Published by Montlake Romance on June 27, 2017
Genres: Adult, Second Chance Romance
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Violet Duke debuts an emotional series about letting go, starting over, and trusting in the redemptive power of love.
Emma Stevens is ready for a fresh start in Juniper Hills, but she still lives with the impossible guilt of her past: having failed to rescue her little stepbrother from a fire that decimated her childhood home and her family. Her next-door neighbor may have been the one to drag her out of the burning building that night, but it doesn’t exonerate him since he caused the fire. Not even when he shows up fourteen years later to help salvage her bakery.
Jake Rowan may not have been able to save Emma’s brother from the fire, but at least he was able to save his own brother. By taking the fall and the punishment for him, Jake managed to protect his older brother’s future…but it cost him the girl of his dreams.
Now Jake finds himself on Emma’s doorstep once again. Not to save her life this time, but to repair it. And more importantly, her heart, if she’ll let him.
“I always knew you’d grow up to be something special, Emma Stevens.”
Emma was so strong for her family. Even at twenty three years old, she picked up her life and took her sister to a better town to live in. She supported her sister’s dreams before even considering her own and did everything in life to make Megan’s a better one. Emma was extremely humble about all of this at the same time, which in my mind makes her more endearing as well. What the big kicker was though was how when Jake walked back into the picture, it was Megan who actually turned around to help Emma get through it. It was Megan’s perspective which finally allowed Emma to let go a little of her resentment towards him. It was Megan who showed Emma her outlook on life, and how it was nothing but compassionate and positive, even when Jake where concerned. This helped change how Emma saw him and was truly a big catalyst of the romance portion of the plot. I liked how the sisters could rely on each other this way and it wasn’t always one being strong and helping the other, they both filled this role.
“I didn’t recognize him. Why didn’t you call me? I would’ve come down sooner if I’d known.”
This wasn’t going at all how she’d imagined. “Why would you have come down?”
“To see how he’s doing. To thank him for saving my life. To see how his brother and sister are doing. I don’t know. Why? Did you think I wouldn’t want to see him or something?”
“Things we lose usually stay lost. Folks we miss, we typically don’t ever get a chance to stop missing. Now, Peyton’s never going to walk back into our lives again, but Jake just did. So if you miss Jake like I suspect you do, you now have a chance to close up that hole he left in your heart after the fire . . . one way or another.”
So yes, there’s a lot of heaviness in this book but there’s also a lot of fun and lighthearted moments as well. For instance, these characters would make little jabs or play pranks on each other, which was so refreshing, especially after the start to their story. To be able to find the room in your heart to laugh with the person who you hated for so long? That was great to see. It was also absolutely fantastic how easily Jake could read Emma’s thoughts and how he called her on it. Drove the poor girl nuts but as a reader, it was extremely entertaining.
“All he knew was that it was on. Messing with a man’s coffee was just plain mean.”
I really liked the small town family vibe that Juniper Hills had going on. A lot of times small towns are portrayed as being nosey and in everyone’s business, how you can’t keep anything to yourself and etc. Sure, that’s still true here, but it was mixed with warm and welcoming citizens who were more than happy to have Jake around, especially if he was helping the towns beloved Emma. Everyone had their own crazy stories and were more than happy to let Jake in. They treated him as part of the family and gave him a reason to love the little town even more.
Barb arched an observant eyebrow. “Well, well. I think maybe I’m warning the wrong person. Don’t you go letting her break your heart now.”
Guess her soothsayer powers weren’t always quite so accurate. “Lost my heart a long time ago,” he admitted quietly, for Barb’s ears only. “So you don’t need to worry about me.” Nothing to break here.
“Oh, I’m not worried. I think you’ll be just fine.” She patted him gently on the shoulder in a sage seer way. “That said, word to the wise so you’re not caught unaware. Most of us only call things in our life lost when it’s something we hope to find again one day.”
Want to know something so absolutely fantastic that I loved immensely? The fact that these characters grew up, and actually acted like adults! The sad thing is, that shouldn’t be such a selling point but I was so happy when they spoke and acted like adults, treated each other as the grown up versions they are and didn’t fall back into any fits or immature words and actions, because that seems all too common these days. I love when a character can actually act their age, know what they want to do/say/feel, and can express that.
Jake is actually the swooniest book boyfriend ever. It’s been decided. By me. Right now. So I think that makes it official. Really though, his actions were on point and his words even better. I could feel his yearning for the heroine through the pages. Some of things he said either to or about her, wow, I think even I melted, so there’s no way that Emma could’ve stayed strong! Plus all the small things he did to show her who he is now as a person, his integrity and respect, his attention to detail and his desire to make her happy. Their first date for instance, was the absolute perfect thing for these two.
“I think,” he said quietly to his captive audience, “my favorite small-town memories are mostly about the girl next door.” He slid his hooded eyes over to her and snagged her gaze for a full beat. His eyes went from the calm sage green they normally were, to the dark mossy green they sometimes got when he was deep in thought. Instantly, she felt herself get sucked into his orbit like she used to when they were teens. “Looking over my family’s fence and seeing her out in her backyard, giving the sun a reason to shine, was always the best part of my day.”
If you read the blurb about this book, you already know that it’s going to have an interesting and unique plot, definitely not something that you see all the time floating around the book world. Now based on this alone, I expected this book to be jam packed with angst, but I was actually surprised at how manageable it was. Everything was it small doses as to not overwhelm the reader, and broken up with fun pranks or town stories to lighten the mood.
I really appreciated the issues that these characters had to find a way to overcome. I understand why it was so hard for Emma and in turn, the fact that it was as equally hard on Jake added some excellent depth to the characters and the storyline. Their journey to then overcome and move past these issues was a fantastic one. I can easily believe the chemistry these two had as teenagers when they first met because it has those first love kind of vibes too.
You’re incredible, Emma Stevens.” His voice grew thick with emotion. “No one’s ever done for me what you did.”
“Gush about you like you’re the best thing since sliced bread?” she asked, eyes crinkling at the corners.
He shook his head. “You defended me. Protected me. Fought for me. Despite everything in our past, despite having every reason not to, you continue to choose to believe I’m worth all of that. Unconditionally. Based on blind faith alone. I’ve never had that before.”
In fact, he’d never felt he even deserved any of that before today.
This is my second book by Violet Duke and the writing is just so comfortable, it feels soft and welcoming, kind of like coming home. I can’t wait to jump into her other stories, because this is a feeling that any reader can appreciate.
*An ARC was received in exchange for an honest review.