Review: The Sweetheart Secret by Shirley Jump

Review: The Sweetheart Secret by Shirley JumpThe Sweetheart Secret by by Shirley Jump

Series: #3 The Sweetheart Sisters
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Berkley on September 2, 2014
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars  

Some story scenarios just catch my attention and I can’t resist them like small town romances and reunion romances. In this case, it was a double bonus because I already enjoy this series and author for her heartwarming small town setting and tender yet tough romances, for her characters that desperately need love and of course for her inclusion of those adorable rescue dogs that end up with each couple. The series is tied together by the help *cough cough* interference of three matchmaking old ladies at the assisted living home and they generally steal the show.
Each book has gentle ties to the ones before it through recurring characters that are still there even after their story is told, but the stories could be read out of order or as standalones too.

This story opens with Doctor Colt Harper getting his examination room invaded by none other than the woman he married on a whim and broke things off three weeks later. That was fourteen years before and that was the end of any impulsive brash behavior on his part. Daisy Barton was trouble and she returns with a counter proposition to the divorce papers he sent that he should have sent long ago. Okay make that Daisy Barton is trouble because she is stirring up things in her usual way and turning his quiet, staid life on its head. He doesn’t need her kind of wildness what with trying to take care of his cantankerous old grandpa and keep the past relegated safely into the back of his mind so the pain and memories of his failures won’t resurface.

Daisy only wants one thing from Colt and that’s his name on a loan application to help her get her aunt’s neglected, old B&B back up and running. Daisy has never had a real home or stayed in one place very long all her life, but when her aunt asks her and her cousin to bring the old place in Rescue Bay back to life she jumps at the chance. Some of the happiest months of her life were spent there and she just knows that the old inn will work its magic once again on Emma’s life too and bring back the fun loving cousin that was as close as a sister. She has never stuck with anything in her life, but she plans to try this time for the sake of family and of the memories. All she has to do is persuade Colt- Colt who is nothing like the free-spirited man she married and is almost a total stranger who doesn’t think much of her. Unfortunately, he won’t just sign the loan; he needs help with his grandpa.

The situation is volatile as they share the same house and watch each other warily while fighting off temptation. Secrets glide beneath the surface and keep them from acting on their attraction. Nothing is simple they like to think even though Greta, their own matchmaker tells them that life is actually very simple- do what it takes to be happy. Can two lonely, damaged people be brave enough to reach out for more- for the whole thing or will they throw it all away and play it safe?

I enjoy how these stories have a few layers of tone to them. There is a lighter layer of small town characters, humor, fun, sweet little scenes, sexy moments and adorable dogs that do their best to bring their people together, but there is also the darker, painful layers underneath that hold the main characters back from living and loving.

I’m learning to be very careful about snap judgments when it comes to how I feel about the characters of this series particularly the heroes. They come across as Class A jerks in the beginning, but then there is a tweak and voila things aren’t what they seemed. In this story, Colt had a wild, carefree summer of love with an equally wild girl. They ran off at the end and got married. They were together for three weeks and then he left her leaving only a note with a promise to call and he didn’t. Then fourteen years later while at a medical convention, he sees her again and they get together for one night and he makes noises about getting back together and then drops her cold, again. Her next contact is to receive his divorce papers. He never explained what sent him running and he still doesn’t for most of the book, but he continues to blow hot and cold. See? Doesn’t look pretty, but…

Daisy comes across as this sweet thing that is trying to get her life back in order and is the easier person to connect with and sympathize with for much of the story. She was wounded by Colt leaving her not once, but twice and that was after her mother did it to her so often. But here’s the thing, Colt never knew her background because she kept herself closed off from him too. Never did she indicate that she wanted something deep, mature and lasting like settling down with a career, white picket fence and family in fact she made it clear that she wanted the opposite. She knew where he was for all those years, but she never pursued him to see why he left and never returned. Yes, he was so wrong for the way he handled it, but she didn’t fight for their marriage either. Her ‘live free, wild and take a chance’ lifestyle was just a way to mask her own fears and inner demons. And she did her own fair share of running and avoiding. Daisy had to grow and mature to see that the way the other half lived wasn’t a bad thing and it is okay to be settled and responsible.

So when this story is going on, there are two people who want each other, love each other, but are terrified to do anything about it. I loved how all this was set up and how the tension built between them. It was a tough romance between two stubborn people, but the angst level was appropriate for the issues. Colt redeemed himself when he healed from his grief and guilt and made a grand gesture to show he had changed. They both learned to appreciate their qualities of difference and to embrace each other’s strengths. Daisy made him work hard there in the end so it took away a lot of the negatives I was feeling for Colt earlier on. To be brief, it’s a book that requires lots of patience before things get better.

As with the ones before, I enjoyed the side stories. There are the secondary romances between Greta and Harold, and between Daisy’s Cousin Emma and Roger. The hilarious scenes with the seniors broke up some of the heavier stuff with Colt and Daisy and with Colt and his grandpa. I liked the peek-ins with the other couples too. Not sure who is next with their story, but Colt’s best friend sounds like a fun possibility.

In closing, this one left me with a heartfelt sigh of happiness and an appreciation for the author’s way of writing a romance. Contemporary Romance fans who like small town settings and couples who don’t make it easy on themselves might want to check these out.

My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I’m so glad to see you’re enjoying this series Sophia! I have book 2 that I got for review consideration earlier this year and it slipped by me. I’ll have to dig it back out and give it a read soon. It sounds like such a great series 🙂

    • I started with book two as well. This series is unique for me in that it is the heroes that I’m struggling to like- at first anyway- and the romances aren’t easy, but there is a lighter side with the other elements to balance it all out. Hope you like it! I still need to go back and get book one read.

  • The matchmakers sound hilarious! I have old aunts who likes to.do that and its annoying when you’re the one being matched but it sure is fun to watch some unfortunate girl go through it.

    • Yes, the old gals and the old guys are a hoot. They are the ones the series is named after.

  • shirleyjump

    Thank you so much for the review! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book!
    Shirley Jump

    • I enjoyed this one and the one before, Shirley. I have to go back for book one still. I love your take on romance that keeps me on my toes. 😉

      • shirleyjump

        Aw, thank you 🙂 You made my day!