The saying “all the comforts of home” implies that home is a comfortable place to be. For Molly Burnett, the heroine of this novel, the exact opposite is true. She has a loving family and some good friends back home but she left town for a reason and hasn’t been back since. Until now.
If it weren’t for her sister getting married, Molly Burnett would not be heading home to Hope. But her sister is getting married, Molly is in Hope and she thinks this wedding is going to be “a disaster.” Not for her sister or the groom and not because the caterer/minster/other wedding party is incompetent, but because the wedding will force her to see Carter Richards. A man she hasn’t seen in twelve years. A man she never wants to see again.
Her courage requiring some fortification now that she’s in town, Molly turns her not so trusty vehicle towards the new bakery. Purchasing the éclairs and cream puffs turns out to be a pleasure; she runs into an old acquaintance from school and is happy to catch up. Leaving is not such a pleasure; Carter is leaning against her car when she heads out of the bakery. Molly tries to brush him off but the lemon won’t start with him standing there. She resignedly lets him help her get the car started – he is after all a mechanic – and heads towards her sister’s home. As far as she is concerned, the visit has already gotten off to a bitter start.
Carter was a bit blindsided when Molly stepped out of the piece of junk Taurus. He knew she was coming home, he just hadn’t expected to see her when he’d stepped out of his office for a break. She’s every bit as gorgeous as she had ever been but their conversation had left a lot to be desired. It’s clear she wants as little to do with him as possible on this trip home. He intends to see she gets just what she wants.
Of course things rarely go as planned and Molly and Carter find themselves spending more time together than expected. Molly drives a drunken Carter home from the bachelor party. They run into each other here and there as the big day approaches. And then the wedding comes and emotions stir and the two have half of a heart to heart. Molly remembers their high school love affair and the big blowup at the end with great bitterness. She had gotten pregnant, the two had been scared but agreed to marry and then she had miscarried. She had been grieving when shock! horror! the teenaged Carter had been relieved and resumed his plan to head to college. She’d needed him, damn it! And he hadn’t planned to be there for her.
Molly flounces off after laying her feelings on Carter and he is both saddened and relieved that he didn’t get to say his piece. She’s leaving soon so the whole thing will best be forgotten.
Of course, events conspire to keep her in town. When taking down decorations from a post-wedding Hawaiian themed party Molly’s mom falls off a ladder and winds up facing a fairly long convalescence. For reasons I couldn’t quite fathom, Molly decides to quit her job and stay in Hope to take care of her mom. My confusion arose because right there in the book her mom says, “Your dad is taking an extended vacation, which he can certainly do since he owns the company. Plus I’ll have nursing help.” Also, isn’t the joy of living in a small town the way the neighbors are all helpful? Why is Molly needed? Whatever. Molly stays and takes her mom’s place heading up a committee for town restoration, which of course forces her to spend lots of time with Carter, who is also on the committee. This is deus ex machina number one. Don’t worry, there are plenty more where that comes from.
Molly also has to head home and pick up her stuff. Wouldn’t you know it; the Taurus is acting up again. And Molly can’t take her dad’s truck because it is in as bad a shape as the Taurus. (So can the man really afford an extended vacation if he has to drive such a clunker?) Molly refuses to take her mom’s car because it is low to the ground and will be easier for her mom to get in and out of if they have to run her anywhere. As she stands hemming and hawing before Carter about renting a car he offers to drive her in his truck. Before you can say deus ex machina numero dos the two are on the road ready to have the second half of that heart to heart. And fall back in love of course.
This isn’t a bad book but it is a highly predictable one. It seemed to be written according to whatever template authors are using for small town romances, the reunion variation. Hero or heroine returns to town having vowed never to return but being forced to because they are basically a good person and someone (normally family or close friend) needs a favor. Other half of the team has always been home and knows that really they have never been whole without the other. The two want to avoid each other but events (and the community) conspire against them. They get together swearing it is just chemistry, no feelings involved. Everything works out and they live in Smalltown, USA happily ever after.
I’m not going to fault the author for falling back on what is clearly a popular plot. If people are willing to keep reading it, why shouldn’t she put her spin on it? The writing was full of obvious devices but I didn’t count that against her either. The whole novel was just so vanilla and met my expectations so precisely at every turn that I had trouble working up any emotion other than meh. The one exception was my irritation over Molly’s expectation that a teenager should mourn a lucky miss on an unplanned pregnancy. Carter says:
You were hurt. I get it. And I wasn’t the most supportive person back then. For that, I’m really sorry. There are a lot of things I’d like a chance to do over – do them right the second time, but I can’t. And I’m sorry about that, too. You told me how you felt, so you don’t have to apologize for that. You never have to apologize for the way you feel, Molly.
I disagree. She certainly didn’t have to apologize for feeling that in the past. But in the present? It seems to me that age should have given her a bit more perspective and she should have realized that Carter’s reaction wasn’t a complete horror fest. That he had been willing to be there for her while the baby was a possibility and that his relief at getting his life back didn’t make him a villain. It takes too long for her to (somewhat) come to that conclusion and I really disliked her for it.
The book was stunningly average other than that one fact so I suppose if you agree with Molly and feel they should have mourned that miscarriage like crazy you may very well like this book. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.