A beautiful story about second chances brimming with all the feels you can imagine. One of my absolute favorites this year!
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Noah Ryan and Jules Doucette spent every moment together, first as best friends and later as young lovers. The two had planned a life together—until one unspeakable decision tore them apart for good.
Twenty-six years later, Jules is still carefully living the life her mother planned out for her. She’s running her mother’s store, living in her mother’s house, following her mother’s rules, and keeping the secrets her mother made her bury.
Then Noah comes home and any sense of an ordered life flies out the window. Noah’s return does more than just stir up old memories—it forces Jules to see her life in a whole new way and uncovers secrets even she didn’t know were buried. Secrets that could easily destroy her world once more.
“Sometimes it’s the harder relationships, the complicated ones you have to fight and claw for that have staying power.”
There are some books that grab you because the writing is phenomenal or distinctive. There are some books that draw you in with heart-pounding suspense and mystery. Some that grab you with an addictive, unidentifiable quality. And some have a particular character that drives you to maddening heights in the best possible way. Although this book pulls in elements of the aforementioned, it’s the story and the way it is penned so beautifully, which made me fall in love with this book. I’m on such a wonderful, feel-good high from reading it and I feel like shouting about it from the mountain tops. This is a story about second chances. About mistakes made and love lost. About feeling abandoned and finding your own way. It’s also about forgiveness and hope and being courageous enough to fight for your happily ever after.
“Noah Ryan was my first love. He was my first everything. He was my first boyfriend, daring me to climb to the top of the monkey bars in the second grade and then kissing me square on the mouth when I did… He was the first to break my heart, then steal it again. He was the first boy to ever tell me he loved me, the first one I ever loved back, and the one I gave my first time to… Fumbling and awkward and passionate in the pouring rain one late April night, driven by young love and raging hormones, we learned what making love was. And what making life was.”
For Jules Doucette, life was routine and calm, living in the same small town she grew up in, in the house her mother passed down to her, running her mother’s bookstore, while she raised her teenage daughter, Becca. She was divorced from a husband she never fully gave her heart to and the only man she had loved without abandon, had left her so many years ago with a hole in her heart she was never able to fill. He left, and her past, her future, all crumbled into secrets her mother forced her to bury. Until one day, that man–Noah Ryan–walked back into her life, dredging up everything that was painful and unsettling, igniting emotions she didn’t have a right to feel.
“Twenty-six years. A lifetime ago. And yet in that moment, with Noah Ryan standing fifteen feet away from me, I was suddenly the seventeen-year-old… holding his hand in the hallway.”
The chemistry that immediately rekindled when their gazes met again, made my heart beat furiously with anxiety and excitement. Lovelace was able to quickly build that tension that helped drive the plot forward and keep the pacing engaging. Seeing Noah again causes Jules to take another look at her life, examining whether she had been following in the footsteps her mother had dictated for her, or whether she was truly living the life she had at one time hoped for herself.
“Whose life was I living? Mine or my mother’s? Whose plans, Mom? Mine or yours?”
Noah and Jules had grown up together. They were each other’s best friends. Each other’s first loves. Even at seventeen, they loved each other passionately… recklessly even, planning a future full of love and possibility. Then fate intervened and a situation that should’ve brought them closer together, tore them apart, much of it due to Jules’ mom. Noah left. Left Jules on her own, battling her own sadness and heartache. That hurt, that pain, that anger… it all morphed into a wound that would never fully close. A wound that began to fester the second Noah stepped back into town.
“Everything we used to be in another lifetime was still there, pushing and tugging and teasing. It wasn’t just my imagination. I’d seen it in his eyes as well.”
With so much lost time, lingering hurt, a lifetime of experiences and other lovers, you would’ve thought that the intensity of their feelings had waned, but no… Everything was still there. A maelstrom of unrequited love, pain, sadness, betrayal. And with Noah’s return, came news… news that made it clear that Jules could never look at Noah the same way. Could never love him again.
“You aren’t the only one that hasn’t been able to love anyone, Jules,” he said under his breath. “And I’ve tried.”
I don’t want to spoil a moment of this book, but I can tell you that there are so many elements at play. So much that contributes to this feeling of desperation and need that had me breathless and yearning for them to be together. Every moment in this book is emotionally charged and incredibly poignant. So much so that it completely broke my crying dry spell as tears streamed down my cheeks at multiple points in the book. It was gut wrenching. I cared deeply for the characters, felt viscerally everything they had gone through and were continuing to go through. The novel concludes in this beautiful, full-circle way that had me relishing in the story’s high and knowing irrevocably that this would be an unforgettable, all-time favorite. And certainly, any book that can make me feel that much warrants a 6-star rating from me! This is the first I read from author Sharla Lovelace and I can assure you it won’t be my last.