|Lillibridge’s debut novel gives us a story of love, remorse, compassion and figuring out how to grow up and do the right thing. That is a lot in one category novel, but she demonstrates skill in pulling it all together with the right touch of sentimentality and reality.
In Accidental Hero, Bo Ramsey has come to small town Sweet River, Texas – the only home he has really known. He is recuperating from injuries from a bull riding rodeo accident. The scars on his face and his lame leg are only the outer view of the scars to his heart. Two years ago, Bo left town to become a rodeo star with Marla by his side when she claimed their one night together resulted in a child being conceived. He thought he was doing the right thing. When he left, he also left another broken-hearted woman.
Abby Houston and Bo had been an item. Abby was 23 and home from college to help her dad, Buck, save their ranch. Bo was working on a neighboring ranch and everyone thought they would marry and live happily ever after. But Bo had the rodeo bug and the night he asked Abby to come with him they argued, sending Bo into Marla’s arms. Abby was left to deal with the gossips and the embarrassment of publicly being left for another woman.
Abby has rebuilt her life. She and her dad operate a school for kids facing challenges. She has some older horses that are perfect for kids who are either physically or emotionally disabled. She teaches the kids to ride and care for horses, thus building up their self-esteem and helping their parents see what they are capable of doing. It is the joy of her life, even though they are struggling financially.
Now Bo is back. Her hurt is deep, but she discovers that she never really got over him. And Bo never got over her. He too, is hurt, but wants to make it right. It turns out that Marla was not pregnant, and while she liked the money he made on the rodeo circuit, she never really liked Bo. His injuries put a final end to a marriage that had been over a long time ago. Shorty, the neighbor, and Buck decide to play matchmaker. Buck realizes that Abby needs to resolve her feelings about Bo one way or the other. And Shorty, who treats Bo like a son, realizes that the feelings from the past must be dealt with so he can finish his healing. So Bo is enlisted as a volunteer at the school, both as physical labor and as a person to work with the kids. One child in particular strikes a nerve. Teddy is a six year old who fell off a horse and broke both of his legs. His dream has always been to be cowboy. But he is now scared of horses and getting hurt again.
There is nothing subtle about the way the plot will go. Teddy, the child, will teach Bo, the man, many things. The children, who face challenges every day, will teach Abby how to face her challenges. But Lillibridge writes Bo and Abby with the depth needed so that the reader understands their psyches and their motivations. They are quick learners and use common sense as well as emotions when making decisions and dealing with each other. Lust and sexual tension are part of their romantic interactions, but it is not the primary factor in figuring out their future. The only downside is that the two take a little longer to make the right choices because of their stubbornness. It is only slightly annoying though, because it doesn’t last too long.
Accidental Hero is a love story that pulls at the heart strings and offers the reader tenderness, conflict, sexual tension and a satisfying story. This is one new author to keep an eye on.