Rolling in the Deep makes me think of that fabulous song by Adele, but this time it’s the title of a book that I found rather fabulous.
Holly Ward works in a dead-end job at a big box store in upstate New York where, as a single mom to Drew, she barely makes ends meet on her meager salary and child support. She left her cheating ex-husband after only three years when it became obvious that he had only married her because she’d been vulnerable and timid and he thought her easy to control. And now, even though he’s remarried to a woman who’s rich and successful and incredibly nice to Holly and Drew, her ex, Brett, is still angry that she finally found the gumption to leave him. So he takes every opportunity to belittle and humiliate Holly whenever they see each other.
The new guy at work, Ray Lopez, flirts gently with her when they find themselves working together in the store, even though Holly can’t believe he’d be interested in her. He’s attractive, charming, from Queens and he moved upstate to get away from the city and pursue a career as a chef, a promise he made to his mother before she passed away. His brother has a successful career and two little girls and Ray is still feeling like he’s not sure what to do with his life.
Something about Holly’s gentleness draws Ray and he takes every chance he can to spend time with her at work. On an impulse, he teasingly convinces her to go halves with him on a $2 Powerball lottery ticket when the prize reaches $200 million. She’s never ever gambled before and can’t believe the lottery isn’t some sort of scam, but, hey, it’s only $1, right? So Ray buys the ticket and tells her what time and channel she can watch the drawing and, yes, they hold the winning ticket. And after taxes, they each will get $80 million.
Neither Ray nor Holly, like most of us, can comprehend having that much money and there’s not a moment to absorb the shock and elation as they deal with lawyers, the Lottery Commission and the press. And, of course, Holly’s ex, who immediately tries to make her look like an unfit mother and take her son away after an overzealous photographer takes pictures of Ray leaving her apartment and Drew at his school.
Most of the book deals with the aftermath of the win, how their lives are affected individually and jointly. It’s a life changing amount of money and they can help anyone, do anything, go anywhere, be anything they want. Both Ray and Holly have a hard time coming to terms with feeling deserving of the windfall, but deciding what they want out of life is the hard part, with or without that much money, and deciding if they really want each other.
I liked the way the characters were developed, how Holly finally started to feel some self-worth and stand up for herself and how Ray allows himself to question the promises he made to his mother and how he can honor her memory. The last few chapters wrapped things up a little quickly for me, but all in all, an unusual and intriguing contemporary read that worked for me!
Savannah Hale and Logan Park have reluctantly returned to their hometown of Maple Cove, Georgia, both thrilled to see each other and determined to stay away. Savannah used to be Logan’s best friend’s girl — until Will was killed in combat. And even though Savannah was engaged to Will, Logan was the first boy she cared about. But she’s not sure she can ever get past the fact that he’s her former fiancée’s best friend and they got a little too close when they comforted each other after Will’s death.
After her mom dies, a heartbroken Savannah returns to Maple Cove to see what needs to be done about the B&B her family owns, being the take charge sibling. What she finds out is that the B&B is in terrible shape, both physically and financially, and the Hales are going to lose it to an investment company soon if they don’t come up with the money to save it. And Logan, who served with Will, is a guilt-ridden survivor and tries to atone for staying alive when Will didn’t by living the life he thinks his friend wanted. So he’s now working for the company that’s interested in acquiring the hotel, even though he’s not sure that trying to buy it is a good idea. And even though he’s still in love with Savannah after all these years, he can’t bring himself to let her know the truth.
A cute and sweet story with a fairly predictable storyline and, of course, the HEA that all we romance readers love!
While working as a teacher in Iraq, the school Hope was teaching at was attacked by terrorists while she and a lone Marine patrolling the area were the only ones there. He pulled her through the halls and protected her while they were under attack and while waiting and praying to be rescued, he told her about Woodstock, Vermont, the picture perfect little town where he grew up and what a wonderful place it was. After falling unconscious and finally being pulled from the rubble, Hope awoke in a hospital in Germany, but no one knew anything about the young Marine who was with her in the school.
Hope decided to see Vermont for herself and ended up taking a teaching job in Woodstock after finding it as picturesque as she hoped, feeling a little more connected to the Marine who had saved her life. And when Ex-Marine Jack comes home for Christmas and eventually runs into Hope, they recognize each other almost immediately. Jack had always wondered what had happened to the beautiful teacher and is surprised and pleased that she ended up in his hometown. There’s a definite connection between the two, but then Hope finds out that Jack is engaged to someone else, a woman he met while in New York who wants him to move with her to Florida. Hope pretends she is fine just being friends and hanging out together, but soon Jack grows even more unhappy with his engagement and decides, if he can ever get decent cell reception, he’s going to call off his engagement and see where things lead with Hope.
Meanwhile, after a retirement party for Jack’s uncle who is leaving the Postal Service, a bag of mail that had been accidentally put aside and never delivered is located. With Hope’s help, Jack sets out to deliver the cards and mail to people in town and they begin to find that many of the pieces of late mail contained messages that have a huge impact on the recipients. There are also many references to the very real plight of returning veterans and the lack of jobs for these men and women who served their country.
I wanted to love this book, because the premise is really great, but it started out being a little confusing to me and felt like it took me awhile to catch up with some of the details. I was a little annoyed with Jack and how it seemed to take him forever to come to a decision about his engagement. But other than that and the somewhat slow start, I found this a heart-warming holiday read.
Libby Joseph and George Donaldson are neighbors and good friends in White Cliff Bay. Libby writes Christmasy romance novels and is having a hard time finishing her current one. After this book is done, she plans to have the next book set in New York and she always moves to the city she’s writing about. This helps give her books a realistic feel and also never, ever allows her to get very close to anyone. She’s beginning to wonder if the reason she’s having so much trouble with her current book is because she isn’t really ready to move on again.
Her neighbor, George, was married and his wife left him after she had an affair, which left his self-confidence in shreds. The fact that he’s been crushing on Libby and she’s never even noticed hasn’t helped, either.
So this holiday season, they decide to help each other out. Libby will allow George to practice his dating skills on her and she will finally be able to finish her book, drawing on all these wonderfully romantic ideas from their dates. And then she’ll be able to move on. Maybe.
There are lots of mix ups and crossed signals and quite a good bit of fun. (Did that sound a little British there?) Another couple, Seb, the widowed, tattooed biker guy who runs the local pub and Amy, the girl who knows he’s interested but still feeling too disloyal to his deceased wife to ask her out, provide a wonderfully funny secondary story, along with his Seb’s mother who is convinced the flamboyant Amy is totally wrong for her son.
This book totally works as a stand alone, but you might want to read Christmas at Lilac Cottage, which precedes it and which I’ve reviewed here. I’m finding that for cute and fun holiday reads author Holly Martin is definitely my cup of tea!