Sometimes getting to heaven requires a trip through hell. Twelve years ago, it looked like Del Prescott had it all. The wealthy family, the car, the looks and charm, and the perfect boyfriend. Then, mysteriously, she disappeared to "study abroad." Now she's back, and it's not merely to attend a high school reunion. She's here to face her demons-and Blake, the man she has never stopped loving.
Blake Mitchell is a changed man, thanks to surviving twelve long years of difficulties that began after Del dropped out of his life. Now she's back, and she's nothing like the polished, stylish world traveler he imagined she'd be. There's a darkness about her, and a grim expression in her eyes that says she's prepared for fight or flight. Blake's concern for her breaks down the walls Del has built around her heart and she finally begins to heal from the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own family. But the betrayal goes deeper than either of them ever imagined-and it's about to come back to haunt them. (Warning, this title contains the following: explicit sex, graphic language and violence).
It's been a long time since Del's been home to Prescott, and being back has stirred up a lot of memories; a lot of good times, but also the bad. Coming back has not been an easy decision for her, but it's time she faced her past and stopped letting it control her.
Blake Mitchell has moved on with his life, but he never quite got over the girl who owned his heart all those years ago. He's had some pretty rough times of his own, but now he's working as a sheriff and he's fairly content with his lot in life. Hearing Del is back is kind of a shock to his system, and he's not sure how he feels about that. It isn't until he sees her again that all those old feelings come rushing back. One thing he does know is that he can't hate her. In fact he's pretty sure he never stopped loving her.
One person that's not quite so happy to see Del is her mother Louisa. She's always been more concerned about appearances, and since coming back, her daughter Delilah has not fallen in line like her mother expects her to. Louisa knows why Del left all those years ago, but she doesn't really give a damn. All she wants is for Del to come back into the fold and act like a proper Prescott daughter. But Del is not some malleable toy who can be controlled. And Louisa won't stand for it.
Coming back to Prescott has been an emotional rollercoaster for Del, but unless she can face her demons, she can never take back her life. And that's all she wants to do. And maybe, just maybe, find the happiness she thought was forever denied her...
One thing about Shiloh Walker, she has an amazing backlist, and I'm always finding stories of hers I haven't read yet. This one I got at the 2009 Lori Foster booksigning, and finally got around to reading it.
You just know you're going to get your heart ripped out - but in a good way - with one of Shiloh's books, and "Beautiful Girl" is no exception to that. Del was a beautiful girl, but because of someone who felt entitled to take what didn't belong to him, she lost her innocence forever. What made it even worse is that her mother knew about it and never did anything to stop it. In fact she accused Del of lying when her own daughter came to her about being raped. As a woman, you can only imagine how traumatizing this must be to a young teenage girl who turns to an adult who should be there no matter what, and instead she's scorned and ridiculed.
I liked that when Blake and Del see each other again, though they both regret the loss of what they had so long ago, Blake wasn't cold and cruel to Del. Instead it was almost like their connection had never broken, and those old feelings resurrected into something stronger, more mature. Blake had been through his own difficult struggle, and I think it made him appreciate life and the fact that Del is back. He doesn't want any anger between them.
Having Del recount that abuse that had happened to her was heart-wrenching. Though we don't "see" much of what she suffered, it was enough to want to cry for her. But also it made me respect what she'd been through, even the darkness she faced after the abuse, and where she is today. Del's life doesn't automatically heal once she's back in Prescott, and she still tenses up when she remembers. I think it's important to show this because victims of abuse will most likely always carry the scars of what they suffered, and there is no easy fix, but they can take back control and not let the fear keep them from finding happiness, especially when it's with a good man like Blake.
"Beautiful Girl" is a lovely, heartbreaking love story. I'm always glad when I read one of Shiloh's books, because even when it's a difficult story to process, it reminds me of what it's like to feel for the characters so deeply. And I always think that's a very good thing. I never want to become de-sensitized to the bad things that happen. With a Shiloh Walker book, that's a guarantee that will never happen.
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****