When Jackson St. James decided that six weeks in Vermont’s Green Mountains would help him get his life together, he didn’t anticipate replacing his craving for whiskey with a craving for his alluring new landlord, Gabby. Now, instead of prioritizing his sobriety and the resolution of the lawsuit threatening his business, he’s making excuses to spend time with the spunky young landscaper whose candor is more than a little addictive.
Gabby Bouchard refuses to let her pill-popping mother and unreliable baby daddy turn her into a cynic, so she doesn’t fight her attraction to her enigmatic new tenant. Although Jackson’s smile rarely reaches his eyes, his generosity and dependability make her willing to overlook his demons. But once she convinces him to give in to temptation, Gabby’s jealous ex threatens to disrupt the life she has built for herself and her son.
With so much at stake, Gabby and Jackson must decide if love is worth the risk.
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Message from the Author
Thank you for hosting me today to discuss WORTH THE RISK. This is a bittersweet release week for me because it marks the end of the St. James novels, which I’ve so enjoyed writing.
This book’s hero is Jackson St. James, the brother readers have watched spiral downward into a bottle since book one. Several losses (death, abandonment, and betrayal) drove him over the edge and have put him in danger of losing his homebuilding business and his family. An ultimatum forces him to address his demons, so he’s taking a hiatus in nearby Vermont, where he hopes Mother Nature and a little counseling will help. What he doesn’t expect to encounter is the force that is Gabby Bouchard, a young single mom who’s faced her own demons without falling apart. Gabby has grown up in rural Vermont and has never seen the likes of a guy like Jackson. He’s generous, thoughtful, and gorgeous, and she’s more than a little excited that he’s rented out the garage apartment. But then she learns he’s got a drinking problem, which hits a little close to home considering her mother’s addiction and abandonment.
On the surface, these two romantics know they’re star-crossed, but they’re also uniquely positioned to help the other tackle the problems each faces as the story unfolds. In particular, Gabby is the first person Jackson has truly admired in a long time, which is a catalyst for the true beginning of his turnaround.
Here’s an excerpt from when Gabby first learns the reason why Jackson came to town, which is just after Gabby has finished telling him about how her mother chose drugs over her.
Jackson worked to maintain an unruffled expression in the wake of her emotional outpouring, but inside his stomach twisted like a screw. Had David, Vivi, Cat, and Hank all felt a sense of relief in his absence?
Had he gotten so absorbed in his own pain that he really hadn’t recognized he might be causing theirs? “So you don’t want to see her?”
After a pronounced pause, Gabby sighed, gazing off at some distant point while she spoke. “Normally I believe in second chances, but in this case, I’m not sure. It’s not worth considering, since it’ll never happen.” A note of sadness rang in that last remark. “The most important thing the whole experience taught me is that I have to be a mom Luc can always be proud of. One he can count on. I won’t let him be hurt by someone he should be able to trust. Not even if that person’s his own father.”
Gabby’s gaze returned to him. “You’re pale. Have I horrified you with my seedy family history?”
Pale? That was better than blood red, which was what he would’ve guessed given his spike in body temperature. A beat of misplaced anger surfaced thanks to the unwanted mirror she’d thrust at him. But she had no idea of his life or his secrets, so she hadn’t known how her feelings about her mother’s behavior would affect him.
Gabby’s baby blues filled with concern, which chased away his irritation. God, he admired her strength and sincerity. So resilient, which reminded him a bit of Vivi. Well, minus the quirks and the fact that he didn’t—in any way—think of Gabby like a sister.
Somehow the fierce little warrior in front of him remained chipper and compassionate despite being abandoned, getting pregnant by a dickhead, and living her whole life in this tiny town. Tar-thick shame stiffened him as he contrasted his relative weakness against the strength of this wisp of a woman.
“No. It’s not you.” He cleared his throat. “It’s me.”
“Oh?” Her brows furrowed. “So someone close to you battles addiction, too?”
“In a manner of speaking.” He twisted his neck, scanning everything in the room but her, unable to remember why he’d thought for one second opening this door had been a brave move. His shirt clung to his skin thanks to a sudden trickle of perspiration.
“Cryptic.” A resigned grin flickered, but she didn’t press.
Suddenly infuriated with himself for being comparatively spineless and dishonest, he met her gaze in an endeavor to deserve her respect. Too bad the truth would probably shatter her opinion of him.
“According to my family, I’m the screwup. I’m on this ‘hiatus’ because they ambushed me—told me to change my drinking habits if I wanted to be part of my niece or nephew’s life.” He watched her jaw drop open and then, with some chagrin, said, “Told ya you wouldn’t think our meeting ‘serendipitous’ for long.”