. Each chapter seemed to skip ahead days or weeks without warning. The incredibly detailed sex scenes were not what I was expecting out of this book either. I won a copy of this book in a giveaway on Goodreads. I wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. I found myself skimming paragraphs and pages just to get through it because they were so detailed but repetitive. They were constantly talking about how they each wanted each other but didn't think the other wanted them and blah blah. Each chapter seemed to skip ahead days or weeks without warning. The incredibly detailed sex scenes were not what I was expecting out of this book either.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I love this author's words, and her characters are always spectacular, but some things here just didn't work as well for me as they usually do. 3.5 Stars. Sydney Collins is back in Rose Bend after 8 years away. She's newly divorced, and newly pregnant, and she's come home to raise her daughter in the small town where she grew up. But, her parents aren't exactly thrilled with her choices, her ex thinks she's being selfish by moving away, and the town mean girl still clearly has it out for her afte I love this author's words, and her characters are always spectacular, but some things here just didn't work as well for me as they usually do. 3.5 Stars. Sydney Collins is back in Rose Bend after 8 years away. She's newly divorced, and newly pregnant, and she's come home to raise her daughter in the small town where she grew up. But, her parents aren't exactly thrilled with her choices, her ex thinks she's being selfish by moving away, and the town mean girl still clearly has it out for her after all these years. One bright spot is reconnecting with her best friend Leo, and Leo's amazing family, including her brother Cole. Coltrane Dennison is a widower, who lost his wife, Tonia, and baby, Mateo, 2 years before. He's also the current mayor of Rose Bend. He was always friendly with Sydney, as his sister's best friend, but he and his wife had been together since they were kids. Now, he spends his days on his mayoral duties, working at his law firm, or working out to exhaustion. Anything to stay too busy to think about all he's lost. But Sydney is pregnant, and beautiful, and making him feel things he has no interest in ever feeling again, thank you very much. He's not ready to give up his grief, or the guilt he feels over the death of his family. But, when Sydney needs help, he's determined to step in and do what he can. Cole and Sydney had a strong connection as friends, and their attraction to each other was apparent from the start. Cole has a servant's heart, which led him to be mayor, and leads him to do anything he can to help Sydney, short of giving her love. That, he doesn't have to spare. Watching Cole move through his grief over and over again every time he was reminded of Tonia & Mateo in regards to Sydney's pregnancy, was truly heartbreaking. He was really stuck, and wasn't really interested in trying to heal, as he considered his grief a way to still feel close to his family. Sydney just left a marriage where she felt as if she were disappearing, and where neither she, nor her wants and needs, were a priority. She knows she could never be #1 for Cole, and so there's no way she should get involved with him. She has to put her baby first now, and they both deserve to finally be first with someone. The town and it's people were fully realized, and I loved getting to know everyone. I am, of course, excited for Cole's brother Wolf's book next! I mean, he's described as like a lumberjack Aquaman, so I'm obviously here for it! The town mean girl (and her sore loser, ex-mayor dad) were HORRIBLE, and Sydney's ex was no picnic either. But Cole's entire family, including his former in-laws, were all fantastic, and I look forward to learning more about each of them throughout the series. Sydney's parents had been through a lot after the death of Sydney's sister as a child, but they had a ton of making up to do with her, and I was glad to see steps towards that in the story. There were a few things that didn't quite work for me here. I really loved Sydney and Cole as characters, but their connection was SO fraught, and it just mostly seemed painful for everyone. That's always an issue for me with dead ex (and especially dead ex + kid) stories. Cole really had to get out of his own way to figure out how to move on and be happy. Same with Sydney. I really think they could have benefitted from some counseling, both separately and together. They each had quite a bit of trauma to unpack and could clearly use some professional help. They both had friends and family who were there for them, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Also I didn't feel there was enough of a balance between the pain they went through, and the healing they were committed to by the end. I needed to see them together more at the end and what that would look like, to really believe in their chances as a couple. Especially with Sydney eventually giving birth, and how that might bring up major issues for Cole. So, I feel an epilogue would not have