I’ve been wanting to give this author a try for so long particularly after I read such favorable reviews of her books from time to time. I saw the opportunity and the blurb sounded good so I requested it. Second chance + small town + romance, love the sound of that!
The story begins when Nina Spencer returns to her hometown after eight years away. She never planned to come back, but with her Gram’s failing health and her own failed business, she needs a place to lick her wounds and regroup. She left under a black cloud of mixed feelings of guilt, heartbreak, and sense of betrayal. After being left with her Gram by her parents when they divorced and went their separate ways and then thinking she found forever love with Mack Finley only to have him refuse to leave home and come with her, left her in quite a state. Now it’s time to face up to her past including Mack.
Mack has avoided his hometown for years by moving an hour away to Nashville and opening his business there. Well truthfully, he left his mother and her drama behind. He loves her and for years he and his siblings lived with a woman with bi-polar issues, but after losing his best friend in a car crash and then the girl he loves leaves him behind, he just wants out. But now, his older brother needs his help on the town harvest festival. Scott’s losing his marriage much like Mack lost his, Mack’s niece is suffering under the turmoil of her parents’ fighting, and he knows he needs to be there for his mom. Nothing prepared him for the return of Nina, the one that got away.
Mack and Nina have a lot water under the bridge and it isn’t easy as they work through it. They aren’t even sure they should try, but old feelings flame back to life and they are left with feelings of longing even knowing that Nina wants a family and Mack will never have one for fear that his mother’s disorder will be passed on. So they take what they have while guarding their hearts and work hard to make this the best harvest festival the town has seen.
Meanwhile, another story of young love and a troubled girl brews in the background. Will she find the love and support she needs to keep her from running away?
Alright, so this one was an emotional story that touched on some deep themes: mental health disorder, divorce, separation, death, guilt, abandonment. I like it when an author takes challenging elements like that and instills hope, healing, and love. The story was gently paced and was more character driven. The narration was from alternating Mack, Nina, and Ally’s points of view.
Now, when I first started reading, I was afraid that I got something else. That something else being a whole latta drama. I’m not a fan of romance with a huge side of angst and I don’t care for characters that whip up the drama. Nina started out that way for me, but then I realized that this was exactly the flaw in her character that would be the area of growth. Nina, by running away from her problems, left herself in limbo as the years passed. She made good when she left by finishing college and starting up a successful cupcake business, but she did it by not dealing with her past. On her return, she was bristly with blame and in full defense mode jumping to conclusions and ready to rumble. Coming back forced her to see that her take on the past was that of an immature and hurting teenage girl who was the center of her own universe. She wanted to throw all the blame on Mack and his mother and her own parents for all her troubles. Now, hearing the other side of the story and seeing everything through adult eyes, she is finally able to gain perspective and heal.
Mack, too, had some arrested growth going on even though in most ways he was more grounded than Nina back in the day because of all he had to go through with his mother. He chose not to runaway physically, but he had his own way of protecting himself by pulling away from his family and only being in relationships on his terms. It was neat seeing him come home to see that his mother had better help with modern medicine and that Ally, his niece, wasn’t going to be the mess that his mother was since she had so many more opportunities and help.
And, alongside Mack and Nina’s story was Ally’s story. She is a teenage girl who is slowly realizing that she has bi-polar disorder like her grandmother. It scares her since she is isolated and without friends to talk to including her parents who are too busy ripping their marriage apart. Her grandmother is her lodestone, but now when she needs her most, her grandmother is struggling, too. Ally has a crush on Ethan and he is all that is good in her life until she thinks he is with another girl. The blow crushes her and sends her over the edge so that now others can see what she has kept hidden. She just wants to run away and get away from it all. I felt like the author did a wonderful job of not only writing a teenage perspective, but one of a girl struggling with mental health issues and the falling apart of her family.
I wasn’t expecting all these elements in this story, but was glad to have them. I was also tickled to have the fall harvest festival going on in the background. It’s a perfect fall read and has me craving some of Nina’s baking, the chance to dance to one of Mack’s up and coming bands, walk Ally’s maze, go on a hayride, carve a pumpkin, and enjoy BBQ at the local hangout while visiting with some of the folks of Heartache, Tennessee.
I look forward to more from this series and would easily recommend the book to those who love a spicy small town second chance contemporary romance.
My thanks to Lola’s Blog Tours for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.