Oh it has been some time since I settled back for a visit with Sharon Sala’s Blessings, Georgia series. Oh my, this town and its people just draw me in and welcome me with truth Southern hospitality. This third book in the series like the others before it approaches some tough subjects in a gentle, heartwarming way bringing about healing and romance.
The Blessings, George series all tie together by the small town setting and some recurring characters, but they are nice and versatile in that they can standalone or be read out of order.
Saving Jake opens when Marine, Jake Lorde, returns to his hometown recovered from his physical injuries, but still bruised and in pain on the inside. Nightmares and flashbacks are his routine, loud noises and crowds are his bane. Survivor guilt is the worst for a man who was dubbed a hero because he survived a bomb when the friend who saved him didn’t make it back from war. Jake just wants to come home to the old family home and rest.
Laurel Payne eyes her new neighbor with trepidation. Old Mr. Lorde’s son is home and his past life as a Marine along with the expression in his eyes looks all too familiar. Her husband came back from the war all wrong and he took his life leaving her to clean up the pieces, literally, find a way to survive on the new reduced income, and raise their precious daughter alone since the Payne family all blame her for his death. Jake Lorde might be good looking and he might be the kindest and hardworking man she knows, but she wants nothing to do with a hurting and broken warrior after the last one.
But between the needs of sweet little Bonnie Payne and the nudges of the people of Blessings, this pair of lonely hurting people begin as friends, find comfort and help each other through each new situation. A vengeful man in the shadows, feuding family, fear in the night hours, and the toils of daily life become doable when they do it together.
The author brought together two people weighted under the troubles of PTSD, survivor’s guilt, suicide, and blame. The subjects are dark, but yet the bright and warmth of the story shone through bringing hope and love. There is laughter and few tears.
It’s a gently paced story that keeps the reader on her toes as it swaps between narrators and scenes rapidly. Jake and Laurel are the main narrators, but the other cast of characters share in the telling and in a few brief scenes apart from the main story plot. There is a humorous side plot when an enemy of Jake’s plots to harm him and runs up against the consequences for his actions frequently. The situation with Laurel’s in-laws was sad, but I loved seeing her be the bigger person and show them up even while I pitied them for what happened as a result of their meanness.
I enjoy how the town and it’s people are present as the backdrop with this small mountain town heads into the Fall holiday season of school costume parades and fall festival, Thanksgiving with the folks, and visits to the Curl Up and Dye, the Piggly Wiggly, and the diner in between.
The romance is a neighbors to friends to lovers that develops slowly. Neither want nor think they can have a relationship at first. They fight attraction even while clinging to the help and companionship that comes along. Jake is a strong protector and I about melted into my chair when he took care of ‘his girls’ being the hero they needed and showing his gratitude to his fallen comrade for the life he saved by finally living it happily. Laurel is fierce and independent, but Jake’s care and tenderness allow her to lower her walls and allow herself to have love and trust again. They were wonderful together and I loved how cute little Bonnie enhanced rather than distracted with her part in the story.
All in all, I was filled with heartwarming pleasure when it was through. I adore this series that makes me think of homecooking, good neighbors, and a town I would love to live in. This is for those who like gently-paced, touching small town romance.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #301 CR