The Pursuit of Jesse
When two characters with a long string of baggage collide, sometimes it results in a happily ever after. Usually, however, it takes a lot of opening the baggage and sorting through the contents before two burdened people can even get close to each other.
When Jesse Taylor, brother of Mirabelle Island police chief Garrett, comes to the island after getting out of prison, Garrett lines up a job for his brother with the town wedding planner, Sarah Marshik, but warns him that he’d better have gotten his life straightened out. Garrett also says that he hasn’t spoken about Jesse’s crime to anyone in the community except his wife who has promised not to tell anyone else.
Sarah has just bought a dilapidated house for herself and her son. While she needs an all-around handyman to gut and refinish it, she plans on putting a lot of sweat equity into it herself. She’s not sure, however, if she wants to hire an ex-con, especially if the man will be around her boy. But she trusts Garrett, the husband of one of her good friends, so accepts Jesse grudgingly.
Working on her house while she’s the wedding planner for a Bridezilla isn’t easy, she finds. Since she doesn’t know why Jesse went to prison, her mind runs wild, imagining all sorts of crimes he could have committed. Even an Internet search doesn’t turn up any information about him which makes her even more leery.
As tensions mount surrounding Jesse, he decides that he must tell Sarah, her son Brian, and Garrett’s son Zach what his crime was and how he feels about going to prison. He confesses to them that while driving drunk, he hit a pedestrian, pinning him to a building. Although the man survived, he’s now wheelchair-bound.
Sarah is not without mystery herself. She hasn’t talked about her past with anyone and hasn’t shared who Brian’s father is. That she was a hell-raiser who has changed her life for her son’s sake is a secret she isn’t willing to share, even with her closest friends.
While all of her secrets as well as his must be shared before they can get together as a couple, the balance between Jesse’s confession and Sarah’s is uneven. Interestingly, the difference is monumental: Jesse had one lapse of judgment and was caught while Sarah indulged in a series of deplorable decisions before becoming a mother. Yet Jesse is the felon, the one looked down upon.
Brenna’s novel asks hard-hitting questions about Jesse, his actions, and his consequent reparations. Unfortunately, while interesting and thought-provoking, it doesn’t ask the same questions about or make the same demands of Sarah.