For the final installment, we follow Jessica, the owner of Junebug Farms, and Sydney, a local news reporter. Every year, there's a telethon to benefit Junebug Farms, but this time, the usual host provided by the local news has retired, leaving mild control freak Jessica with the new-to-town Sydney. The two meet and continue to interact as they plan the telethon, but just as the two women draw closer, the fact that Sydney has no plan to stay in town keeps them wary of each other. Even more pressing is that neither want personal relationships to impact the telethon.
This book required me to pause and come back to it, which is the danger of reading a lot of one author at once: the good and bad tendencies become very apparent. However, this is an okay book, even if some story choices bothered me. The attraction between Jessica and Sydney is gradual because they are both responsible adults and take their jobs seriously. To complicate matters is Anna, who also works at the shelter, had a very brief hookup with Sydney earlier in the year. Anna is also the ex of Katherine (heroine of Run to Me) and exists in two books to serve as the jealous ex-girlfriend. While Anna insists on her interest in Sydney, Jessica refuses to entertain the idea of anything with Sydney. The problem becomes that Sydney avoids conflict, so while she thinks she's not rocking the boat, Anna believes they are dating. And things move predictably.
An interesting thing about the handling of the non-relationship of Anna and Sydney is how I would have expected it to be handled better considering how well a similar relationship was managed in Rescue Me with Ashley trying to understand her feelings for Lisa. This isn't to say that it isn't realistic for one person to misconstrue the nature of a relationship, but from the moment we meet Anna, she isn't handled with the same care as the other women in the series. She exists to fill that "crazy ex-girlfriend" role to create unnecessary conflict. As I listened to this audiobook, I actually wished Anna would get her own book because she probably deserved more careful exploration, of which I believe Beers capable as shown in Rescue Me.
The romance between Jessica and Sydney is of the slow-burn variety, with Sydney afraid of commitment and Jessica existing. Honestly, the biggest problem with their romance is the constant presence of the clingy and pushy Anna. She intrudes on their story, as intended, to a degree that forces the romance to happen very quickly at the end. By the time the women acknowledged the attraction, there was so little left in the book that I felt cheated of their romance. Most of Sydney's growth happens off-page, which is frustrating when that is what is keeping them apart. And while Jessica makes Sydney want more, the same isn't true of Sydney's impact on Jessica. She remains the same, just more willing to appear on TV.
I really wanted more from this book, but at least neither of the heroines was harassing the other.
When you read (or listen) to three books in a series in close succession, there are interesting things you begin to note about style and voice. Phrasing between this series became very similar by the third book, which made me take a pause for a couple of weeks while I forgot the similar kissing techniques of the first two books. And while I know the characters are different, I do think that the voices for Lisa (Rescued Heart), Katherine (Run to Me), and Jessica (Dare to Stay) (all three heroines working at the shelter) were similar enough that I wish there was more to distinguish them. If I tell you that she works at an animal shelter, is serious, committed to her job, has some control issues, but falls for the woman she shouldn't want, it could be any of them. Their love interests are distinct, which is interesting, maybe a subtle commentary (not sure what on), but maybe not.