Second First Impressions
Second First Impressions is the latest contemporary romance from Sally Thorne, this time following a young professional who needs to focus on more than work.
Ruthie Midona is only twenty-five, and is already living like the elderly folks she caters to at her job with Providence Retirement. She lives on-site in a cottage and barely leaves the property, knowing that she is needed to provide support to her very crotchety clients. Despite the fact that it’s independent, and not assisted living, they make a lot of demands on her time. Ruthie’s boss Sylvia is taking a cruise, and Ruthie hopes that stellar management during her absence will put her in the best position for Sylvia’s job when she retires. Ruthie’s office temp, Melanie, has other ideas: she thinks Ruthie needs to get a life and start dating. She promises to help Ruthie meet someone and find the comfortable, safe relationship she craves, if Ruthie agrees to make some little changes.
Enter Teddy Prescott, gorgeous, long-haired, and looking like trouble. He is a tattoo artist currently short of funds, and also the errant son of Providence’s new corporate overlord, Jerry Prescott. Prescott Development makes Ruthie a little shaky in her sensible shoes, since they won’t reveal their plans for Providence’s future. But Jerry asks Ruthie for a favor; to put up Teddy in the cottage adjacent to hers, and help him get some kind of employment. Ruthie reluctantly agrees to help get Teddy a job, despite the fact that she and Teddy have only met briefly and he managed to insult her in less than thirty seconds.
Given time and Teddy’s irrepressible charm, he eventually manages to worm his way into Ruthie’s life, and her heart. But she knows he’s off-limits, for a good many reasons. Firstly, Ruthie has only ever had one relationship, and she has no idea how to handle a smooth guy like him. Secondly, Teddy isn’t sticking around. He’s only there temporarily, and Ruthie knows how much it hurts when people leave. She knows Teddy’s admiration of her is all flattery; he’s a gorgeous guy and gorgeous guys date gorgeous women. Given all that, Ruthie decides to just enjoy her new friendships, and live a little. After all, there’s nothing to remind you you’re young like a flock of octogenarians asking you to run their errands!
One of the strongest things about this story is the characters – they’re all stellar. Ruthie is excellent, Teddy is perfect, Melanie is amazing. Some of my favorites are the Parlonis, two elderly ladies who live to annoy the young’uns – they are a delight. Melanie actually really surprised me, because I thought she might fall into the unfortunate archetype of ‘ethnic best friend/fairy-godmother’ but she develops into a fully-rounded character it’s easy to become invested in. I really appreciated that every character has intrinsic motivations and characteristics, they feel natural and necessary to the story. Ruthie also isn’t your stereotypical self-depreciating type, she has self-esteem and confidence. Despite having little life experience, and not much of a personal life, Ruthie does demand to be treated with respect and that really endears her to the reader.
The story is pretty stellar, the plot is substantial and has a clear trajectory, and the chemistry between the main characters has room to blossom. The best kind of plot seems to flow naturally from the presence of characters together and driving the action, and this book has that. The main obstacle to things moving forward in the story is Ruthie herself, and I liked that. She is in her own way a lot of the time, which is both in character and something she needs to grow and move past. Other details that really stand out are Teddy’s tattoos and the Parloni’s fashion choices; both are described in striking, individual detail that really brings them to life.
There are some small issues with the book, which mostly come into play towards the end of the story. The family issues Ruthie is dealing with mostly manifest off-page, but the emotional damage of those events seriously affects her throughout the story. Ruthie’s family problems are not sufficiently dealt with towards the end, especially given how present her past trauma is in the narrative. While the reader does get some reassurance, for a problem that dogs Ruthie in day-to-day life, it wasn’t really addressed to my satisfaction.
Second First Impressions is a sweet love story and coming-of-age novel about a young woman meeting someone who, on paper, looks totally wrong for her, but who turns out to be exactly what she’s looking for.