After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he’s forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal—and learns the boy is Lauren’s son…
The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan’s door every day to work off his crime. With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can’t deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chance at true love?
Received review copy through Netgalley by Carina Press
Ryan Kowalski is back home in Whitford, Maine, but he’s not happy about it. His little brother Josh’s broken leg was the reason, but when he and his older brother, Mitch, see the state of their family’s lodge, they decide that a little work needs to be done. Ryan is a contractor. He owns his own business and business is good. There is nothing in Whitford that could keep him there, but there is definitely a reason for him to keep away. Years ago, Ryan asked Lauren Carpenter to leave her husband, his best friend, and take her young son, Nick, and run away with him. She said no, so he’s kept his distance from her and Whitford, only going back when absolutely necessary, but only staying at the lodge. He hasn’t seen Lauren since.
Lauren has since been divorced and is caring for her sixteen year old son who spends his weekend with his father and his father’s new family. Lauren is basically living in the town she grew up in, caring for her son, working, and going back home at the end of the day. But she loves her life, she’s independent (as much as a woman with children and no husband can be), so what if there’s no man around. She still sometimes fantasizes about what would have happened if she’d taken Ryan up on his offer, but she’s content. Until Ryan shows back up after all these years and she’s struck by the attraction she feels for him and she realizes how lonely she is.
Ryan’s a successful business man, but his business is in another state and there is really no option of giving it up or moving back to Whitford, much as his new relationship with Lauren could be going the distance. Lauren has ties to Whitford, her mother and father own the local hardware store, her son is in high school, her ex-husband has parental rights (plus he’s pissed at Ryan because when Ryan left town, he severed their friendship, though he didn’t know about Ryan’s offer to Lauren to run away with him). So while Ryan is in town, working on the lodge, they can see each other as much as possible, but his business seems to be falling apart without him around as much as he used to be.
This kind of romance is a nice change of pace. Ryan is still has feelings for Lauren when he returns to Whitford, despite his brief marriage that ended in divorce. That’s why he’s stayed away so long; everything in town reminds him of her. When Lauren turned Ryan down, she was truly in love with her husband, but his later cheating and their subsequent divorce has made her life pretty stagnant. She’s going through the motions, more or less. But when Ryan shows up, she gets to experience what she could have had with him. But the issues they have are not manufactured, they are real and they could actually prevent these people who are so perfect for each other from being together. Because even though they obviously love each other and have amazing chemistry together, they have to learn to compromise in a way that doesn’t leave either of them bitter.
I really loved Ryan and his love for Lauren was inspiring. He waited too long to tell the woman he loved how he felt about her, but he put himself on the line. I also really liked Lauren. She never compromised what she wanted. Her son was the most important thing (and her son’s part is the book was just spot on), but when it came time to make a decision, she realized how it would affect everyone involved, it didn’t just mean securing her own happiness. I loved how they finally gave into their attraction.
Another really important part of the book involves their friends and families. I loved reading the background stories about Rosie, the housekeeper at the lodge, and Lauren’s friends, and even Mitch and Paige’s wedding. I liked how Stacey incorporated other stories within this one and All He Ever Needed and I’m looking forward to seeing how they play out.