Desert Isle Keeper
Autumn’s Child is a truly lovely second-chance romance featuring a warm cast of secondary characters and a lot of sharp-eyed longing.
Mrs. Norton W. Ridge II – Eleanor – is a set-in-her-ways old woman of the genteel south, whose relatives mostly abhor her, aside from a niece who considers caring for the woman part of her Christian duty. Over the years, she drove everyone she loved away except for Colleen – so when she decides to catalog her possessions as a part of her estate planning, it falls to Colleen to itemize her belongings.
Ben Healy – a former professional snowboarder – is dealing with the end of his competition days and the death of his Olympic dreams by shifting careers, and is working on a master’s degree in cybersecurity. He comes home to Georgia during a break in his training and instead of being put to work cleaning out the family garage, he’s asked to inventory Mrs. Ridge’s family heirlooms, and meets Colleen. Again. Because Ben and Colleen share a past, one that Ben’s been dodging forever – and is now being forced to confront.
Once upon a time, Ben and Colleen were involved in a wonderful love affair, but it lasted only a summer. Ben ran away from it, his low self-esteem telling him he wasn’t the right guy for nice, proper Colleen.
But now Ben’s back – and he’s flirting with not Colleen, but the mysterious, flamboyantly-dressed Leilah, who has been hired by Eleanor to run the house. He and Leilah embark on a non-committal fling, and when Leilah up and leaves after Colleen’s aunt and uncle accuse her of spending too much money to run the house, Colleen has no idea what to tell Ben – or how it will affect her relationship with him. And when Eleanor passes away, Ben and Colleen find that they have a lot to learn – about each other, about themselves, and their families… and about love.
Autumn’s Child is a powerfully moving story about old patterns, nostalgia, growth and lack thereof and life in general. About one’s roots, and who ultimately ought to be considered family when the chips are down. Beyond well-written, it does a beautiful job exploring a second-chance romance that boils between Ben and Colleen very slowly – while also pulling apart the complicated hive of who they are at the core.
There’s an interesting mystery at the center of the book, which I won’t spoil but will just say that it’s amusing, though it adds a layer of unnecessary complexity than the book – which is a much simpler tale at root – really needed.
The romance between these two fallible people had me captivated from the start. Colleen must learn to stand up for herself, Ben must learn the importance of self-worth, and together they must learn the importance of finding real love. Their romance is richly rewarding.
I did have a few problems with the book however. I needed much, much more of Leilah, who disappears midstream and leaves more questions than answers. And the ending felt a hair too pat to be realistic.
But those are small quibbles. Autumn’s Child is told so stunningly that you won’t mind the smaller details – and you’ll be enraptured by the big picture.