Paige was born and raised in Philadelphia, but several years ago her parents retired to Mirabelle, a town of 5000 on the Gulf Coast in the Panhandle of Florida. Paige loves them, but she opted to stay behind where she had friends, a boyfriend, and a job. She'd roomed for seven years with her best friend, Abby, while completing an art degree and then moving into a job in the art department of an advertising agency. She'd been dating her boyfriend for over a year and assumed they would eventually marry. Then, suddenly, within a matter of months, Paige's world fell apart. First Abby moved to Washington, DC. Then Paige was laid off before she could get a roommate and could no longer afford her apartment. Worst of all, her boyfriend callously dumped her. With nothing of significance holding her in Philadelphia, Paige drove to Florida and moved in with her parents.
The culture shock between the big city and small-town life is initially almost too much for Paige to bear. In particular, multiple, vicious, female gossips are rude to her and spread false stories around town about Paige, insisting she is a promiscuous hippie who uses drugs, when in fact Paige merely has an artist's love for colorful clothing. Paige has difficulty finding a job, and she is about to give up on Mirabelle entirely when what starts out as yet another turn of terrible luck--her car breaking down--leads to what might be the best luck she's ever had. The man inside the tow truck who comes to rescue her is 28-year-old Brendan who, along with his grandfather, co-owns the only garage in the area, and just happens to be one of the best-looking and nicest guys Paige has ever encountered.
Paige is a sympathetic heroine whose "fish out of water" experiences form a large part of the story as she discovers two faces of the small, seaside town of Mirabelle: the judgmental, harsh gossips, and the kind, supportive friends she makes through her connection to Brendan.
Brendon is a very appealing hero who isn't just a handsome hunk: he's a great friend, a wonderful brother, son and grandson, and a man just waiting for the right woman to come along.
This New Adult (NA) novel with its protagonists in their late 20's is a refreshing change from so many of the college-based NA novels which are overflowing (ad nauseum) with bacchanalian frat parties, detailed, frantic sex scenes, and massively, obviously tattooed, alpha heroes. (Brendon does have one tattoo, but it is unobtrusively placed on one inner arm, and Paige's two tattoos are small, also well hidden, and of her own artistic design.)
In contrast, the style of this novel is very similar to contemporary romance novels written for the Harlequin American line, which have these characteristics: There is dual narrative of the heroine and hero. The main focus of the plot is the desire of the hero/heroine to be part of family and/or community. There is a strong sense of place within colorful, small-town life in the USA. (The author herself hales from the Panhandle of Florida, and she does an excellent job of portraying an authentic flavor of this setting.) The level of sensuality is low to moderate, and the warmhearted story contains both humor and light drama. In addition, as is the case with most all lines of Harlequin romance (even, I believe, the semi-erotic Blaze line), there is no coarse language within the sex scenes, though there is an occasional street curse from male characters.
This book has a gentle pace, exploring the courtship of Brendon and Paige across eight or nine months, and for most of the book, the conflict is mild, up until the climax, which has some tragedy and strong excitement. I haven't read a book like this in years, and it was an extremely refreshing, pleasurable experience.
This book is the first in a series set in Mirabelle, and it includes an excerpt from Book 2, Undeniable. This series is my favorite kind, in which the stories are linked by a shared setting and characters, rather than being an ongoing, melodramatic saga of the misadventures of the same romantic protagonists. The events of Book 2 occur six months after the end of Book 1 and encompass the romance between Brendon's younger sister, Grace, who is 24, and one of his two best friends, the town sheriff, Jax, who is 29.
Reviewer disclosure: I received a Kindle-format review copy of this book, at my own request, via NetGalley.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5