Illusions Unveiled by Ayla Asher

Our journey through the small town of Ardor Creek continues as we explore how one man will do whatever it takes to prove to the one woman who got away that he’s worth taking a chance on. All I gotta say is if she won’t take him, I certainly will.

What’s it About?

Sometimes you squander all your second chances…

At the tender age of seven, Peter Stratford fell in love with the only woman who would ever claim his heart. But Carrie represented Ardor Creek, the town Peter detested. Determined to make something of himself in New York City, he leaves her behind, breaking both their hearts.

Carrie Longwood accepted that Peter would never love her enough to stay. Embracing her inner strength, she married another and had her precious boys before her messy divorce. Alone in Ardor Creek, she builds her life around her small family unit.

When Peter returns to Ardor Creek, battered and broken from addiction, he begins to heal, knowing Carrie will never forgive him. But Carrie kept her own secrets and, whether they’re ready or not, all of their illusions will be unveiled…

First Impressions

We were initially introduced to Carrie and Peter in the first Ardor Creek novel, and even though they were secondary characters at the time, it was clearly evident that they had a chemistry and history that was worth exploring in more detail. This second addition to the series give us the chance to look back on how Carrie and Peter’s picture-perfect high school romance devolved following his move to the big city and subsequent fall into drug and alcohol addiction. Carrie gave him a few chances to win her heart throughout the years, and while the chemistry was always there, they could never get the timing right. It’s now years after Peter’s recovery and Carrie’s divorce from a grade-A bumhole. As their close friendship has stayed true and strong after so many hurdles, it finally seems like they both might be at the right time and place in their lives to make another go at it. They’ll just have to make it through a health scare involving one of Carrie’s boys, as well as her many insecurities before that long-held dream might become a reality. For those of you who like second-chance romances, this is more like a third or fourth chance romance that will steal your heart!

Secrets Unveiled

It’s been a long and arduous journey for both Carrie and Peter to finally get to the healthy place they’re both at when the novel opens. Peter has confronted the many demons of his past, and has successfully entered recovery after years of addiction. Now he’s finally ready to confront his future, and for Peter that means settling down in Ardor Creek for good with the love of his life by his side. He’ll just have to learn about a critical secret that Carrie has been keeping from him for years…and maybe donate a major bodily organ before she’s willing to explore taking things to the next level with Peter once again. Carrie’s hesitancies to let Peter fully into her and her boys’ lives was a major theme of this book. I’ll admit, at first I just wanted to yell, “Oh just get over it already! This hunk of burnin’ love is obviously a keeper, and is fully committed to you and your kids! Let him in!” However, there were several key moments where I think Carrie’s concerns were communicated to us in a logical way that didn’t just make it seem like the plot was stalling for time.

Roadblocks to Happiness

Firstly, it’s one thing to be fun “Uncle Peter” for a few hours throughout the week by playing video games or soccer with her sons, and sitting down for dinner as a group when it’s convenient. Taking things to the next level would invite the not-so-glamorous side of parenting 24/7, from driving the kids to piano lessons and soccer games, helping with homework, being woken up in the middle of the night from unexpected nightmares, etc. It’s not something he can just turn away from when he’s too tired after a long day of work, and Carrie needs to make sure Peter understands what it means to transition from the fun family friend to a trustworthy father figure. Then there is Peter’s past to contend with.

Thankfully, I was pleased to see that Carrie never really saw Peter’s addictive tendencies as a reason to keep him at a distance from her or her boys. If anything, this seemed like more of a hang-up for Peter than it ever was for Carrie, and she always admired him for his strength to get clean. Her main reservation was always a fear that Peter would tire of the small-town life that Ardor Creek and her small family would ever be able to offer him. How long before he’d be called back to the bright lights and excitement of the city? After all, it called him away from her several times in their past, why would it be any different this time around? Well, Peter is determined to show her that Carrie and her two boys are all he’s ever wanted, and they represent his future happiness in every way.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Ardor Creek, book 2. Every book in this series has ended with an epilogue of our characters heading to the wedding of the town’s notorious bachelor mayor. I can’t wait to finally get to that story, but it looks like we have one more romance to explore before we finally get invited to the blessed event.

Final Impressions: I am definitely in love with this series, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the residents of this small town. This sequel felt a tad more serious at times when compared to book one, but it was still a great addition to the series which incorporated a great blend of romance, drama, a smidge of comedy, and sexy fun times. Peter was such a commendable character in my mind to have overcome such debilitating addiction, and retain enough patience to never give up on a future with the love of his life. The final scene of the book provides us with a picture-perfect moment that left a tear in my eye, and you’ll just have to read it yourself to see why!

Smut Level: These two may have entered their forties, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still up for all manner of sexy fun times. Carrie and Peter can get downright raunchy when the kids go to sleep, and even kick things up a notch with a sexy nurse’s outfit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 196 Pages.

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