It’s bad enough to find out your husband is cheating but to catch him in the act is pretty painful. Joelle Gordon stuck it out for a few months after this happened and then packed up her three daughters and returned to Landon, Minnesota, the town where both she and her husband, Jackie, grew up. Joelle comes from tough stock as the women of her family have learned to fend for themselves for various reasons. They welcomed her back with open arms, somehow sensing her heart and providing her safe haven while she tries to heal and figure out what to do with her life. Unfortunately, it got much more complicated as soon as she stepped inside of her mother’s café and looked into the eyes of Blythe Tilson, a tall, dreamy, hot and YOUNG temptation.
From the moment I started this story I knew it was going to draw me in and keep me in Landon until the story ended. Joelle is telling her own story but this isn’t a woman who is completely leveled, even though she feels that way. She keeps going for her daughters and going home gave her just the right energy to revive herself. As she’s contemplating the end of her marriage, Joelle wraps herself in the strength emanating from her Gran, Aunt Ellen, Mom and Jilly (her younger sister). Her daughters, though sensing something is wrong between their parents, believe they’re just going to be there for the summer and thrive as they benefit from being with this incredible family. They are not perfect but somehow their flaws seem to make them even less imperfect because at the very least, they are authentic.
Joelle’s attraction to Blythe (Bly) wasn’t just on her end. From the moment they saw each other, it was pretty clear that he shared that connection. He’s in his 20s and she’s 35; this is a small town and his step-grandfather is the long-time cook at the Café and Joelle brings enough baggage to consider a relationship impossible. She tries to resist him for all the typical reasons, knew she should but Bly wouldn’t give her a break. I was concerned that Joelle might be “rebounding” but her evaluation of her marriage was done with amazing clarity, recognizing that lots had been missing for years. The issues they had to deal with were complex, considering the age difference, her marital status and her daughters’ feelings (they ranged from ages 12 – 17). Nothing was sugar coated and each stolen moment that Bly and Joelle were able to manage was incredible…not just steamy (and they are steamy) but highly romantic.
I cannot say enough about the quality of the writing as I felt as if I was catapulted into Landon, feeling, smelling and languishing at the surrounding Flickertail Lake, the café and the front porch where so many of the conversations occurred between the women of this family. The writing is flawless and I could vividly picture every character with a role of significant to either Joelle or Bly.
I love this story, which didn’t end at the last page and is the reason why I rated it 4 ½ stars instead of 5. If you enjoy contemporary fiction along with your romance, you’ll love this book. Joelle tells her story so honestly and refreshingly, making no excuses for her down periods and sometimes questionable choices. She’s devoted to her daughters and is committed to doing the right thing not just for them but for her. The next book cannot be released quickly enough for me to return to the Shore Leave Café.
(I received an ARC from the publisher)