Just like the first book in the Beaumont series, a second chance at love is the key theme of this companion novella to Forever My Girl. Nick Ashford was the ‘collateral damage’ in Josie and Liam’s story, a man who wished nothing more than to have a family of his own, but ended up losing both the woman he loved as well as the boy he considered and raised as his own son. He walked out of their lives a broken man, heartbroken and betrayed, and in order to distance himself from the constant reminder of what could have been his but now would never be, he left Beaumont and went to Africa to work as a volunteer.
“I needed to volunteer. I needed to feel as if my life meant something.”
We find Nick in a small clinic in the middle of Africa, doing what he does best – helping people. His living conditions are very modest and his working conditions very basic, but this simplicity helps him put things into perspective and re-evaluate the life he left behind. Flashback memories of Josie, Noah and their time together haunt him, keep replaying in his mind and hurting him over and over again. He regrets not fighting for his family and giving up on them too easily, but while his love for Josie slowly fades away, his guilt over leaving Noah behind without so much as an explanation, the boy he raised with her for six years and loved as his own, never does. His conscience burns and gives him no relief.
“Memories. That is all I have from the last six years.”
This is where Nick meets Aubrey, a young volunteer working as a nurse in his clinic. Nick is immediately attracted to her, but cautious not to get involved with her due to the limited nature of his stay in Africa. However, life is full of surprises and Nick is not only given a chance to love again, but to experience the kind of love he’s never felt before.
“When I look at her, I know what true love feels like. It’s the butterflies you get every time that person walks into the room or you get a whiff of their perfume from another room.”
When Nick finally returns to Beaumont, he has to face the ghosts he’s left behind and finally accept that the life he’s been grieving might have never been his in the first place. But his biggest challenge is rebuilding a relationship with the one he hurt the most with his sudden departure – Noah. This is a beautiful and very emotional, albeit too short for this greedy book junkie, story of finding one’s true happiness in life, letting go of a past that holds us behind and moving forward without looking back.
My only objection is that the intimate scenes between Nick and Aubrey could and should have been less fade-to-black and more detailed, more personal. It would have added an extra layer to the special connection between these two characters and given us a further, more vivid example of the unique attachment being woven between them. It should also be noted that this story should not be read without first reading Forever My Girl as it is a continuation of those events and I do not feel that the reader would get to experience the full depth of emotions that this story brings without knowing the background storyline.