Shady Grove—where everyone knows your secrets
Once, Neil Pettit was the only thing Maddie Montesano wanted. She tried every trick in the book to keep him, but no luck. It took some time—and a lot of holding her head up while the town gossiped—but she's made a good life for herself and her daughter.
Now, Neil's back and is trying to be the father he never was. Maddie so doesn't need this kind of disruption. Not when the crazy attraction she's spent years ignoring still sizzles between them. The temptation to give in and have Neil again is strong. And when he offers that dream of forever she'd abandoned, well, she might give this town something new to talk about….
And here is Romantic Librarian's review:
Fresh from achieving his dream of winning the Stanley Cup, hockey player Neil Pettit is returning to Shady Grove to see his preteen daughter. While he hasn’t spent much time with her, he has given her family and his own lots of financial support. That is something his father never did. That man left the family stranded with no support of any kind. His mother couldn’t cope. Neil and his sister found their mother after her suicide when they were very young. He and his sister Fay were adopted by Gerry and Carl after a few years in the foster care system, but Neil never really recovered from his rocky start.
His sister and her two young boys are living with Gerry and Carl in the house Neil bought after his sister separated from her husband. Neil sees Fay getting depressed and worries that she will give up on life as their mother seemed to do. He is paying his ex-girlfriend, Maddie, and her family to renovate a house in Shady Grove for a bed and breakfast, hoping Fay will run it and find purpose in her life.
Maddie Montesano wanted to stop feeling so many things whenever Neil was around. She was doing fine raising Bree, their daughter, on her own with his financial support and occasional visit, but she has no idea why he is hanging around her so much during this visit.
Bree is a bookworm and would rather spend her day with books than sports. She gave up on expecting her dad to want her around years ago, and no longer wants him around. At least, that is what she tells herself. Gerry talks about how Bree is overweight, and Neil decides he will get through to the daughter he doesn’t understand with fitness training.
If only he could get through to her mom, too. They rekindle their passion, but still find it hard to really talk. Both parents and Bree have to drop years of defenses and start dwelling on positive times they’ve shared before they can start communicating again. A near tragedy brings priorities into focus and helps the family to find a new future.
Small town contemporaries are all the rage right now, from Kristan Higgins to Susan Wiggs. There is something appealing about a slower pace, big families that live near each other, and a place where memories and friendships are long. This promising start to Andrews’ new series featuring the Montesano siblings captures the welcoming atmosphere of the small town.
The “second chance at love” stories also have appeal. Who doesn’t like the idea of finding love again with the one who got away? But what Andrews struggles is with defining Neil’s motivations. His troubled background and how it affects him and Fay is understandable, but it is hard to be sympathetic or root for him as a romantic hero when he left pregnant Maddie to follow his hockey dream, and then was not so great with his daughter throughout her life. He would have been more likeable and relatable if his team hadn’t won the Stanley Cup.
Maddie and her cynicism were also easy to understand, though it’s mysterious why she hasn’t had any other good relationships since. Are there so few men in Shady Grove outside of her brothers?
The rest of the characters help boost this issue. Gerry and Carl are spot on as parents who make mistakes while trying too hard to do the right thing for both Fay and her family and Bree. Fay’s downward spiral after her husband’s affair is tough to take as she knows what effect her own mother’s depression had on her and Neil.
Andrews does a great job with Bree. The confused and awkward teen girl steals the show and one of the best scenes in the book is when her dad finally stands up for her with his mother in a nice way, telling her to stop making comments about what Bree is eating. It is Neil’s turnaround and efforts with Bree that are more memorable than even his sexy reconnection with Maddie.
Maddie’s brothers are interfering, humorous and at times feel like too much. Much like real life family can. They serve in the same way that multiple siblings in a Regency novel do, heralding the subjects for future books. The fact that one is emergency personnel is always a sign that someone will need help before the end of the book, and this is no exception. James, the level headed brother who gets upset only at Neil when he isn’t nice to Bree, is intriguing and readers will want to see his story.
Everyone will be happy at the ending, and most readers will look for the next book in the series. Andrews, who has already won a RITA, will continue to be an author to watch.