Rainy Day Friends
You know, this is the first Jill Shalvis novel I’ve read. How did I manage to miss her before? I thoroughly enjoyed Rainy Day Friends, which takes on the idea of a bad previous marriage in a way I haven’t seen before.
Lanie Jacobs’ husband died six months ago. Perhaps she should be distraught, but since he died, several more wives have come out of the woodwork. Apparently not content to be a serial adulterer, he decided being a serial polygamist was the better plan, leaving Lanie beset by a bevy of illegal brides all claiming they are entitled to something from his estate. She had no idea about any of it, and, as a result, is dealing with anger, depression, and no shortage of anxiety (well, the anxiety was already there, but still…). In a bid to get out of town for a while, Lanie accepts a job as a freelance graphic designer for a family-run vineyard, the Capriotti Winery. From her first day, Lanie is accepted into the family – consisting of matriarch and more than one generation of Capriottis – and the business. Between growing up in a much more reserved (and possibly rather loveless) family and the recent betrayal of her husband, Lanie has no idea how to handle the boisterous family, and the handsome son, Mark.
Shortly after Lanie joins the winery, a young and very pregnant woman, River, shows up and just about passes out. Like they did with Lanie a few weeks before, the Capriottis adopt River into their midst, giving her a job as receptionist and providing her with room and board. For a woman who was planning on living out of her car, it’s almost a dream come true, but But River didn’t show up at the winery for no reason, and her budding friendship with Lanie is tangled up with River’s own past. There is a strong emphasis on female relationships in this book, which I absolutely loved. River is dealing with some major issues from her past, just as Lanie is, but even with the secrets that lie between them, they find themselves connecting over, among other things, the absolutely overwhelming experience that is the Capriotti family. It’s lovely.
If the book has a weak point, it’s Mark. Well, Mark and the rather predictable happily ever epilogue (I’ve never been a fan of those in romance novels, though I’m sure many other people enjoy them). Mark is former military, now working with the police force in their town, taking care of his adorably precocious six-year-old twin girls. After the girls’ mother abandoned them, he left a career and life he loved in order to take care of them; it wasn’t a hard choice, but it’s definitely caused him problems. Mark has decided that at this point in his life, love is simply not an option – his girls need all his time, energy, and attention. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s against having a friendly relationship with benefits. Just not love. This suits Lanie pretty well, at least at the start, after the mess her husband left her with. The thing is, though, that Lanie is originally hesitant to begin any kind of relationship, with or without love, until Mark pulls her in. Even at the start, she is incredibly reluctant, and it was maddening to see Mark pull her along against her will, and this is made even worse by the fact that they have only known each other for a few weeks! Mark is frustrating as a character because of little things like this. It reads like he doesn’t really respect Lanie and her choices. Ugh.
That said, as the story moves along, Mark becomes much more of a sympathetic character as you see him dealing with his family, with his girls, and his internal struggles over Lanie. And I really did enjoy the familial relationships, the friendship between Lanie and River, and watching Lanie interact with the twins (who manage to remain cute and fairly realistic six-year-olds). And although Rainy Day Friends is the second book in the Wildstone series (with a novella in between), the connection here is about the town, so I never felt like I was missing part of the story. I can definitely recommend this one, whether or not you normally read contemporaries. It’s a lovely read.