gone amiss. I assume we'll be seeing them as side characters in future stories, but they won't be the focus, so I don't imagine it will really fill that gap for me. I really cared for these characters and wanted the best for them, which is what's always great about Naima's stories. I almost think this story could have benefitted from not being first in a series, and all the extra world-building that entails. It would have left a little more space in the story to deal with some of the things I thought needed more time. I will definitely be reading more in this series, as I'm in love with the characters, and the town. I'm hopeful that the issues I had here, many of which were inherent to it being a grieving widower's story, won't be present in future books. CONTENT WARNING for past deaths, including death of a mother and baby in childbirth, childhood cancer death of a sibling, and accidental death of parents. I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. This review is my personal opinion, voluntarily given. Reviewed by Megan from Romanced by the Book

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nailah

    Sweet, steamy, angst-filled and intense, The Road to Rose Bend is the first book in Naima Simone’s Rose Bend series. In it we meet Sydney Collins, a grant writer who, pregnant and newly divorced, finds herself leaving North Carolina to return to her hometown. Despite swearing she would never return having left Rose Bend eight years ago, Sydney is looking for a safe place, and community in which to raise her unborn child. This means grappling with some inner demons around the strained relationship Sweet, steamy, angst-filled and intense, The Road to Rose Bend is the first book in Naima Simone’s Rose Bend series. In it we meet Sydney Collins, a grant writer who, pregnant and newly divorced, finds herself leaving North Carolina to return to her hometown. Despite swearing she would never return having left Rose Bend eight years ago, Sydney is looking for a safe place, and community in which to raise her unborn child. This means grappling with some inner demons around the strained relationship with her parents and some of the other Rose Bend residents. Who should she first run in to but the amber-eyed, widowed mayor – Coltrane “Cole” Dennison – the “…man she’d hopelessly crushed on so many years ago”. This sweet reunion is tinged with sadness, as we learn that their chance meeting behind the town’s oldest church, is because Cole is in fact visiting the graves of his wife and son. You could be fooled by the cover into thinking this is your typical contemporary romance but there’s so much more! With themes of grief, friendship, family, and healing there is a distinct Nicholas Sparks meets the Gilmore Girls vibe to this book. I liked that so much happened in the very first chapter to quickly build the tension and highlight the dilemmas faced by the book’s central characters. You immediately get a sense of what’s troubling them – Sydney is bold but on the cusp of motherhood is in need of love, reassurance, security, someone to put her first. Cole, hiding behind his work, broken from the loss he has suffered and locked in a prism of grief and pain, and a friend to let go of the memory of his wife and child. Both of them need to heal old wounds and work at moving forward, and you’re immediately drawn in to how they are going to cope with facing up to these challenges. I really loved the strong sense of place Naima Simone has created in Rose Bend, through the dialogue and interaction between residents. She paints a clear visual of Rose Bend and the people living there. It’s in the ice cream shop, the inn that Cole has always called home, the rental cottages, and of course the white, two-storey, Victoria house on the corner that is so pivotal to the turning point in the story. Another element that really worked for me was the strong sense of family and bonds beyond blood –as evidenced by the Dennison family, the relationship Cole has with his late wife’s family, and the strong friendship between Leo and Sydney. People are there for one another without question – and that for me was the key element that helped to develop Sydney and Cole’s friendship into something more. The message about starting over, and not getting in the way of your own happiness was a really nice undercurrent running through as well. Cole spends a lot of time physically removing himself from Sydney or battling the desire to support her but avoid walking the familiar and painful path he walked with Tonia. The one thing I’m missing is the what happened next for Sydney and Cole – without spoiling anything the key thing that we would expect to see them go through, hasn’t happened when the story ends. Seeing that this is the first book in a series, I’m hoping this is a teaser and we get to know more in book two? Overall, this was an enjoyable feel-good read, full of Hallmark moments, that would make a really good TV series as well. Naima Simone is a new author for me, and I look forward to reading more of her books! Thank you to the Mills and Boons team for my copy in exchange for this honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenica

