A heartwarming feel-good story in a small southern town with a sweet romance, quirky familiar characters, and a gently-paced plot full of tough times, poignant scenes, humor, and triumph. This was my second venture into the author’s world of Blessings, Georgia and it was an absolute treat. There really isn’t an official series and the book reads as a standalone though there are connections through the setting and familiar secondary characters.
Blessings, Georgia is a small community with its fair share of the usual types and a strong interest in everyone’s business. Reputations are hard to live down just ask Dori Grant single teenage mom and Johnny Pine son of a man in prison and of a woman who OD’d on Meth.
Johnny does the best he can working his solid job and caring for his two little brothers. Things are tight, but they’re doing alright until his little brother is bullied and beat up badly by older boys from upstanding families. This shocks the whole community. And right behind this incident comes the tragedy that befalls poor Dori. She soon learns who the truly good people are when almost everyone turns their back on her when she is left destitute. The Pines might not have much, but they are the ones who offer help.
Johnny and Dori struggle under their burdens, but slowly start relying on each other as they face gossip, loss, trouble from their pasts, and getting by. They enjoy some fun moments with their temporarily blended families and both think longingly of what it would be like if it went beyond temporary. Both are hesitant about opening up their hearts and tentatively accept what is growing between them, but then life throws them some more curves and they are forced to fight for their chance to be together and to be a family.
This was such a tender, beautiful story when it came to Johnny and Dori, but encompassed a broader range to include their families and the life of the town. Johnny and Dori are the main narrators, but others take their turn as well so the story is told from several perspectives. This was cool because I got to see their story from their own telling, but also how other folks saw them and their situation and saw the overall picture.
The story has some strong conflict, but it was interesting how it wove into the story organically. Things like death, disaster, illness, mean-spirited and greedy people, kind-hearted and loving people, social status, and stigmas through up barriers and I was so vested to see how this pair of young folk tackled them separately and together.
The characters are are a definite strength. Dori and Johnny are very young and still under twenty, but they are world-weary and mature beyond their years taking on responsibility for themselves and the children who depend on them. They both have bad reps in the community and so try to just quietly live their lives. I had so much respect for them both.
The cast of secondary characters were a huge mixed bag. This is what is fun about a small town story told right. These extras that pepper the scenes with their good, their bad, their humor, and even their mean just keep me riveted. The beauty shop, the diner, the grocery store, the church, the school, and pretty much any place where the people gathered offered some entertaining story. But in addition, there was Dori’s baby, Luther Joe, and Johnny’s brothers, Marshall and Beep who totally stole every scene they’re in.
As to the romance, its part of the story and is definitely a really good part, but it is not the only part so it took a while to develop. Dori and Johnny both have reasons to be cautious and they are. They are young and red-blooded so the heat snaps between them, but refreshingly they do it all right. They have a lot of bad things happen and they even fall apart under the pressure, but by golly they would put to shame older couples the way they talked things out, trusted, and relied on each other. Loved this pair and couldn’t wait for them to get together.
All in all, this was a delicious, warm slice of southern small town life and I want a second helping. I would recommend this one for those who like slow-paced, heartwarming Contemporary Romance.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.