Next Comes Love
Next Comes Love is a surprising complex story about a woman on the run who finds a safe haven on a small Wisconsin island. It sounds like a common enough plot-line, but the characters have an unusual depth to them – especially for a series romance. The love story takes a bit of a back seat, but it’s still a pretty good read.
When Erica Corelli takes her nephew and disappears, she does it right. She receives a frantic phone message from her sister Marie, who tells her to pick up Jason (Marie’s son), wait for her briefly, and then run and stay hidden if Marie doesn’t show up. Jason’s father is an abusive husband – and a Chicago cop. He’s smart enough to track Erica down if she’s not careful. So she takes nothing but the clothes on her back and flees to Mirabelle island, an idyllic vacation town in Wisconsin where she once went as a child. It’s small and homey, and cars aren’t allowed. Erica has worked in restaurants her whole life, and she quickly finds a job as a cook at Duffy’s, a somewhat dated (but homey) bar and grill. She dyes Jason’s hair and has him pick out a new name (Zach)…and hopes that Marie will call soon with news and a plan.
Garrett Taylor is also from Chicago. After years with the Chicago police, he didn’t like the man he was becoming, and knew that he needed to make some life changes. He took the job of Mirabelle police chief (a part time job; it’s a small island) so that he could work at a slower pace and concentrate on his carpentry business. Garrett meets Erica as she’s coming off the ferry, and he knows immediately that she’s hiding something. He also can’t help noticing that’s she’s attractive. Though she’s bristles at his friendly greeting, she finds that it’s a small island; they are quickly thrown together on more than one occasion.
Erica finds that she fits into the island surprisingly well. She wasn’t counting on friendship or a sense of belonging, but she finds both. The restaurant definitely needs her; she drags it into the twenty-first century, making updates and improvements that were beyond the scope of the owners. Jason/Zach is still wary, but he makes friends and starts to fit in. Garrett and Erica share a few steamy kisses, and it seems as if their relationship might be going somewhere – even though neither feels ready for a commitment. Of course, nothing between them can be resolved with the threat of Jason’s violent father hanging over their heads. Erica trusts no one initially, but gradually Garrett and her employers figure out what is going on. It may just be that in running away from her old life that she has finally found a home.
There is a lot to like about this book. Garrett and Erica are both interesting characters, and both of them are more fully-fleshed than is typical for such a short book. Erica has a tough as nails exterior, but she goes out of her way to help others. She also takes well to parenting Jason, despite her initial insecurities and lack of experience. Garrett has to deal with his own demons. He’s a bit of a hothead – a character trait he got from his dad. He says some stupid things to Erica when he’s angry, and needs to learn to control his words (unlike Jason’s dad, he doesn’t have a problem controlling his fists). But he thinks that a relationship with Erica isn’t what he needs, preferring for awhile to pursue an elementary school teacher with whom he has no chemistry.
One might say that the strength of this book is also its weakness. Because considerable time is devoted to Erica and Garrett separately – not to mention their interactions with secondary characters – Garrett and Erica as a couple tend to get the short shrift. Romance mostly takes a back seat to everything else that’s going on. It’s not that what’s going on isn’t interesting, because it is. But when the dust settles, it’s clear that the love story is just a little too secondary.
That said, I enjoyed the book as a whole, and would definitely be interested in other books in the series (it appears to be the middle book of a trilogy about Mirabelle Island). If you’d like a quick series read that has a little depth to it, you could definitely do worse than Next Comes Love.