UNBREAK ME by Michelle Hazen


UNBREAK ME
Author: Michelle Hazen
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Standalone


What could two troubled souls from different walks of life have in common? Maybe everything.
Andra Lawler lives isolated at her family’s horse ranch, imprisoned by the memories of an assault in college. When she needs help training her foals, she hires a Haitian-Creole cowboy from New Orleans with a laugh as big as the Montana sky. 

LJ Delisle can’t stand the idea that Andra might be lonely—or eating frozen TV dinners. He bakes his way into her kitchen with a lemon velvet cake, and offers her cooking lessons that set them on the road to romance. But even their love can’t escape the shadow of what they've been through. Despite their growing friendship and his gentle rapport with the horses, LJ is still an outsider facing small-town suspicions. 

Before they can work through their issues, LJ is called home by a family emergency. In the centuries-old, raggedly rebuilt streets of New Orleans, he must confront memories of Hurricane Katrina and familiar discrimination. And Andra must decide if she’s brave enough to leave the shelter of the ranch for an uncertain future with LJ.






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Photo: author's FB page


Excerpt


Andra opened her front door, and the frown froze on her face as LJ’s shoulders filled the doorframe.
He was holding . . . a cake?
“Um, hi,” she managed.
She reached behind her back to undo the knot that pulled her T-shirt tight against her chest, shaking the baggy hem so it would fall to cover some of her leggings. What was he doing here? Oh crap, she’d promised to talk to him about the horses.
“Look, I’m sorry. I know I said I’d come talk to you a couple days ago, but then Socks kicked one of the grooms, and Mary Kay lost a shoe, and I completely forgot.” She hadn’t forgotten, so much as she was . . . working up to it. Giving him a few days of seeing her around the ranch when she was in control of herself, before she got close enough she’d have to see his opinion of her in his eyes.
He shrugged, careful not to tip the tall cake off its platter. “I think we got off on the wrong foot the day we met, and our do-over didn’t really stick.”
Oh God. Apparently, he wasn’t tiptoeing around anything today.
LJ grinned—a playful, twinkly-eyed one that made him look like he was just having more fun than everyone else. “Besides, nobody’s afraid of a guy with a cake.”
A smile tugged at the edges of her mouth. “I’ve never heard that.”
“No? It’s completely true. Not to mention, bringing a cake is the best excuse to eat some. I mean, it’s yours. You don’t have to share. Of course, if you don’t, you may want to pass a tissue or two my way, is all I’m saying.” He widened his eyes mournfully.
She glanced at the cake, the white icing whipped into gorgeous swirls. “Did Stacia make that? She used to be terrible at baking.” She gripped the edge of the door a little tighter. Maybe her friend had been practicing. It wasn’t like she knew what Stacia was up to these days.
“I’m a little offended. A man doesn’t bring a borrowed cake for an apology.” He lifted the platter and gave it a waggle. “We’ve got lemon velvet with French buttercream here. You oughta get it out of the heat soon, though. The sun melted the frosting some on the way over. It’s a hike to get up over here, you know it?”
Oops, he was feeling around for an invitation. Duh, and she was still standing in her door like some kind of freak. “Um, come in.” The least she could do was feed him some cake and try to act like a normal person. She stepped aside and racked her brain for small talk that didn’t involve anything on four hooves. “You know, I can’t quite place your accent. You said you were from Louisiana, but I’ve met lots of people from there at rodeos, and they didn’t sound quite like you.”
“Well, you can tell I’m from the South because I interrupted your workout with dessert.” He tipped his head toward the yoga mat she’d left by the couch. She smiled, and his grin brightened a couple more watts. “Seriously, though, I think I’ve got a little bayou country from my days on my uncle’s horse ranch, cut with the rhythm of the Lower Ninth, maybe some southern drawl creeping in from the Mississippi border. And New Orleans has a sound all its own, always has.” Between one word and the next, his words straightened to all square corners instead of luscious curves. “Then again, if my mother is listening, I sound strictly like the Yankee university she helped pay for.”
“Your mom doesn’t like your accent?” Andra frowned. “Doesn’t she have one?”
“Mama thought I wouldn’t get a decent job unless I talked like a white banker from Wisconsin.” He shrugged.
Her eyes widened. “That’s not fair. Why should you have to fake an accent to get a job?”
“That’s the way the world works. People have ideas about what intelligence should sound like, and I don’t expect I’m going to change all of them on my own.” He winked. “I tutored English composition for work study all through college, so I can play the game. I have to admit, though, sometimes it’s nice to sound like home.”
Andra laughed, a little self-consciously. “I don’t think I even realized we had an accent up north until you imitated it.”
“Oh, it’s an accent all right, sweetheart. And you’ve got it thick as anything.”
Heat crept into her skin at the endearment, though she didn’t get the feeling he was really flirting with her. She glanced away, the afterimage of him seared on her lids. His deep-brown eyes were a couple of shades darker than his skin, and they always seemed to be laughing. He was handsome, with high cheekbones and sensual lips. The kind of man she would have looked twice at, once.



Photo: author's FB page





Unbreak Me is a beautifully written love story between two  wonderful characters with the backdrop of rural Montana and urban New Orleans.   It is a story of healing and hope and it puts you through all of the feels.  Andra is a small town girl who suffered something terrible, leaving her with crippling anxiety.  LJ finds himself as a horse trainer on her ranch after enduring the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.  Both characters are survivors and they find friendship, healing, and love together.  I adored LJ - he is strong, sexy, insightful, humorous, and caring.  I loved how he was always trying to put a smile on Andra’s face and I also loved seeing how much he cared for her, his mama, his friends, and the horses. Essentially LJ is the perfect book boyfriend.  This engaging love story is multilayered with rich culture, likable characters, and incorporates important issues that are both real and present today with honesty and respect - racism, sexual assault, mental health, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina years later.  I received this book from Netgalley and I am looking forward to more books by this author.




Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem. Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back.
She has written most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.
She’s currently addicted to The Walking Dead, hiking, and Tillamook cheese.
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