    I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of The Road to Rose Bend by Naima Simone from Netgalley (although I actually listened to the finished copy via Hoopla). The short version of this review is that I was extremely invested in this story and managed to squeeze in time for a full 11 hour audiobook (there’s also a short story) into one day (admittedly I listen at double speed), which is very rare. But, the ending was much too abrupt and I am left with being like WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? And th I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of The Road to Rose Bend by Naima Simone from Netgalley (although I actually listened to the finished copy via Hoopla). The short version of this review is that I was extremely invested in this story and managed to squeeze in time for a full 11 hour audiobook (there’s also a short story) into one day (admittedly I listen at double speed), which is very rare. But, the ending was much too abrupt and I am left with being like WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? And that’s not just because we exit the book before a major life event happens, it’s also because we really don’t get to see Sydney and Coltrane together after the big gesture. So, do I want to believe that of course they work it out and there’s an HEA? Yes, absolutely. But I’m barely persuaded about an HFN because this book is angsty, without enough time after the conflict to breathe. Let me back up though and tell you what this book is about. Sydney returns to Rose Bend pregnant with her ex-husband’s child. She left town about eight years ago and it was a couldn’t wait to get away type of situation. Her older sister died when she was young and her parents have, in Sydney’s eyes, always resented her for her sister’s death. So Sydney isn’t exactly anticipating the warmest of welcomes. But the first person she actually encounters is her childhood best friend’s older brother, Coltrane. They run into one another at a church because Coltrane has just been visiting the graves of his wife and son. There is a lot of grief going on in this book. There is also the fact that Coltrane does not know how to handle the fact that Sydney makes his body come alive. He has feelings and he’s a good person, but he also doesn’t quite know how to not shut down emotionally when things get hard. I feel like I’m making it sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, which is not true! I actually really liked both characters and just wanted to wrap them in bubble wrap. But there were things about it that just didn’t quite make sense and I couldn’t convince my brain to turn itself off enough to fully immerse myself into the book and forget logic. It never helps me when one of the characters is a lawyer and I disagree with their legal advice either. But, as always, Naima Simone is a brilliant writer and she’s particularly excellent at the sexy times. Despite Coltrane’s insistence on using “baby girl” as his preferred term of endearment, I thought the sexy times were top notch. CWs (may contain spoilers): pregnancy, off page death in childbirth, still birth, death from cancer (childhood, off page), toxic relationships with parents, divorce, mean girls who are grown women, mentions of racism (challenged)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tisha

    Full disclosure: Nobody does yearning, angst and sizzling sexual tension like Naima Simone! Sydney Collins left her hometown of Rose Bend, eight years earlier. She longed to escape her wild-child persona, the grief of losing her sister and the judgement of both her parents and the townspeople. Unfortunately, her life in North Carolina did not grant her the freedom she was seeking. After five years in a suffocating union, she files for divorce. Her link to her ex are not completely severed though, Full disclosure: Nobody does yearning, angst and sizzling sexual tension like Naima Simone! Sydney Collins left her hometown of Rose Bend, eight years earlier. She longed to escape her wild-child persona, the grief of losing her sister and the judgement of both her parents and the townspeople. Unfortunately, her life in North Carolina did not grant her the freedom she was seeking. After five years in a suffocating union, she files for divorce. Her link to her ex are not completely severed though, as she is carrying her ex Daniel's baby. Despite his pleas to reconcile, Sydney decide to return to Rose Bend to find solace and build a new life for her baby. Her first encounter upon arriving to the small town is Cole Dennison. He is her best friend Leo's brother and an old friend. During their brief encounter Sydney learns that he lost both his wife an unborn son. He does not allow her to provide words of comfort; instead, he immediately escapes her presence. His reprieve is only short-term; luck would have it that they are neighbors!! Cole, who had spent 2 years drowning in his own grief is reluctantly coming alive again in Sydney's presence. He feels desire, hope, joy and that terrifies him! Their attraction is undeniable and the sexual tension is sizzling...albeit not without its issues! A marriage of