Beauty And The Beard (Maple Mountain Lodge Book 1) by R.M. Neill

Beauty and the Beard is the first in a new series.  When you think life has broken you beyond what you can take the last thing you expect to find is love. Both Sasha and Leaf for very different reason are not open or receptive to other people let alone to romance. But love happens when you don’t expect it to.

From the blurb:

Grief is a complex thing to experience. Since losing my husband, I’ve let it call the shots. It’s been in control so long that I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to have someone hold me tight at night or share a secret smile with.  

But a beautiful young model shows up at my lodge. He’s eager to learn about the outdoors and experience life outside the city. The more we laugh and share secrets under the stars, the more he makes me want things that I’ve kept buried for too long.

He’s more than my first impression; he’s intelligent, kind, eager, and fiercely protective. He’s only supposed to be here for a month, but he’s chipping at the walls around my heart.

Now that I’m falling for him, I need to convince him to stay, but we’re from two different worlds.
Could a beauty like him be happy in the mountains with a bearded widower like me?

Being a model assumes you’re all looks and no brains. Well, I’m done playing the part of the pretty boy. The flirt. The easy target. No more cowing to the demands of others. It’s time to figure out who I am and what I want from life.
I’m heading to the mountains for a month to discover the kinder side of life—if there is such a thing. I want to heal my wounds and use the wilderness to search my soul for where I should go next.

When I arrive at the lodge, the sexy lumberjack with the sad eyes immediately captures my attention. He’s incredibly thoughtful, and he emboldens me to be me. With his encouragement, I’m doing things I never thought possible, like learning to fish... and catching feelings instead.

We lead different lives, but even though I didn’t come here looking for love, would he want a beautiful mess like me to stay?

CW: mention of spousal death, off-page past sexual and emotional abuse

Shawn Collick's Review:

Get ready for your heart to soar while cracking from past pain at the same time. This is definitely a have tissues at hand story that will make you smile through your tears with happiness. The realness created for both Sasha and Leaf with their past heartbreak and devastating life events adds a raw emotional element to the story. Yet the hope, friendship and eventual love they share is what everyone always dreams of having. This story was a joy to read!

Angel's Review:

From the first chapter I was immediately pulled into this story, the way this was written just immediately captured my attention. Sasha and Leaf's characters were excellent! I really appreciated the message that was woven into this story, how you can have bad things happen to you, but maybe they happen for a reason. You might not feel that way at first, but when you look back, it might look different.

The scene where Leaf finds the Loon in the picture, then spots one in the pond and talks to it, and how it responds to him broke my heart. It was such a tender and emotional scene, I enjoyed it a lot!

I loved how this story was not only about love but also how Sasha's character was focused on trying new things. I loved that! I thought it was so cool that he was so determined to try things he's never tried before, I really liked that component!

The side characters were amazing, they each had their own personalities, and they each added their own charm. Roman, Millie, and Perry were my favorite characters! Oh, and Pete! I adored each of them and I loved how they were all supportive of both Leaf, and Sasha.

I'm looking forward to Roman and Perry's story, I have a feeling it's going to be full of enemies to lovers.

Rogue's Review:

This is the first of a new series, one of the MCs is introduced in the Broken Horn Ranch series, but the other is all new. Dual POV, almost insta-love, slight age gap, and two men getting over trauma in their past. Sasha is getting away from things for a while after traumatic events in his past, he wants to re-set and evaluate where he wants his life to go from here. Leaf runs the lodge where Sasha goes to retreat, and himself is in the grieving process for his husband.

I always enjoy R.M. Neill's stories, they're relatively low angst, sweet and slightly fluffy. This has maybe a slightly darker edge due to both Sasha and Leaf's pasts which are a main focus of the story, and I'm not afraid to say there may have been a tear or two from me on Leaf's part. It's an instant connection for these two, and things do progress very fast, but it never really felt rushed. I really enjoyed seeing these two find happiness after all they've been through, they're so good together and I'm glad Sasha worked everything out so he could go and make a life with Leaf.

I wasn't sure about Leaf's brother, but his story is next so I look forward to the author changing my mind on him.

Heather's Review:

RM Neill's start to this new series is sweet and low angst and just a wonderful read.  Like her other books, you meet rich characters who grow together almost organically and you root for them from the get go.  What starts as a vacation romance blossoms into more and it's lovely to see how each man grows stronger and heals from their pasts - one from being widowed, the other from being abused and they find a way to blend their lives together in a beautiful way.  Fair warning - there are copious mentions of maple cream cookies and no recipe... but I share with you the link to Corey B. on Tiktok who makes maple cream...  RM you better perfect your Maple Cream Cookie recipe, because it may be your price of admission to the Northern Rainbow Romance Retreat 

Beauty and the Beard is currently available as an e-book and paperback and can be read as part of your Kindle Unlimited Subscription.