To encapsulate all the feelings that a Kristen Ashley novel stirs up in me is always an ambitious feat in itself, her stories being an extraordinary emotional journey beginning to end, and this book did not disappoint. Mickey and Amelia’s story moved me deeply, just as I expected it would, but the sheer beauty of their romance caught me by surprise. I never expected to relate so completely to two characters representative of this particular point on the age spectrum, and while their sizzling chemistry is truly something to behold, the emotional aspect of their connection, specked with just the right amount of heart-pricking angst, took my breath away on more than one occasion. This is a story about life, about the unexpected journeys that life takes us on, about the curveballs, about the direct hits and the pain they bring, but it is first and foremost a story about second chances at finding happiness, about finding the strength to be whole again and fighting for what matters the most in life. A truly splendid example of this author’s inimitable style of storytelling—I walked in these characters’ shoes, I felt all they felt, my heart roared every time they ‘soared’, and in the end, I did not want to say goodbye to them.
“There is nothing guaranteed in life. But the only leaps worth taking are leaps of faith on love. So look where you leap, beautiful, and happy landing.”
Amelia Hathaway is a woman in her late forties, an heiress, a mother, a scorned wife. The unexpected demise of her marriage made her lose herself in her anger and pain, turning her into the kind of vindictive individual her privileged upbringing taught her she should be, but while reeling in self-pity and fury, Amelia lost herself along the way, the ultimate cost being the affections and respect of her two beloved children. In a desperate attempt to start anew, to beat back the anger and bitterness that poisoned her mind for too long, and to give her children the kind of mother they could not only love again, but also be proud of and learn from, she moves to Magdalene, the small coastal town her ex-husband and their children made their new home.
“No matter what it took, no matter how much time, no matter that it made me bleed, no matter what it cost me, no matter that it would take everything I had and force me to find more, I had to do what I’d come to Maine to do.”
But a new house, new friends, a new purpose in life mean little when one’s confidence has hit rock bottom, and Amelia’s wake-up call arrives in the form of a handsome firefighter neighbour, whose striking looks and protective demeanour make her wish he’d see her the way a man sees a woman he wants in his life. But she soon realises that before anyone can see her that way, she needs to like what she sees in the mirror.
“He didn’t need me in his life. I didn’t even like me in my life. Alas, I couldn’t escape me.”
Mickey Donovan is a single dad, a natural provider, a man who works two jobs in order to give his kids the life they deserve, even when doing what he loves means living a more modest life than the one he was born into. The slow downfall of his marriage has made him question all he can offer a woman, especially a woman like Amelia Hathaway, knowing he could never give her all that she has been accustomed to having in her life. But Amelia’s insecurities put a different spin on Mickey’s reluctant behaviour.
“He didn’t want me, plain and simple. I was just his…‘attractive’ neighbor.”
When they finally take a leap and give in to their attraction, they inevitably connect on every level, but they don’t rush—they take their time, they show consideration for the people in their lives such a union would affect the most, and they give themselves time to get to know one another. The true beauty of these characters is that they are two formed, adult individuals who know what they’d gain by taking a chance on such a love, what they risk missing out on if they don’t, and who are now prepared to work their hardest to hold onto the rare magic they found in each other. The slow evolution of their relationship is as it should be, gradual and organic, each emotional milestone sinking deeply into our hearts and making us smile in delight. And there is so much to smile about in this story!
“… there is no safer place than in my arms and when you’re here, Amy, you can give me anything.”
This is the tale of a woman who always had a lot in life, and yet all she ever wanted was a loving family and a man to stand by her and accept her for all that she is. And it is the tale of a hard-working man coming to terms with the fact that some women are not looking for glitz and gold in life, but the simple joy of loving and of being loved by a man who understands them and provides for them in ways no money could ever buy. With so many aspects of this story designed to tug at our heartstrings, this was not a book I was able to read in one sitting, taking my time to fully absorb the magnitude of some particularly emotional scenes in the story. While this might be in essence a love story, this is also a tale of broken families, of healing families, of new families. And it is a story of redemption, showing that we are not defined by the mistakes we make, but by the steps we take to correct them.
“I am who I am. I have what I have. And one of the things I got that I wanna keep is you.”
“From the gentleman down the bar…for you,” the bartender said.
I looked from him down to the fresh cosmopolitan he put in front of me then down the bar at an attractive man with blond hair, a little gray at the temples, his smiling blue eyes on me.
