Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I think one of the often-quoted lines in romance is “there is a thin line between love and hate.” It’s especially found in books where the hero and heroine begin as “enemies” and end as “lovers.” This is one of my most favorite tropes. I’ve written this recently in another review, but my love for this trope knows no ends because the dividend for an enemy to fall in love is a brighter, shinier love than the others. What I find in these stories is a love that is so deep and abiding that it makes you feel like you’re enveloped in a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold day. Staci Hart’s Bet the Farm illustrates this trope beautifully. When you fall into her story, you find so many heart-warming, butterflies-floating-in-your-stomach moments that you simply won’t want to put this book down.
*For one, it has animals. So many adorable animals that it makes this girl from the ‘burbs in So Cal want to find a farm quick. Staci Hart does everything right by incorporating barn life which creates images in your mind that make you smile.
*There’s an ages-old feud. It’s actually the feud that causes many of the problems between her hero, Jake, and heroine, Olivia. There’s nothing like a good old “Hatfields and McCoys” feud to raise the conflict of a book.
*There’s pink. I adore pink, so the fact that the cover is pink, and there are many other instances of pink…made this reader wish she lived on a farm with a pink door and a pink tractor.
*This book is infused with an important discussion about immigration. Surprise! Bet the Farm isn’t merely about a young woman and man fighting over a farm. That would be too simplistic for a Staci Hart novel. C’mon! She has found a way in this book to bring in a headier, insightful discussion to this story. It doesn’t overpower the romance, not even close. Instead, it forces you to consider your ideas about immigration and the lengths immigrants who reside here illegally must go to protect their status.
*Jake is my favorite type of hero: closed-off and grumpy. These are always my favorites because that exterior is usually hiding a soft underbelly, a heart that feels too much. Hart draws Jake so well in this story that you want to give the big guy a hug throughout the course of this book.
*It’s her heroine, Olivia, though, who deserves the most credit for the treasure of this romance. I write these adjectives all the time in romance reviews to describe heroines: independent, intelligent, insightful. Romance writers love to craft women we, women (and some men), want to emulate. This is definitely the case with Olivia except that Olivia also has a positivity that feels relentless especially in the face of adversity. Given the timeframe when Hart was writing this story, that last character trait feels purposeful for her readers. We’re supposed to read Olivia and remember that we too can choose positive thinking while facing down a pandemic, a horrible political scene, and even death. Olivia is not just the inspiration for Jake’s transformation; she should be the impetus for changing our own thinking about life. Olivia feels like the perfect heroine for our world today.
*Lastly, the power of home and family is a running motif in this story. Wrapped in that motif are values such as integrity, trust, and loyalty, and Hart reminds us that a home isn’t necessarily a place (although we see it clearly as the farm in this book), but home can also reside in the form of a person.
All of the traits of Staci Hart’s Bet the Farm conspire to create this story that brings so much joy, happiness, and sweetness by its end. I couldn’t put it down. It feels like a story that is needed as an escape, as a challenge to focus on all the things that we have, not on what we don’t.
In love and romance,