This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Harlequin Special Edition
Released on 9/1/20
She gave up her plans and dreams after high school to raise her two younger brothers and now her new neighbor makes her life take on a new sparkle. Small town, close friends and family, a former baseball player… all the delights.
A Winning Season is the tenth in the Wickham Falls Weddings series of standalone contemporary romances.
A Winning Season opens with an eighteen year old, Zoey Allen, learning her dad and step-mom were killed in a carbon monoxide leak. She doesn’t even hesitate to set her life plans aside to get custody of her two younger brothers and promise Kyle and Harper they will all be together until they grow up.
Ten years later, Zoey is a home health care worker with dreams of going to college and becoming a nurse just as soon as Harper finishes high school in two years. But unlike his brother, Harper is getting into trouble and she is at her wits end. Her new neighbor, former baseball star, Sutton Reed, knows a thing or two about young men and offers to work with Harper. It’s not his celebrity status, but his kindness, comfort, and attraction she feels for him that make her want to change her plans to include her handsome neighbor.
Sutton saw the writing on the wall when he started playing as many games hurt as healthy so he walked away from the game before he was forced to leave. He reached the pinnacle of the career he always loved, got his history degree online while he played ball, and now he wants something else. He is headed back to his West Virginia home town to maybe get a new chance at marriage and family that he didn’t have with his ex. His eyes land on his amazingly strong and beautiful neighbor who he knows has lost so much, but worked hard for her brothers. Zoey is just the kind of woman he can fall deeply for if she would only let him be more than a neighbor, friend, and her brother’s mentor.
A Winning Season has that laid back charm of a good small town romance with engaging characters I could root for right away, and a slow burn romance while they work through life’s challenges. Part of the world of Wickham Falls, A Winning Season is full of glimpses to previous couples and characters and appears to take place at the same time as the previous story, Starting Over in Wickham Falls, with Sutton’s cousin getting her story.
The opening of the story introducing the Allen children’s tragic story pulled me right in and I enjoyed meeting Sutton and his family as well as getting a feel for the setting. Harper’s issues as a kid still struggling with loss and now teenage stuff is ripe and ready. I liked seeing his story develop with Sutton guiding him.
Sutton’s struggles are mostly in the past with a past relationship that didnt’ work because they wanted different things and also confronting his absentee dad. He’s older and in a different place than Zoey so he’s stable and ready for this new turn in his life. What a wonderful hero that had me swooning a lot.
Zoey’s story is split between her growing romance with Sutton and figuring out her life as her brothers are growing up and leaving home. She has a plan and that has seen her through, but she doesn’t realize that she has put so much into her brothers that she has no idea what to do when Sutton shows interest and enters her life. He shows and says his love early on, but she has a lot of baggage to unpack after shoving all those emotions and thoughts to the back of her mind just to get through each day. It turns out that Harper isn’t the only one still struggling. She never got past her birth mother abandoning her, her dad’s emotional distance, and the marital struggles she saw between Charlene and her dad. It all makes her hesitate to put herself out there even though she knows Sutton is the real deal.
There are many engaging scenes of just the two of them on casual or formal dates, surrounded by friends or family, and daily life in Wickham Falls. I loved it, but at the same time felt it could have been trimmed a little to move things along a bit more swiftly. Zoey needed time, but I did have the urge to grab her hand and drag her along a little faster. Sutton was very patient with her. There was a surprise event near the end that provoked a crisis. In a way, it wasn’t too big of a surprise, but at the same time, it felt like it came out of no where. Fortunately, it was swift and swiftly dealt with.
I had a good time in Rochelle Alers’ Wickham Falls world and would definitely like to go back for the other stories. I can heartily recommend this one to those who enjoy gently paced, slightly spicy small town romance.
My thanks to Harlequin for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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