An emotionally stirring novel that shows how obstacles can be overcome, differences can be strengths, and sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it’s absolutely right
If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not—and her parents’ worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.
But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam—who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived—Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital—even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.
Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.
Maybe I'm at the point where I've read too many Macomber novels, but this one just didn't quite sit right with me. I expect to be completely absorbed by her books, but instead I found myself rolling my eyes.
The conflicts between Sam and Beth felt really juvenile. I never had any doubt about whether they'd stay together. Sam acts like a grumpy bear and Beth takes it all in stride. And, spoiler alert, he has another woman's name tattooed across his chest. He is portrayed as kind of a playboy, but hadn't explained that to anyone until Beth. I don't buy it. He holds double standards to her and is passive aggressive when he has a problem. Sure, I'd buy their relationship long term, but they needed to work on it and grow together.
I couldn't help agreeing with Beth's mother when she commented on how Beth's spreading her wings led her straight into the arms of another saviour. I wish we had seen more of Beth moving to start with, about her getting her own job and teaching. There was a pair of students mentioned twice that I would have loved to see more of that would have given Beth more of her own personality.
And maybe I'm not the romantic I was, but I found it terribly challenging to believe the Sunshine subplot, of two very smart and capable people holding flames for thirty years over a relationship that lasted less than a year.
I wasn't a big fan of Macomber in a city setting. Her writing thrives with small communities where everyone knows each other. Here, she writes about Portland and Chicago but it feels like it could be absolutely anywhere else. Though I appreciate her branching out, I wish she had done more research into the feel of the cities to really capture the environment.
The role of the female in this book was another issue I had. There was very much the sentiment of thinking that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has children or love, preferably both. And that just drives me up the wall. There's talk about the independence of having a job, but the general sentiment is that a woman must have a man to be happy, and that really bothers me.
If you generally like Macomber, you'll probably enjoy this. I absolutely adored her last book and was really excited for this one, but I found it falling into the typical tropes of her older books.