Second chance at love stories are my personal weakness. I love when characters are given a chance to re-do their lives, mend their broken hearts, correct the mistakes of their youth by choosing a different path in life, a better one, a happier one, and embrace a happy ending that should have been theirs in the first place. These stories literally make my skin tingle and while many have moved me and kept me enthralled, very few have truly left a mark on my soul as this beautiful tale has. Couple that with an exquisite writing style and a myriad of characters I adored, and I was in book heaven. This is one of those timeless love stories that shows us how unique true love is, how hard it is to find it, or let go of it. I giggled, I swooned, I fought to catch a breath while sobbing like a baby, and I have loved, loved every single moment of it. One of my favourite books of the year, one of my favourite stories ever.
“Whose life was I living? Mine or my mother’s?”
Julianna “Jules” White is a woman in her early forties, a mother to a rebellious teenager, a small business owner, a divorcée. She lives a normal life in the same small town where she was born and raised, the same normal life her mother lived, the same normal life her mother expected her to live. But everything in Jules’ life has been the result of one bad choice, one moment in time when she trusted someone else to make the right decision for her, and she has felt the crushing weight of regret in every breath she has taken ever since. And then, after twenty-six years of living a half-life, everything comes to a standstill when the love of her life comes back to town.
“Once upon a time you thought you’d die without him. Then you thought you’d crumble into dust if you ever saw him again. Well, he’s back. And you’re still standing.”
Noah Ryan is the boy who stole Jules’ heart when they were just kids, and he never gave it back. He is the boy who left her heartbroken, confused, angry, alone at seventeen and forced to forget every dream they ever made together. Her choices drove him away, but the day he left her swearing never to return again was the day Jules’ life became everything she never wanted. She closed her heart off to everyone who ever tried to love her, giving only part of herself to them, because her whole heart never stopped belonging to the one who got away. And now, as a forty-three-year-old woman, she is faced with the biggest ghost from her past as he returns with the proof that he has moved on in life.
“It’s been a lot of years. Everything got put away—doors locked up tight. But now you fall out of the sky and knock all those doors open. And suddenly I’m not sure where I am half the time.”
What follows is a heart-warming, comical at times, sexy, moving, somewhat bittersweet tale of giving love a second chance, but also of parenthood and finding that golden balance between overprotectiveness and letting your child make their own mistakes in life. Jules is not just a woman fighting to get her heart to beat again—she is also a mother desperately trying not to make the same mistakes her mother made, and to be the kind of parent she has always wished she had.
“And the romp in the rain?” she said, gesturing to the door. “That was—what?”
“Me finding him in the park,” I said.
“Because that was your obligation?”
I huffed out a breath. “No, Nana Mae, that was me looking to help a friend who was hurting.”
“By falling into his mouth.”
I stared at her. “So—my daughter’s having sex right now.”
She paused and raised her eyebrows as she looked down. “Better subject?”
Every part of this story got to me, every part of it made me feel, and what I loved the most was how imperfect the premise of this story was, how heavily tainted by one single mistake these characters’ lives have been, and how heavy the price of some happy endings can be. I was left smiling through my tears, replaying all the what-ifs in my head, knowing that this story was the best example of human resilience, forgiveness, and unconditional love. This is a book you will want to hug, revisit, tell your friends about. And it is a story you will forever hold dear in your heart.
“I’ve spent two decades living behind lines I never crossed. Twenty years of holding back, not giving my heart completely, not even to my husband. Not ever wanting to feel crushed like that again. And fifteen minutes with you blew all that away.”