3 out of 4 stars
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A controlling father, a toxic relationship, and family secrets are some of the circumstances Jacob Watson faces in the novel Black Sheep by Rianne Moss.
When Jacob chooses to work as an auto mechanic instead of attending college and pursuing a lucrative career, his disapproving father criticizes his decision. He also struggles with being overshadowed by his younger brother, Mitchell who adopted his father's success at any cost philosophy. On the heels of an abusive relationship, Jacob meets Tara, a waitress at the local coffee shop who is also a nursing student. He works up the courage to ask her out and can't believe his luck when Tara not only accepts his invitation but expresses interest in a second date. Despite the lack of approval from his father and brother, Jacob and Tara continue to date. As their relationship grows, Jacob gains more confidence and begins to make plans for a future with Tara. However, when Mitchell's house is vandalized, the crime leads to more questions revealing family secrets and Jacob is concerned his relationship with Tara will be jeopardized.
The strength of this book lies in the author's skilled ability to create empathy for the protagonist, Jacob. With the early introduction to his hard-to-like, overbearing father, the reader immediately roots for Jacob as the underdog. There were repeated scenarios where I would have liked to have seen Jacob man up. However, as the story continued, it became increasingly evident that his self-esteem issues were the result of constantly being undermined by his father, who also created an unhealthy rivalry between Jacob and his brother, Mitchell. I was relieved to see Jacob's character gain confidence and strength over the course of the book.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the female characters in the story. Of the three represented, Tara showed the most promise. However, most of her interactions with Jacob began by detailing her physical appearance. Regardless of the varying circumstances, the word "trembling" was frequently used to describe her which doesn't exactly exude strength. Jacob's ex-girlfriend, Krista, was manipulative and abusive, but it was the portrayal of his mother I found most disappointing. While her subservient demeanor wasn't surprising considering her bullying husband, her character didn't reflect any growth. Though it was obvious she loved Jacob, she didn't offer much in the way of emotional support to her son who was struggling.
Additionally, there were some gaps in the timeline. The story went from Jacob and Tara's second date to dating six months, followed by two years--without any transitions. Furthermore, I often felt the author was telling me the story rather than showing me. Despite the previously mentioned issues, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. The book appears to have been professionally edited, as I didn't note any errors. While aspects of the plot were predictable, there was an unexpected twist at the end. Overall, the empathy the author evoked for Jacob as well as the growth in his character carried the story. I recommend the book to readers who enjoy romance with a touch of suspense. Though there isn't any sexual content, there is some profanity.
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