Desert Isle Keeper
Love Around the Corner
I’m a fan of second chance romances, especially when they feature teenage romance/first love that went awry. That’s the plot of Amanda Weaver’s Love Around the Corner, the third story in her Romano Sisters series. I haven’t read the first two, but after reading this one, they will definitely go on my to-read shelf!
Gemma Romano can see the changes happening daily in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Older couples are retiring and closing down their businesses, old friends are moving away and her family bar, Romano’s, needs a rapid influx of cash to upgrade and repair part of their building if they’re going to survive. Opened in 1934 and handed down to her father, Gemma sees it as her inheritance and responsibility, even if her sisters have taken their lives in new directions.
When Brendan Flaherty shows up in the bar one day, it’s a blast from the past, and not a pleasant one. High school promises turned into heartache when he walked away from her and their (now admittedly) fanciful dreams of the future. Brendan never told her why he’d left and she’d had to assume that he hadn’t felt the same way she did. Worse, he’s a property developer now, the kind who is swooping in to take advantage of the stores ready to close with easy cash and plans to gentrify the neighborhood. She’s determined not to give him the time of day, even if some of the better memories of their time together start to surface.
Brendan is back for multiple reasons; to take care of his ageing mother, to stop other property developers from taking over the area by helping the older shops looking to sell, and making them into small apartments that will blend into the neighborhood (unlike his uncle who would gladly put steel and glass high rises everywhere), and to get Gemma back. He knows that he hurt her and he will need to explain his actions and work hard to get her to trust him again. But he’s willing to do whatever it takes. Can he convince Gemma to give him a second chance?
There are three aspects to this story that bring it to life and give it DIK status. The first is the depiction of the setting in Brooklyn, New York. The author deftly describes the multi-ethnic nature of the area, the mom and pop shops and the struggles of the families to keep their businesses running. The younger generation isn’t always interested in taking over the shops, seeing how hard their parents and grandparents have had to work and wanting to pursue their own dreams. Everyone has difficult choices to make but they still support each other as a community. It feels very real.
Secondly, family is all important. Gemma and Brendan share a bond in having both lost a parent at a young age (it’s what brought them together in high school). As the eldest child in their respective families, they’ve taken on the responsibility of caring for their younger siblings and being a support for their remaining parent. Brendan had to choose between Gemma and his mother and brother as a teenager, a choice with only one realistic outcome. Gemma became a substitute mother for her younger sisters and has seen them take wing, consistently putting aside any thought of a future other than working with her father at Romano’s. In this story, she gets a chance to pursue her love of cooking, first for family and friends and then as a side gig to make money to help the bar. She’s never contemplated a career in that field because her career path has been laid out for her for years – until Brendan’s return upends her plans. You feel for Gemma and Brendan and the hard decisions and choices they’ve made.
And thirdly, of course the romance is center stage through it all. Combining teenage love, enemies-to-lovers and hero-in-pursuit tropes is like a big red blinking light for me. All my favorites in one place! Gemma and Brendan’s high school romance was a secret one, so when he left, Gemma had no one to commiserate with her, and instead focused all her energy on keeping everyone around her safe and happy. Their initial meeting again as adults is fraught with complicated feelings. Sexual attraction has never been an issue and Gemma thinks she can have an affair with Brendan (again, a secret one) while guarding her heart. But Brendan is determined to prove himself worthy of a second chance. I love how the author shows them dancing around their feelings and developing a friendship, learning to trust each other and telling the truth about what really happened when Brendan left and what is happening now. It doesn’t come without some costs and some mistakes but they don’t give up in reaching for a happy ending.
If you’re a fan of Kate Clayborn’s and Lucy Parker’s contemporary romances, you’ll find a lot to like in this one by Amanda Weaver. Love Around the Corner has a good balance of sex scenes with interesting plot and character development, no easy answers, some scenes to leave you with a few tears and an overall satisfying happy ending for all. I’m looking forward to catching up on more by this author.