Blake Hunziker has played nomad for five years and landed in his fair share of trouble too. But now he's finally returning to his hometown--the Lake Michigan tourist town of Whisper Shore. Counting on a not-so-warm welcome, he's surprised at not only a positive reception but also a job offer. Determined to settle down and prove himself responsible, he agrees to the catch that comes with the job offer--coordinating the annual Christmas festival--even though he has no idea how he'll pull it off.
Autumn Kingsley, inn owner and experienced organizer of the Christmas festival, has always dreamed of traveling the world. Now she has a job opportunity in Paris and a surprise potential investor coming to town who just might take on her family's inn and finally leave her free to go. The only problem is that she has just two weeks to whip the inn into shape.
Their families have a long history of not getting along, but when Blake comes to Autumn for help with the festival, she actually agrees...in exchange for his help with the repairs to her inn. They may have struck a simple deal, but complications are quick to pile on when the guy who's had enough of running away and the woman who can't wait to leave join forces.
My source for book: Review CopyMy Thoughts:
Having previously "met" Blake in the author's prior book (Made to Last), I was anxious to reconnect and learn more about him. He still has the same fun-loving personality, though it's somewhat toned down by the reality of going home and coming to terms with--and trying to overcome--his past. While I did somewhat miss his over the top wackiness, at the same time it was actually very interesting and moving to see beneath his personality to the grief and uncertain feelings that he carries around.
Autumn is fairly easy to identify with, despite the fact that her longings to travel don't really match up with mine. I liked her inn and genuinely wanted to see her succeed, especially when the odds were stacked so severely against her. The stiffness in her relationships with her family was sad but also very enlightening when she discovered the underlying cause. It makes you stop and realize how lack of communication builds up walls, and sometimes you don't even know it until after it's happened.
Something that really spoke to me was the bit of advice that Blake's friend gave to him about life: "You don't have to see every open door on the way to your end goal--just the one staring you in the face." This was a great reminder for me, and I pondered on it for days after. The future may be unclear, but all we need to do is just what God puts in front of us, not worrying about anything past that. Sometimes it takes seeing the truth in story-form for the message to hit home, and this did just that for me! Thank you, Melissa!
I didn't initially realize the story was set late in the year, but the town's Winter Festival--and Christmas, to a lesser extent--is actually a large part of the story. I'm a bit of a Christmas fanatic so I didn't mind reading it in the summer, but some people might want to wait until the holiday season to enjoy it. It's in no way necessary to read it around Christmas, but it just might add a bit of extra fun! :)
As for the ending, it was sweet and everything I hoped for, though the journey to get there did take some twists I hoped it wouldn't. Ultimately Autumn had to "live and learn" in order to discover what it was that she really wanted...which is actually fairly realistic when you stop and think about it. So while it was slightly delayed, everything still turned out nicely in the end. Overall, I enjoyed the story quite a bit; the characters were entertaining but at the same time their rocky pasts give them a very normal vibe, like everyday people you might know in real life. This is one I can easily recommend, and I think most fans of the genre will enjoy it!
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Thanks to the publisher (BethanyHouse) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.