“Holy shit,” Alyssa said, sitting on a stool at a nice restaurant with a respectable bar one town over called Breeze Point.
“Lovely,” Josie, sitting on my other side, murmured.
We were out “trolling” as Alyssa put it, or “having girl time with the possibility of something happening” as Josie put it.
I decided to think of it as the latter as well as an opportunity to wear another of my going out outfits.
But at that moment, when the possibility of something happening happened, I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t had a man buy me a drink in so long that I forgot what I’d done when they did.
Since my current drink was running low, I lifted it to my lips, finished it and put my fingers to the stem of the glass of the new, shifting my eyes back to the man.
He smiled back again.
“Pure cool,” Alyssa approved.
“Well done,” Josie did the same.
I looked to Josie and noted, “He’s only sent this because you both have huge rocks on your fingers.”
They did. Although Josie’s was a fair sight bigger than Alyssa’s, neither ring failed to state the giver’s intention that these two women were t-a-k-e-n, taken.
And they were far more attractive than me, both tall, both blonde and both stunning.
“You say shit like that again, I’m bitch slappin’ some sense into you and don’t you doubt it,” Alyssa muttered.
I looked to her to see her eyes squinty on me, but I did doubt it.
Alyssa would never do that. She’d threaten it repeatedly (if needed), but she’d never do it.
“You’re hot,” she went on to declare.
“I’m not a tall, built blonde,” I pointed out.
“No, you’re a petite, beautiful brunette with big knockers, awesome gams and a great ass even though you pushed out a coupla kids and the rest of you is still too skinny,” she retorted. “Now shut up or I’ll bring a catfight to Breeze Point, I don’t care how ritzy this place is.”
“She’s right, you know,” Josie said and I looked her way. “There are many varieties of…hot.”
Josie using a slang word, something she rarely did, made me giggle.
“Now grab that drink, sister, and get that great ass over to that hot guy,” Alyssa ordered.
I looked to her in surprise.
“Me go to him?” I asked.
“He laid it out,” she said by way of answer. “You got your bitches with you. Don’t make him come over here and lay it out in front of your bitches. It’s already hard enough to put himself out there, buyin’ a drink for a beautiful woman, settin’ himself up for a crash and burn seein’ as he’s cute but you’re all that’s you. Don’t make it harder.”
I saw her point (though I might not have entirely agreed about “all that’s me”) but I didn’t like this.
And it struck me that I didn’t like this because I was me.
I was greedy.
I wanted it all.
I wanted a man who had confidence enough in himself not to lay it out but to lay it out. I wanted a man who looked at me and was so drawn to me he’d put himself out there for me. He took the chance to walk over to me with my friends and show me how much he wanted me. I wanted a man who would demonstrate he wanted me so much, he’d do anything to have a shot with me.
He’d buy me a drink.
He’d walk over and speak to me.
He wouldn’t give one thought to “shitting where he lived” because he was my neighbor. Instead, he’d want me so badly he’d throw caution to the wind just for a chance to be with me.
That’s what I wanted.
And that was what I would get or I’d take nothing.
Shock of shocks, I was okay being alone in my big house with mostly me as my company. I wasn’t going to settle for just anybody so I’d be less lonely because I was no longer lonely.
I was just alone.
And I was fine with that.
“If he wants me,” I mumbled, lifting the drink he bought me to my lips and before taking a sip I finished, “He can come and get me.”
“Well, batten down the hatches, babe, ’cause here he comes,” Alyssa stage-whispered loudly.
My body locked.
“Ladies,” a smooth male voice said.
I took my sip, luckily not choking, and swiveled on my stool.
He was right there, smiling at me then he looked beyond me. “If you’ll get these other ladies a drink and put them on my tab.” He looked from the bartender to me. “I’d like a moment with you to introduce myself privately.”
He lifted his hand to me.
I looked into his blue eyes that were not as beautiful as Mickey’s but they were still handsome.
Then I looked to his hand, which was not as strong as Mickey’s, and not rough at all, but it was a nice hand.
And of its own accord, my hand lifted and my fingers curled around his.
He gripped them and helped me off my stool.
I took my drink with me as he kept hold of my hand and walked me back to where he had been sitting.
As I walked, I glanced over my shoulder to see Josie beaming and Alyssa mouthing, “Go get him, tiger.”
I grinned at them and allowed myself to be led away.
His name was Bradley.