I’m forever on the lookout for emotionally satisfying stories with strong heroines over forty who are embarking on a ‘second act’ in their lives, and as my own years begin to add up, I find myself gravitating more and more towards not only characters with some miles on them, but also towards stories that make us believe it’s never too late to find true love in life. On one hand, this is a third-chance romance between two college best friends who, after losing touch for more than twenty years, run into one another and have a single night of passion that ends badly in the morning. When they see each other again some years later, their new working relationship forces them to face their past and to deal with feelings that neither of them have ever truly gotten over. But on the other hand, this is also a searingly personal tale of a woman navigating her way through middlescence, of finding herself after a lifetime of self-doubt, and of letting her natural sparkle shine even brighter. I fell in love with every word, every sentence, every page of this exceptional Gen-X romance.
By this point in her life, she was confident she was smart, talented, and decent looking. She just wasn’t sure she was smart, talented, or decent looking enough. Divorce did that. It rattled your foundation.
Lela Bennett never imagined that she’d be learning to stand on her own at the age of forty-seven. But divorce has forced her to re-examine her source of self-worth and confidence, as well as all the career ambitions she has put on hold for so long. Her final push, however, comes in the form of a one-night stand with a long-lost college friend that leaves her feeling angry and hurt, and driving her to not only finally take a chance on herself by turning her dream of starting her own cosmetics business into reality, but to also embrace her age instead of trying to hide it.
She might have devoted her career to making other women beautiful, but for the first time in her life, she felt that way about herself, and a big part of that was her glorious silver hair.
Three years later, Lela’s company has grown enough to join a leading fashion and beauty consortium that promises to take her little brand to the next level. The only catch is that she is forced to work with the very man who walked away from her twice before, each time leaving her feeling inadequate and forgotten. But Lela is not the same unguarded woman she once was, and this time around, she is keeping her heart firmly locked away from the only man who’s ever managed to break it.
“Talking about any of this doesn’t change what happened. You still would’ve left in the middle of the night, and I would be walking through life, tired of feeling like I was never good enough for you.”
Three decades did little to change Donovan James’s attitude towards marriage or to improve his ability to build a stable, long-lasting partnership with someone. Thrice divorced and desperate to earn a real relationship with a daughter he barely saw while she was growing up, Donovan never expected his daughter’s new business partner to be none other than a woman he’s cared for deeply for more than three decades, but regrettably ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’amed’ on two separate occasions, both times leaving her without even a goodbye. From the moment they meet again, however, Donovan is faced with the stark realisation that his actions might have also cost him a friendship he cherished more than he knew, and that the beautiful, brilliant, vibrant woman standing before him might never look at him the same way she once did.
Was it over for Lela and him? It sure sounded like that. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the direction his heart wanted to take. He knew he was stumbling his way through this, but he had no clue how to break his fall.
The author infuses the characters with such depth and sincerity that you can’t help but cheer for them even when they’re aren’t perfect or particularly likable, weaving a compelling, emotionally rich tale of two people who are the catalysts of their own change. Lela is the true star of this story, though, her strength, compassion, and generosity of spirit shining through in her every act. I became invested in her character from the get-go, and loved watching this quiet wallflower bloom into a confident, self-motivated go-getter who is not afraid to put herself out there for love. My reading tastes might continue to change over the years, but I’ll always be in the mood for stories like these.
“Thank you for waiting thirty years for the stars to align.”