This Time Around
Stories about couples getting a second chance at love are one of my favorite tropes. I like a sweet, funny romance, too. However, sometimes we can get a little too much of a good thing. This Time Around has all the marks of a favorite for me, but the dosage on sweetness and kookiness is just a tad high. The book has more than a few good moments, but it’s too sugary to be refreshing overall.
You’ll learn early on in this book that albatrosses fly alone. And why should we care? Because it gives the author a convenient reason to keep referring to the heroine as “Allie Ross, the albatross.” Like more than a few of the plot points, it’s catchy at first but soon gets a little old.
At any rate, we have a scene early in the book where our fine-feathered heroine is preparing to meet her old high school/college/we-almost-got-married-but-didn’t boyfriend after years apart. Allie apparently placed a high value on material success and back in the day, Jack Carpenter just wasn’t measuring up in that department. The tables have now turned and Jack has made a success of himself. Allie, meanwhile, has had to face ruin as the foundation of her social-climbing parents’ well-heeled lifestyle turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. The parents are now in jail and Allie is trying to figure out what to do with her life. Faced with seeing Jack again, she gets a friend to stand in as a fake fiancé because she cannot bear to have Jack see her as anything other than successful.
Allie gets a bit of a surprise when Jack turns up with a daughter in tow – but no wife. Allie’s charade quickly crumbles and she learns that Jack is a widower. The old spark is most definitely still there, and the two start getting to know one another again. At times the intersecting plots of possibly rekindled romance and Allie’s journey of self discovery do make for entertaining reading. For instance, Allie learns that she has inherited her grandmother’s B&B and all of its contents.
Allie arrives at what she expects to be a B&B only to discover that in her later years, grandma turned it into a sanctuary for six-toed “Hemingway” cats. The cats are endearing without overwhelming the story, and I suspect animal lovers will like this touch quite a bit. Likewise, the caretaker/beautician-in-training who becomes Allie’s unexpected new roommate is also a treat. And, at least at first, I did enjoy watching Allie take stock of her life and rediscover all the good points about Jack.
Given the reason why Allie dumped Jack in the first place, one cannot help wondering if she’s only coming back around because Jack has made a success of himself. However, she really seems to have learned a lesson from her fall from the charmed life. While This Time Around isn’t the most introspective book on earth, the author does work plenty of deeper ideas into the fluff and slapstick. Most successfully is the message that people don’t always turn out to be who we think they will be. Allie’s parents failed her, but when life comes crumbling down, Jack is there and thankfully, Allie sees his real value.
The one thing about Allie that did keep me from warming up to her entirely was her tendency to keep secrets. We learn near the end of the book that she kept some very important information from Jack back when they were first together, and we also see her keeping things from him in the modern-day relationship as well. Rather than allowing him into her life and letting him react, she shuts him out of some fairly important pieces of her life without seeming to realize the distance and lack of trust that this will create in the relationship. On the one hand, the author paints the dilemma very clearly and I do give her credit for that. However, things get resolved and tied up with a neat little bow way too easily.
The characters in this novel are charming for the most part, though, as noted above, I didn’t entirely adore the heroine. Since I know some readers are wary of children in romance, I will add that Jack’s ten-year-old daughter does play an important role in the story. She’s very likeable and does indeed seem like a real ten-year-old. Toward the second half of the book, the story does get weighed down a bit too much with slapstick and repeated gags, but if you like that sort of thing, you’ll likely find this an endearing story.