Right Where We Belong
Grade : B+

Indigo finally takes center stage in the third volume of Jackie Ashenden’s Small Town Dreams trilogy, Right Where We Belong.  Ashenden offers up her trademark combination of angst, spice, childhood trauma, life-changing romance and small-town bonding, creating a brew that brings the series to its presumptive close.

Yarn spinner and shopkeep Indigo Jameson does not trust men – especially town lothario and adventure guide Levi King. Indigo and her two friends moved to tiny Brightwater Valley in New Zealand from Deep River, Alaska to help repopulate the tiny town, and among the many people shy but creative Indigo has met thanks to her outgoing friend Bethany, she has taken to Levi the least. Her friends Izzy and Bethany have already found love among the male populace, and now Indigo is the last single friend standing in her group.

The last person she wants to connect with is Levi, but they’re thrown together when Indigo lacks a place to stay. Both are dealing with tough childhoods; Indigo grew up isolated with her Grandma Tillie, whose paranoia about the outside world and anger at men in general have made Indigo mistrustful and introverted. Levi bounced from home to home and family to family in foster care, which taught him to get by on charm and avoid emotionally committing to anyone. He bluntly tells Indigo that there’s no hope they will ever fall in love and not to expect more than a casual relationship with him. Can this completely inexperienced woman and this very experienced man find love?

Right Where We Belong is emotionally involving and frank, but is a very slow burn. Some readers won’t have the patience for the story’s careful pace, but it’s engrossing and good and, as always, burnished by Ashenden’s devotion to angst and psychologically complex romance.

I liked Indigo more than Levi for roughly the first half of the book, mostly because she pushes back hard against the hapless-virgin-falls-in-love stereotype. She has to learn how to build a romantic relationship from the tacks on up, which is hard enough. She also has to figure out if Levi is really the guy she wants to trust with her future.

Levi took a while to grow on me, and it took a while for me to see the little boy traveling from house to house with a sandwich sack of belongings. At first he comes off as your average my-tragic-past-keeps-me-a-womanizing hero. But Ashenden goes one beyond the usual, giving depth and shading to Levi’s angst and trauma, and making his reactions to the world around him feel quite reasonable in the end.

The romance approaches slowly and then wraps its arms around you. It’s sweet and good and tender, and improves both characters as people. That’s really all you can ask for when it comes to a good love story. You just have to be patient with it.

If you’re missing the rest of the Small Town Dreams heroines, they pop in to support Indigo and Levi, as do their husbands. We get life updates for both Izzy and Bethany, and they are their usual sunny selves. And, as always, the wilds of New Zealand pop to life under Ashenden’s pen.

Right Where We Belong plucks a reader’s heartstrings without pouring on the sap, creating a memorable and worthy romance.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : August 9, 2023

Publication Date: 08/2023

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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