I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Second Chance Charmer by Brighton Walsh
Published by Bright Publishing on March 19th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
Willow Haven’s content. Okay, that’s a lie, but she has been trying her damndest. Trouble is, it never sticks. Second oldest in a family her town was named after, she’s always felt the pressure. From the townspeople, from her sisters, but most of all from her daddy—the original Good Old Boy and Havenbrook’s reigning mayor. The only time she didn’t feel that stress had been those blissful months spent in the arms of the resident bad boy. The same one who broke her heart beyond repair when he left without a word.
Life hasn’t come easy for Finn Thomas. He’s had to claw and fight for everything he’s ever had—and truth be told, it hasn’t been much. He spent the first eighteen years of his life living so far from the wrong side of the tracks, he couldn’t even see them through his trailer window. The only thing that ever came easy for him and made his sorry ass happy was the one girl he loved with all his heart. And the one thing he had no choice but to leave behind.
When an opportunity arises to return to his tiny, southern hometown and open the first bar in a formerly dry county, he jumps at the chance. That won’t win him points with the mayor, who’s hell bent on making Finn’s life a nightmare for sullying his namesake. But too bad for Mayor Haven, Finn’s got his sights set on more than just the town, and this time he won’t be scared off quite so easily.
On the surface; this should have been a perfect read for me. Second chance romance, small town, hero who comes back to his hometown temporarily but ended up staying. Unfortunately the book fell a little flat for me.
I mentioned this on Twitter, but I’m getting more and more tired of the narrative we get in these second-chance stories where the woman has been stuck since the hero left, unable to move on with her life until he comes home and rescues her from her stasis. Here we have Willow Haven. She and Finn Thomas dated in high school, and Willow thought they were going to be together forever. Then Finn up and left one day. No goodbye, no note, no text, no phone call, just nothing. And Willow promptly canceled her plans to go to college in Nashville, deciding instead to stay in Haven and go to a local school, working for her garbage dad (the mayor) who treats her like shit after she graduates.
This is where she lost me. Finn is surprised to see her when he arrives in Haven. Since he never bothered to speak to a single person from Haven after he left, he assumed Willow had stuck with her original plans and moved to Nashville after high school. Finn asks her why she didn’t leave, and she tells him that she hadn’t wanted to without him. She completely upended her whole life after he left, deciding that she didn’t really want to leave Haven after all. Instead she stays, working for her dad, who is a swaggering 1950s throwback who’s eternally pissed that he had 4 amazing daughters and no sons. He doesn’t think women can do anything right. Willow has busted her ass working for him for 5 years, doing everything he asked, usually before he asks for it, going above and beyond to make sure the town is running smoothly. She puts the yearly 4th of July parade together, mostly by herself, without a word of acknowledgment or thanks. The way her dad treats her is so bad that when he says to her “…it’s nice to see you see you workin’ hard finally.” halfway through the book, she spends the rest of the book glowing because he finally paid her a compliment.
This is what she chose to do instead of following her dreams of going to Nashville and studying art. Because Finn left and she decided to put all of her own dreams aside. And since he left, of course, she dated a few times, had sex a few times, but that was it because no one could have been as good as Finn. Right- the only good sex she’s ever had was the one time she and Finn did it in high school.
I didn’t love Finn, either. He wasn’t exactly an alpha, but he tended to ignore anything Willow told him about space she needed or time to readjust to having Finn back in her life. He’s one of those guys who thinks it’s adorable when women are angry and deliberately pushed her buttons.
The issue with her dad was somewhat resolved by the end of the book, though it seemed rushed and too simple. I would have liked to see him get more comeuppance. He was truly loathsome.
Even though I didn’t understand the decisions Willow made, and I thought she let Finn off a little too easily, I liked this book. I liked it mainly in spite of Willow and Finn, though, rather than because of them. Brighton Walsh is a good writer, and Haven came to life in a way very few small towns do. It almost felt like another character and not just a generic small town there for the small-town romance novel of it all.
This is the first Brighton Walsh book I’ve read, and I’d read more by her. Especially the follow-up to this one, if it’s going to involve who I think it will.