A Brand New Ending
Ophelia Bishop was a lovestruck teenage girl when she and Kyle Kimpton chased their dreams to Hollywood. Kyle’s dreams came true. Ophelia’s did not. When Kyle chose his career over their relationship, Ophelia returned home to rural New York to run the family’s B & B—wiser, and more guarded against foolish fantasies. Now Kyle has come crashing back into her life, and all her defenses are down.
Kyle can’t think of a better place to write his latest screenplay than his hometown. After all, that was where he met the heart of his inspiration—his first love. He knows the damage he’s caused Ophelia, and he wants a chance to mend their relationship. If anyone can prove to Ophelia that happy ever afters aren’t only for the movies, it should be him.
As much as Ophelia’s changed, she still has feelings for Kyle. But her heart has been broken before, and she knows that Kyle could run back to Hollywood at any time. She gave up her dreams once, but maybe she can dare to change her own love story…one last time.
Seasoned contemporary romance reader and Probst fan Kristen Donnelly and not-big-on-contemporaries-reader Caz Owens decided to team up to offer their different perspectives on Jennifer Probst’s A Brand New Ending.
Caz: It’s no secret around here that I don’t read much contemporary romance. I’m not completely sure why – they just don’t click with me – but I do pick up one occasionally, just to see if I can find one that will hook me and reel me in. I enjoy second-chance romances and liked the premise of A Brand New Ending – an ambitious young man who achieved success without realising exactly what it was costing him returns to his home town and his first and only love in order to persuade her to give him another chance. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s well-written and the central characters are engaging and well-developed. Have you read this author before, Kristen?
Kristen: I have! I enjoy Ms. Probst – she’s a fairly reliable author for me, as one of the resident contemporary lovers around AAR. While this series hasn’t been as strong for me (minor spoiler alert), I haven’t read anything to make me break up with her.
Caz: In an email conversation we had while we were both reading, I said that I was quite bored by the first 25-30 percent on the book, and that I was finding the heroine to be all about the drama. What I meant was that the author held back from telling us exactly why Ophelia had fled Kyle and California eight years earlier, so it was hard for me to buy into what came across as very exaggerated reactions to him. It felt like I was expected to take sides (hers) without knowing all the facts of the story, and that rubbed me up the wrong way.
Kristen: I can totally see how you’d feel that way. I too felt that we were expected to completely side with Ophelia, which felt especially discordant since most of the rest of the characters were Team Kyle. I have a pretty big and well documented pet peeve for disliking having A Big Secret as the main plot device and this plot pacing flirted with my patience on that front, I can’t lie.
Caz: That said, things started to pick up for me once Kyle realised he was looking at things only through one lens (his) and that he needed to see and then write Ophelia’s point of view. But the thing is that the sections that purport to be his insight into Ophelia’s point of view are so obviously authorial inserts, that it didn’t really work. Kyle’s supposed insight was too perfect to be his interpretation of her thoughts. He needed to become more aware of her feelings, yes, but the way the author chose to convey that was such an obvious contrivance that I couldn’t buy into it.
Kristen: Yeah… the real downfall of this book for me was his book within a book. There is no way that I buy that this guy was writing action movies a hot minute ago and then this just poured out of him. Plus, if he was this emotionally intelligent, I’m not sure we’d be here in the first place.
Caz: Yes – especially given we’re told they ran off to Hollywood at what, eighteen? And it seems that Kyle got his break not long after that, so he was incredibly – and unrealistically – young, I think.
Kristen: Also. Why are we holding up Nicholas Sparks as a romantic role model? If this boy is smart enough to read Shalvis and Proby, then he knows Sparks ain’t no romance! I growled at that part.
Caz: Hahahahah! I have to say, that occurred to me, too!
Did Ophelia work for you as a heroine? I have to say, I found her to be just a tad too perfect. She was running a guest house that sounded like a boutique hotel, providing perfectly timed snacks, perfectly baked cookies, perfectly prepared breakfasts, bending over backwards to accommodate the most demanding of guests’ food choices without even having to go out to the shops… and she ran this place pretty much on her own with a bit of help from a woman who came in for the odd day here and there. Whatever she did, she was perfect at it.
Kristen: Except she wasn’t perfect at being someone I could be friends with! And yes, she was hella competent, but I also saw a woman who couldn’t be emotionally vulnerable with anyone, who was closed off even from herself, and needed a lot of love. I have no idea why Kyle was so into her, to be frank, she seemed to be a bit of a pill. I didn’t get any sense of rebuilding a relationship of who they are as adults – just that they were in love once and shouldn’t they still be in love? Does that make sense? Do you agree?
Caz: Yep, that’s spot on. The thing I enjoy about second-chance romances is seeing two characters who, for whatever reason, didn’t work before, get to know each other and fall for one another all over again. That just didn’t happen here. After eight years apart, you’d expect them to have been different people, but nothing of that came across, and it was, as you say, as though they just picked up from where they left off before things fell apart. I was actually far more invested in the story of Kyle’s fractured relationship with his dad and whether they could actually repair things between them than I was in the romance. I liked the part she played in bringing the two men together, and that she was upfront with Kyle about the fact that she’d been keeping an eye on Patrick; and I liked the parallel the author drew about the need to forgive, which applied to Kyle and Ophelia in terms of their relationship as well as to Kyle and his dad. The book’s epilogue was one of those rare ones that wasn’t full of babies and fluffy bunnies, which I really appreciated, and I freely admit it brought a lump to my throat.
Kristen: I love a few addicts myself and so much of that story rang true to me. And yes, that epilogue just slayed me. I was reading it on an Amtrak train and sighed loudly enough that the woman behind me asked me if the book was that good! I told her not really, but the author stuck the landing.
So, overall, I’ll give this a B. I had fun while I was reading it – there’s something about Ms. Probst’s prose that draws me in – and she nailed the most difficult part of the book, but I didn’t love a lot of Ophelia and didn’t get a sense of growth from her. You?
Caz: I don’t think it’s a book I’d feel comfortable recommending to a fan of contemporary romance, especially someone more widely read in the genre than I am. I’m going with a C+, mostly because of the Kyle/Patrick sub-plot and that sucker-punch of an epilogue.