This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Forever
Released on June 23, 2020
A prodigal returns and the past still has her in its clutches when a scarred and bitter version of her old high school nemesis hires her to design him a house. Can a new understanding lead to something more? Hope Ramsay’s heartwarming, coastal small town romance delighted me and left me wanting more.
Return to Magnolia Harbor is the third book in a gently-paced, character driven series that introduces standalone romances, but with a series arc involving a pirate, a little boy, a grieving woman, and a Gullah family that need to be taken in order to see it all play out.
Jessica Blackwood was driven out of town and out of her family by a domineering parent who refused to believe the truth when rumors about her and Colton St. Pierre started to fly. Nothing happened, but teenage Jessica got stamped as a fast girl anyway. She came back to take care of her dying mother and ended up opening her own architectural design office. A few solid commissions will really establish her. Meanwhile, the rumors about Colton and her continue though they are still just friends. Jessica still finds herself hurt deeply and works hard to give people no reason to talk. Taking the commission to design wealthy businessman, Topher Martin’s reclusive island home only stirs the gossip embers into flames and she has hated him since high school, but money is money and a building clientele make it worth it.
Topher’s car wreck disfigured him and ruined his leg. It took even more when the once popular, confident man only wants to hide and lick his wounds. Fiery, angry Jessica agrees to design and contract for his dream to happen. His family loves him, but they fight him on this and it is only his reluctant architect who stands by him. He is intrigued by her and finally gets her to tell him why she hates him and then the truth of the past can start to heal them both.
Meanwhile, Ashley runs her B&B, tries to get past her grief, avoid uncomfortable feelings for Micah St. Pierre, do her best to scotch Topher’s unsafe plans to move to a remote island, and most of all staunch her son’s belief and fixation on the ghost of a local pirate legend. He is so certain as is Topher, her cousin, but she refuses to by into this crutch to grief.
There is so much going on with this latest series installment. New characters, Topher and Jessica are introduced and get their story in the forefront, but there is also the ongoing story of Ashley and Micah, the pirate, and now Colton’s romance beginning. The quilting group was background as was the Gullah culture for this one. It was sailing and architecture, old town rumors, a scheming rep who was a bully and sexual predator, and the secret history of the town come to light.
I suppose this was an enemies to lovers story, but I felt it was too one-sided for that. The author was going for Beauty and the Beast as a theme and that I could see. Though, here’s the thing, Topher was disfigured on the outside and could get cranky and reclusive as a result, but at her core, Jessica was pretty beastly herself at first for good reason.
I sympathized with her pain in being shuffled out of town by her own family and thought to be a liar and a girl who lost her virginity to one of the school bad boys by everyone else when none of the gossip was true. It really was damaging and she was assaulted by another kid at the school and couldn’t even go to her dad about it because she knew he would take the guy’s side since he was a football player. She really had it hard and had no support. She was sent off to boarding school and then only got her architectural degree because she earned a scholarship. Her family had washed their hands of her. And, the town was happy to believe the worst because her family did. Coming back, she had the wrong end of the stick about Topher and really gave him a hard time, but she soon started learning the truth about many people including herself. She went from cringing, don’t-rock-the-boat-and-cause-more-rumors to a woman who stood for herself. Jessica was such a powerful heroine.
Topher had a relatively easy early life when it came to family support though he grieved the loss of closest family and endured his early rep as a nerd. He became a ruthless businessman and seem to have it all until his looks were gone and his fiance left him. Because of his disfigurement and disability, he was well aware of what it was like to be stared at and talked about so he was in a unique position to support and understand Jessica when he got past her prickles and old assumptions about him. He had a tender heart and he was so good with a young boy who just needed to be believed.
Ashley and Micah’s story has been building to a crisis point. Micah is being so patient with her. In this book, she turned down right ugly (another Beast) to Micah and to her own son in her effort to squelch an imaginary pirate fixation and any feelings that she felt was a betrayal to her dead husband. I couldn’t believe to what lengths she went to to block Topher’s dream (NOT HER BUSINESS) and her son’s. What she did was so wrong and yet it was barely noted. Does it come up in the next book? I really don’t know what to think of her. I guess I pity her and hope she can get things untangled inside her head before she drives off everyone she loves the most. Need her story Stat!
I enjoyed it all and this was an amazing read until the very end- when it just ended leaving me with more than one unanswered question about the main couple and more like I mentioned about Ashley. The side stuff being left open was no big deal as it will carry over into the next book. But, for me not to know how some things resolved that were part of the main conflict was disappointing. The romance itself resolved, but things in their lives did not.
I can’t recommend this series enough if contemporary romance fans want deep and thoughtful characterization, descriptive and engaging setting and plot, well-developed and a little spicy romance.
My thanks to Forever for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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