A Spiced Apple Winter
I love autumn. The delicious scent of freshly fallen leaves, the bite of a cool wind, and the sight of mountains almost caught on fire with the bright colors of their trees—there is no season I relish more. So, naturally, I jumped at the chance to review a book called A Spiced Apple Winter. With a title like that, I knew it must be good.
Tyler Fairfield is a soap-opera star whose life has taken an abrupt turn in the last six months. His family has owned Fairfield Orchards for years and when his sister Rachel, who’s been running it for over a decade, asked for a vacation, he and his other siblings all agreed to take some time off from their jobs to help out. Leaving the Big Apple behind for an apple orchard has been restorative, as Tyler not only got to return to his roots, but also explore other career paths he never thought of. Having been recently diagnosed with ADHD, which had him struggling in school all his life, Tyler is finally able to take medications to help him focus. This contributes to the new perspective he has on life in his hometown.
Brianna MacDougall has been friends with Tyler most of her life, and was thrilled when he came back for a prolonged visit… only things are a little awkward between them. Brianna’s father was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and when she took him into New York City a few months earlier for an appointment, she bumped into Tyler. That chance encounter turned into a night out together, which turned into a night together. Now that they’re back in the same town, neither one is sure where they stand on the line between friends and lovers.
This is a sweet romance which develops slowly and naturally, and is built on the bedrock of an already strong friendship. It takes Tyler a little while to decide he wants to pursue Brianna, just as she has trouble giving up valuable time with her father to start seeing Tyler. There’s some initial awkwardness, as they both assumed their night in the city would be a one-time thing, and feel uncomfortable wanting more. But it doesn’t take long for them to adjust to the idea.
Unfortunately, just as they’re deciding to see where this attraction goes, fate throws a wrench in the works. Tyler’s actress friend Gabrielle has come for a visit to Fairfield Orchards to hide away from the media in the wake of a scandal. When she begs for Tyler’s help cleaning up her image, he agrees to do what he can—which leads to them going on one or two “dates.” Brianna trusts Tyler enough to believe him when he explains this, but it means their growing attachment must remain hidden. And when it does come out, the world sees Brianna as the other woman who has come between TV’s favorite couple.
In another author’s hands, this plotline would have been rife with misunderstandings and blow-up fights. Tyler would’ve hidden his relationship with Gabrielle for as long as he could, and Brianna would have needed much more convincing to be sure it was platonic. As it is, the issue with Gabrielle is brought up early, so Brianna and Tyler have time to work their way through it. After that hurdle, most of the conflict in the novel derives from Brianna deciding how to handle Tyler’s eventual departure. He’s always planned to go back to the city, while her job is running her family market—even more necessary now that her father’s health is going downhill.
I don’t need to tell the whole story, but obviously, Brianna and Tyler discuss their futures and work out a way for their plans to fit together. Theirs is a bit of an unconventional courtship, spent sneaking around to avoid ruining Tyler’s fake relationship, but the trust they’ve already built as friends is strong enough to hold them together. It was a pleasure to see these two characters come into their own over the course of the book, and all the discussion around apple-picking and Christmas plays really got me in the seasonal mood. I may even find myself revisiting A Spiced Apple Winter next October!