convenience muddies the waters even more...Can Sydney trust Cole with her heart? Can Cole allow himself to be happy and to love both Sydney and her baby? Naima Simone is really and expert at not only explaining emotions, but making you feel them. She made me feel the bleakness of Cole's life, the guilt he carried around and his fear of being happy (and forgetting his first love). I also felt the burden that Sydney carried at never being enough, at never being put first. I could clearly see how those feeling influenced the characters' thinking and actions. That's talent!!I felt their respective loneliness and could see why they would want to get lost into each other. Even the way they made love spoke volumes: "Fuck me and ruin us both." Cole and Sydney are not just doom and gloom though. The former is hardworking, altruistic and understanding while the latter is witty, artistic and strong.The main characters were very well-rounded, the felt very real. They had a family background, hopes, aspirations, careers and friend. I was glad to see them get their HEA, however I would have liked an epilogue. One thing I wish this story involved is THERAPY.I know that love conquers all and is a healing force, but professional help for both Syd and Cole should not have been overlooked. 4 1/2 Star!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Valeen Robertson (Live Thru Books Blog)

    Amazon / Amazon UK / B&N / Kobo / iBooks Sydney's back home, pregnant and divorced and missing her long gone sister. When she stops by the cemetery she certainly isn't expecting to see Cole (Coltrane) Dennison. He's not the same guy she knew, though, and neither is she the same girl he knew. Both are still grieving their losses, but one of them still hasn't moved on from that grief. It's that same grief that could be the biggest obstacle in their finding a little bit of happiness and joy with eac Amazon / Amazon UK / B&N / Kobo / iBooks Sydney's back home, pregnant and divorced and missing her long gone sister. When she stops by the cemetery she certainly isn't expecting to see Cole (Coltrane) Dennison. He's not the same guy she knew, though, and neither is she the same girl he knew. Both are still grieving their losses, but one of them still hasn't moved on from that grief. It's that same grief that could be the biggest obstacle in their finding a little bit of happiness and joy with each other as they navigate an arrangement her ex forces upon them. I've noticed a lot of the negative reviews for this story noted how they felt as if the cover misled them into believing this would be some kind of warm and fuzzy story, and took off stars for that. I don't care what the cover makes me think, I just care about the story. I liked it, but the negative reviewers are right in that this is an extremely heavy, angsty and emotionally taxing story. There wasn't just the loss of Cole's family, but Sydney's sister as well, plus her strained relationship with her parents because of that. It's a whole lot of negative going around. Cole's grief for his wife and child was just so much, so much a burden on him and had blinded him to what he could have if he'd just let go and accept they were gone, while still being able to love them. I felt for him but at the same time I wanted to shake him for being so stubborn because his grief didn't just affect him, it affected Sydney and everyone else who loved him. Cover and what it evokes aside, though, I liked this story but didn't love it. I wished for the two of them to be a real couple for longer, and I wanted Cole to let go earlier so that we could have seen a freer version of him, and in turn, a happier Sydney for more of the story. The chemistry was really hot, and I liked them individually and as a couple though, and the secondary cast and small town setting were great. I'm looking forward to the next story now. ARC via author for an honest review. Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

  27. 5 out of 5

    bennettreadsinatx

    This was a hot mess. There’s so many tropes, too many different emotional plot lines, and nothing felt resolved because there was not an epilogue. I love Naima Simone, but this book is not it. Sydney is pregnant with her ex-husband’s baby. She comes back to her small Massachusetts home to raise her child. Daniel is widower whose wife and child died in childbirth. Sydney has a bad relationship with her parents b/c her sister died at 13 of cancer. Let's call this trauma #1. Sydney divorced her hus This was a hot mess. There’s so many tropes, too many different emotional plot lines, and nothing felt resolved because there was not an epilogue. I love Naima Simone, but this book is not it. Sydney is pregnant with her ex-husband’s baby. She comes back to her small Massachusetts home to raise her child. Daniel is widower whose wife and child died in childbirth. Sydney has a bad relationship with her parents b/c her sister died at 13 of cancer. Let's call this trauma #1. Sydney divorced her husband b/c she felt silent in their marriage. She feels selfish about the decision. Trauma #2. Daniel is the town mayor (bc of course he is). He’s lusting for Sydney as soon as he sees here. But