Series: Puffin Island #1
Published by HQN Books on February 24th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Also in this series: The Ladies' Man, Some Kind of Wonderful
Also by this author: The Ladies' Man, Some Kind of Wonderful
Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…
It's been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of "just breathe" pep talks she's given herself. And that's before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…
Ryan knows all about secrets. And it's clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won't let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he's going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else's hands?
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
First Time in Forever was my first time with Sarah Morgan, and it won’t be the last!
I love small-town romance with compelling characters, and this book fits that category well. Let’s start with the location: Puffin Island, an island (and small town) in Maine’s Penobscot Bay. It sounds wonderful, and I can just imagine it, with its clapboard houses, harbor and ferry, rocky shores and pine trees. I’m sure it’s pretty isolated in winter, but in summer, it sounds idyllic… not completely so, of course, because the islanders work hard during the tourist season to make ends meet through the winter.
The characters were also compelling. Both Emily and Ryan are carrying some pretty heavy baggage, though I’d say Emily’s is probably heavier. Nonetheless, I liked both of them, Emily in particular. Her fierce protectiveness toward little Lizzy gives the lie to her worry that she can’t give the child what Lizzy needs. What Lizzy needs is love and stability, and it’s clear Emily is in it for the long haul even though the responsibility scares her to death. Watching Emily fall in love with the child and face her own fears for Lizzy’s sake was really what made the whole book work for me.
Ryan’s love for his grandmother and siblings helped convince me that he wasn’t just a player as he first appears, and I appreciate that he goes out of his way to be helpful to Emily and Lizzy despite his own preference for avoiding entanglements. He’s a good neighbor, not just to Emily, which makes his determination to stay single seem out of character until you know his history.
There’s a little too much of the physically perfect about both of the main characters – although I had to laugh and nod in agreement at Emily’s matter-of-fact description of how hard it is to find clothes when you’re a DD cup (or bigger.) It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone address that in a romance novel (or any novel, come to think of it), and it’s been a frustration all of my adult life. Yay for finding a character who is not only built like me, but acknowledges the same clothing issues!
Lizzy captured my heart as quickly as she does Emily’s. She’s a darling child, and the bear is the perfect touch. I also really liked Ryan’s grandmother, though I felt that Emily opened up to her much too quickly; it felt more like something the author needed for the plot than something that was in character for Emily. The island’s inhabitants are friendly people who pull together in need. I’m sure there are some grouches, but I didn’t see any of them – one of the few things that made the story and setting feel a little too perfect. Maybe we’ll see more in the next book in the series.
My only hesitation is that there are perhaps too many dramatic tragedies in the book, mostly in Emily and Ryan’s pasts. But the focus of the book – the growing relationship between the two main characters – worked well for me. I’ll be looking forward to book two, which should focus on one of Emily’s two best friends from college. And lucky me – I also have Morgan’s earlier (and unrelated) trilogy to look forward to. The books are sitting in my Kindle already!
Challenges: COYER eligiblity: free (ARC)
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Winter 2014-2015