Desert Isle Keeper
It’s rare to get a standalone book by Lauren Layne, so if you’ve been reading praise of her books but haven’t been in the mood for a multi-book commitment, Love Story, a second chance/enemies-to-lovers tale might be just the place to dive into her oeuvre.
Lucy Hawkins has her life all mapped out, thank you very much, both literally and figuratively. She just graduated from college and is ready to start her dream job at a California vineyard in their promotions/sales department. She’s spent age plotting the perfect, two-week road trip to get her out there, with a small detour to Miami to visit her boyfriend. All she’s got to do is spend a weekend with her family, say some goodbyes, and get on the road. Problems arise when her car dies such a complete death that she can’t even drive it to a garage to get it fixed. She stifles her disappointment and prepares to book a plane ticket instead. Thankfully, her uber supportive family isn’t far away, and someone is dispatched to collect her for a weekend of recuperation and a surprise goodbye party.
Even bigger surprise? They are gifting her with a car! Suddenly the road trip is back on! Even bigger surprise than that? The car comes with a condition; she has to car share with her brother’s best friend from Virginia to California.
The problem is, of course, that he’s also (unbeknownst to her family) the dude she lost her virginity to and may or may not still be in love with. Minor detail.
Reece Sullivan is so ready to get out of his hometown, he is nearly vibrating with excitement. Life hasn’t been the easiest for him – lots of family and personal tragedy – but he’s always had the support of the Hawkins family. When he gets a job offer at a vineyard in California, they offer him the old family car, if he can get it running again. He’s all set to start out on this new life, this fresh slate, when she comes home from college. All of a sudden, he’s forced to take Lucy with him and his independent road trip becomes a thing of memory.
For Reece, Lucy has always been forbidden, but not forgotten. She’s the only girl he’s ever really let close to his heart, and when he self-sabotaged their love years ago, he’s carried around regret ever since. He definitely still has feelings for Lucy, but heaven forbid he articulate them or act on them.
As they both climbed into the car swearing to be silent (this book switches PoVs between the two of them), I chuckled. Their bickering is so clearly foreplay, with Lucy’s prickly exterior so clearly armor donned in order to prevent future pain, and Reece giving out similar mixed signals. These two absolutely belong together and boy was it fun seeing how they worked that out for themselves.
The detour to Miami, for the record, proves that Lucy and the boyfriend are not on their way to their own HEA while Reece’s reaction to the situation proves why he and Lucy are.
This being 217 pages, and as Lucy is in that angsty, early twenties age bracket, there are a lot of dramatic moments packed into it. Ms. Layne could have easily made this a basic reunion story, but instead infuses it with something more. For Reece and Lucy to have a real shot at a future together, they have to have a lot of difficult conversations. They have to face up to words spoken and actions taken years ago and grapple with the place of the Hawkins family in their lives. They have to make adult decisions about commitment in a way that neither of them have thought of before. The way Ms. Layne is able to convey all of that in such a short page-count is impressive..
As many readers know, I am a sucker for second-chance romances, but enemies-to-lovers doesn’t always work for me. This combination of the two absolutely did and I think will satisfy any readers looking for a quick escape and a satisfying ending.