Welcome to Hartwell, a quiet seaside escape where uncovering old secrets could lead one woman to discover the meaning of a love that lasts…
While Doctor Jessica Huntington engages with the inmates at the women’s correctional facility where she works, she’s always careful to avoid emotional attachments in her personal life. Loss and betrayal taught her that lesson long ago. But when she comes across a set of old love letters in the prison’s library and visits the picturesque town of Hartwell to deliver them to their intended recipient, she finds herself unable to resist the town’s charm—and her attraction to the sexy owner of a local bar proves equally hard to deny.
Since his divorce from his unfaithful ex-wife, Cooper Lawson has focused on what really matters: his family and the boardwalk pub they’ve owned for generations. But the first time Jessica steps into his bar, Cooper is beyond tempted to risk his heart on her. Yet as their attraction grows hotter and Jessica remains stubbornly closed off, he begins to realize it will take more than just passion to convince her there’s only one real thing in life worth fighting for… (Goodreads)
Whenever I am in a reading funk or feeling a bit down, one of the first authors I turn to is Samantha Young. So it is at a very coincidental time that she happened to have the first book in a new series out. However, whenever an author starts a new series I get nervous. I begin worrying that this new series won’t live up to their other series, or that it may feel like they have transposed the characters from one series to another. Thankfully, these worries can be pushed aside, for Young proves that she can create not only engaging characters, but a fictional setting that comes across as a real place, that I would seriously like to spend my holidays there.
With The One Real Thing, Young moves away from Scotland and creates a whole new cast of characters in the sandbox she calls Hatwell, a fictional coastal town in, what I assume, could be the Easter Seaborn. Think of those quaint little towns you see in US films and TV Shows. This is the setting of her new series and it proves to be a character in its own right, with a little bit of magic thrown in for good measure.
The overall plot of the book is pretty much the basis for Young’s On Dublin Street series, with boy meets girl; sparks fly between boy and girl; boy and girl become romantically involved and finally boy and girl have to overcome obstacles in order to be together. This is a formula that works really well for Young, but like I have said in my previous reviews of her books, it is once again her ability to create a cast of characters that you become emotionally invested in that proves her brilliance as a writer. She once again showcases her ablility to move effortlessly from sweet and tender to so hot you feel the heat from the words on the pages.
In this book, our core couple is Cooper, the local bar owner and Jessica, a doctor who takes a vacation to Hartwell, only to fall in love with Cooper and Hartwell and decides not to leave. With a supporting cast of characters I can instantly see future stories about, the book is engaging.
However, there is no doubt that this book is Cooper and Jessica story and these are two characters that I instantly warmed to. Though the book does open with the traditional meet/cute between Jessica and Cooper, we quickly move back to before they met and get a glimpse of their day to day lives. This did help establish them both as individuals before moving on to the main event and it helped me understand a bit more about why they react to certain events throughout the book. It was good to have this grounding and made the anticipation of the two of them meeting all the more thrilling.
As always, Young has given us a strong female character in Jessica, but it doesn’t mean that she is flawless. You quickly sense that she is guarded and that she doesn’t let anyone in, even her best friend Matthew. It is true that she does have a caring side and you see this blossom the longer she stays in Hartwell. It seems that away from her life back in Wilmington, she is able to let her barriers down slightly. Through the friendships she gains in Hartwell, you see her begin to live. The barriers never come fully down and she still guards her secrets from Cooper, for fear of losing him. Since we, the reader, are never privy to what this secret is, we are left wondering what could have happened to her that makes her so guarded.
When the truth is finally revealed, the pieces fall into place and you begin to understand why Jessica is the way she is. Once again, Young takes a difficult subject and treats it with care. This is what I like about Young; she never sensationalise or trivialises serious subject. It makes the Jess’s growth all that more sweeter.
It has to be the first time that it has taken me so long to warm to one of Young’s male characters. It’s not that he is unlikable or that he is bad boy who needs redeemed. On the whole he is a pretty good guy and he seems like a good catch. Yet, the way he reacts to what Jess has to say about why she came to Hartwell. Even as you get to know him and why he has trust issues, it still took me a while to think he was worthy of Jess.
Again, Young has created a fantastic cast of supporting characters and I began mentally circling the ones who I wanted to read their own stories about. Thankfully , the next book in the series are about two of my favourite characters, Bailey and Vaughn. These two you just know will have a fiery relationship and it will be fun to see it play out.
Young is quickly becoming the Queen of the Contemporary Romance and this proves that she can move out of familiar surroundings and create her own sandbox for her cast of characters to play in.
The One Real Thing solved my reading funk with its brilliant romance and promise of yet to come. By the time I finished, I was desperate to book my own vacation to this little place of paradise; pity that it is all the creation of Young.
HART’S BOARDWALK IN ORDER
1 The One Real Thing
2 Every Little Thing