his wife and son died, so he has all this guilt and depression and trauma. Trauma #3. There’s a really mean white woman who is awful to Sydney. They have a bad history. This woman is a bitch for no reason. She just enters three different times throughout the book to be unjustly awful. Why??? Trauma #4. Sydney’s ex came to town to tell her he was suing for full custody. Y’all. Anyone with an ounce of legal knowledge knows this was a fucking idiotic plot point. Sydney freaks out and Daniel gives her terrible advice as an attorney. Trauma #5. The only point of the ex pulling a 180 and suing for custody was b/c then Daniel made the stupid decision to marry Sydney. Because even though HE'S A LAWYER, having a child in a two person home means the baby can't be taken away. WHAT IS THIS???? I don't think Daniel is good at his job. That's the gist of this book. Trauma, trauma, trauma instead of actual character growth. To make it worse, Naima Simone just wraps up all this trauma within 20 pages and there is no epilogue. The ex-husband? He calls Sydney within 2 weeks of their marriage to say he's sooo sorry. *eye roll* Sydney's parents stop judging her and say they love her and realize everything is their fault. *eye roll* Daniel has one good cry with his mom and is ready to move on. *eye roll* This last plot point is what truly was pissed me off. Are you kidding me???? We need an epilogue about how hard Daniel is taking all of this, but how he's persevering and trying to be happy. They don’t have sex until 80% the way through. Daniel calls Sydney “baby girl” throughout the book for reasons unknown. Vanilla sex. OH! And another unresolved plot point is that Sydney wants to be an author. This is brought up three times in the entire book for the sole purpose of Sydney getting male validation of her writing. The author also said twice that things like this "only happen in a romance novel."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Pregnant, Sydney decides to return to Rose Bend to raise her baby in a real community – despite her ex-husband’s protests and knowing that her family isn’t going to welcome her with open arms. When she runs into widower Cole, who she had a crush on as a kid, she doesn’t really her life is going to go in a direction she never anticipated… The Road the Rose Bend is a delightfully emotional pregnancy-oriented romance. It’s got a lot of small-town community goodness, some really tough situations in b Pregnant, Sydney decides to return to Rose Bend to raise her baby in a real community – despite her ex-husband’s protests and knowing that her family isn’t going to welcome her with open arms. When she runs into widower Cole, who she had a crush on as a kid, she doesn’t really her life is going to go in a direction she never anticipated… The Road the Rose Bend is a delightfully emotional pregnancy-oriented romance. It’s got a lot of small-town community goodness, some really tough situations in both characters’ pasts (TW: death of family members that both are still coming to terms with), and a lot of general ‘moving on’ drama. Sydney and Cole are both strong, sympathetic characters who are working their way to happiness one step at a time, and they really are perfect for each other. There’s a lot going on in the plot that pulls them together, but Simone deftly handles things and it all seems completely natural as things occur, even necessary and inevitable. I love the characterization, and the development of the romance, and the community that is created in Rose Bend. It’s not that everything is perfect, but everything is so human and everything is worth being alive and there for, and it’s so wonderful to live in that world with these characters and enjoy them finding their happily ever after. I do have one peeve about this book. I’m getting to the point where I want escapism in my romance fiction, and this story has just enough focus on social elements that it wasn’t really ‘escapist’ anymore. It wasn’t annoyingly intrusive to the story, and I didn’t like the story less for this content, but when I put the book down I was pondering more over the social elements of Rose Bend and Simone’s depiction of the town and the people in it than I was thinking about how nice it was to see Sydney and Cole get together, and that was something of a shame, in my mind. The Road to Rose Bend also as a ‘bonus’ short story, Slow Dance at Rose Bend, featuring characters Sydney meets during the book. It’s a nice little romance, and it was neat to see Cherrie get her man. The story really is quite short, but it’s hot and has some great romantic interaction between the characters. It’s a nice addition to the main story in the book. The story has been published separately digitally previously to this release. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maridsa

