Review by Veronica

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Series Name: A Woodland Park Firefighter Romance, # 2  

She heard heavy footsteps and put a smile on her face for Alan. But the man who entered was a stranger. He had really, really short dark hair, light-brown eyes, and had to be at least six foot five. He also had impressive biceps and a scruffy beard. He was gorgeous. Period. Which meant she didn’t exactly feel bad for taking a moment to check him out before sending him on his way.

If you are looking for a sweet, heartfelt romance to read this fall, then you should read Moving Forward by Shelley Shepard Gray. 

Former Army captain Greg Tebo loves his new life in Woodland Park. In the two years since he joined the WPFD, he’s gained a reputation as a fearless firefighter, and after being stationed all around the country and overseas, he can’t wait to settle down with a wife and kids.

When a call comes in about a possible heart attack at the scene of a fire at the Garden Center, Greg assumes they’re going to be helping an elderly customer—not the beautiful, feisty proprietor in her late twenties. Kristen Werner has been determined to pretend everything is fine. She refuses to leave the company she’s carefully nurtured and move home to her loving but meddling family in Houston. Since her devastating diagnosis caused her fiancé to dump her, she’s given up on love and thrown herself into cultivating her blooming business instead—even if the hard work further weakens her heart.
Greg is drawn to Kristen’s vibrant, independent spirit and hopes romance will flower. But she’s had enough trouble with her heart to last a lifetime, and can’t trust Greg not to break it—especially if he finds out she can never give him the houseful of children he longs for…. 

As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, I knew I needed to read it. I love a small-town romance that I know will have a lot of charm. This book did not disappoint me; in fact, it actually surprised me. I thought I would only be reading the love story between Greg and Kristen, but Shelley also surprised readers with another main love story between Jen and Ryan, who are two teenagers who just graduated from high school. I found myself enjoying both love stories. There is this cool blend of adult romance and YA romance; you wouldn’t think it would work, but it does. 

Moving Forward is a clean closed-door romance with a lot of charm but also a lot of depth. It has a lot of those characteristics that many Hallmark movies have. It takes place in a small town where everyone knows everyone, and there is this real sense of community. The main heroine owns her own business, and the hero is a gorgeous firefighter. There are plenty of sweet moments between both couples; it sometimes borders on cheesiness (which I loved), but the journey these couples have to go through to be together isn’t smooth sailing. Greg and Kristin both have emotional baggage that they bring to the table. Greg has PTSD from his time in the army, and Kristen is weary of starting another relationship after her ex broke off their engagement a day before their wedding. Kristen also has major health problems and is afraid that Greg will run away when he realizes how all-consuming those health problems can be at times. Kristin’s fear that Greg will run away or break her heart is the main hurdle these two have to overcome. For most of the book, Kristin hems and haws about whether she should start a relationship with Greg. If I had only one wish for this book, I wish that Kristin’s hemming and hawing would have been a bit shorter. I found that it dragged on at times. 

Jen and Ryan’s love story was fabulous. I wasn’t expecting them to get so much page time, but I am glad that they did. Even though I could classify their story as a YA romance, there is this real maturity to their story. Jen is dealing with difficult family situations and doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Ryan is a real sweetheart, and I loved how he supported and adored Jen. It just melted my heart. The only thing I have to complain about is that I felt their story was a bit incomplete, but I am hoping that is because they will be getting their own book in this series. Fingers crossed. 

Moving Forward is a sweet small-town romance and is perfect for those looking to escape our crazy world for a few hours. 

Thank you Berkley Publishing Group, for the arc in exchange for an honest review.