    *3.5 stars* Thanks NetGalley and Harlequin for the advanced copy! Summary: 26-year-old Sydney Collins returns home to her small town, divorced and pregnant. Her best friend, Leo and her family, the Dennisons, welcome her home with open arms while Sydney’s own parents have trouble understanding their daughter’s decision to end her marriage even though she’s expecting her (now) ex-husband’s baby. Sydney’s return home also catches the attention of Leo’s older brother, Coltrane (Cole) Dennison. We find *3.5 stars* Thanks NetGalley and Harlequin for the advanced copy! Summary: 26-year-old Sydney Collins returns home to her small town, divorced and pregnant. Her best friend, Leo and her family, the Dennisons, welcome her home with open arms while Sydney’s own parents have trouble understanding their daughter’s decision to end her marriage even though she’s expecting her (now) ex-husband’s baby. Sydney’s return home also catches the attention of Leo’s older brother, Coltrane (Cole) Dennison. We find both Sydney and Cole at particularly rough moments in their lives. As mentioned, Sydney is divorced and her rocky relationship with her parents is a result of grief and unresolved trauma over the death of her sister, Carlin. Meanwhile Cole has lived the past two years of his life in a tremendous state of grief after losing his wife and son; he dove into his work as a lawyer to become Rose Bend’s first nonwhite mayor. What really works in this book is their chemistry and their gradual buildup. I think the author does a really good job of drawing your attention to them with small but passionate moments. I also really appreciate both perspectives of dealing with their losses. Cole’s family is a bright spot because of their healthy and supportive dynamic and they’re all interesting characters that I'd love to learn more about as the series progresses. My biggest gripe was the mean girl antagonist who makes several unwanted appearances. I really could’ve done without it because 1) to me, it’s just a tired and played out trope, and 2) I think there was an opportunity for her significance to Sydney to have manifested itself as literally anything else. Adding this character felt like yet another thing to deal with on top of everything else that goes on for Sydney. Plus I was way more interested in the grief of the two main characters and their individual family dynamics. Also, I was surprised at how abrupt the ending felt! Maybe I’m spoiled with gushy epilogues, but it was just the grand gesture and that was it, I felt like I needed a little bit more. This is book one of new series by Naima Simone so hopefully in book two, we get to see more of these two. Overall, this book has every element of a small town romance, so if you’re looking for something sweet and quick and easy to read and a cast of diverse characters, this book is for you!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    The Road to Rose Bend is filled with drama and angst! Naima Simone delivers her usual heat and wonderful dialogue, but adds an additional layer of emotion as she tackles some pretty heavy topics and emotional turmoil. From their first meeting it was clear that Cole and Sydney were just what the other needed to help move forward with their lives. Cole is still dealing with his grief over losing his wife and child, so even though there were a few times I wanted to give him a proverbial smack and te The Road to Rose Bend is filled with drama and angst! Naima Simone delivers her usual heat and wonderful dialogue, but adds an additional layer of emotion as she tackles some pretty heavy topics and emotional turmoil. From their first meeting it was clear that Cole and Sydney were just what the other needed to help move forward with their lives. Cole is still dealing with his grief over losing his wife and child, so even though there were a few times I wanted to give him a proverbial smack and tell him to wake up and see what is front of him, it was easy to cut him a whole lot of slack knowing that he was still going through the grieving process. Sydney was fierce - she left her marriage because she did not want to settle for less than she deserves, and that didn’t change once she found out she was pregnant. She has her own issues to deal with, and although it took her a bit to let go of some of her childhood baggage, I did love that ultimately she got all she deserved. There was a wonderful supporting cast of characters, many whom I suspect will get their own book (yeah!!!) And no one writes the mean, evil, selfish character better than Naima Simone, so you know there were a few of those thrown in to add to the angst and drama that Cole and Syndey had to go through. Reflective of the times, this book also addressed some issues of race and bullying. I really liked the way that these topics were addressed, and I really loved the exchange between Cole and his adoptive mother. This was another wonderful read from Naima Simone. I can’t say enough about her writing and the way she brings her characters to life. In typical Harlequin fashion, this was a quick read that leaves you with a happy for now, but since this is just the first in the series I can only assume that we’ll get to see a bit more of Cole and Sydney as more books are released. If you are looking for angst, drama, heat, and a whole lot of feels, then this is one you shouldn’t miss! I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book I received from the Publisher on NetGalley.

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