by Barb Curtis
Series: Sapphire Springs #1
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From debut author, Barb Curtis, a heartwarming small-town romance about high school sweethearts who return home and discover that first love sometimes gets a second chance. . .
Jay Wynter wants to be successful on his own merit. That's why he left Sapphire Springs and his family's winery to build a career from scratch. But now that he's successor to Wynter Estate, Jay must return to his small hometown to face everything, and everyone, he left behind-especially his high school sweetheart, who happens to be his stunning new business partner . . .
Leyna Milan knows family legacies come with strings attached, but she's determined to prove that she can run her family's restaurant. Of course, Leyna never expected that honoring her grandfather's wishes meant opening a second location on her ex's property-or having to ignore Jay's sexy grin and guard the heart he shattered years before. But as they work closely together, she begins to discover that maybe first loves deserve a second chance . . .
I’m a big fan of the second chances trope, so of course I jumped on this book. Plus, it’s set in the Niagra Falls wine country area, which I love. I’m not a drinker, but for whatever reason, I’m a big fan of romances involving vinters, and it’s nice to see something that’s not set in Napa.
It’s got a bit of that Persuasion feel. They were childhood sweethearts, but due to his mom’s influence, Jay worried that he would be holding back Leyna, so he lied and told her he never loved her, and then jetted off to an apprenticeship at a vineyard in France. He’d hoped that saying that would make it easier for her to get over him, but in reality, it just crushed Leyna. Eighteen years later, Leyna’s taken over the family restaurant from her grandfather, revitalizing it and making it even better. Jay’s back from France – temporarily – to help his out his grandfather, who recently had a stroke. Because of his dyslexia, he doesn’t feel capable of handling the business side, but he knows the vines. Things come to a head when they’re both told they need to work together to open a restaurant at the vineyard as part of a deal made between Jay’s grandfather and Leyna’s (now passed away) grandfather. Can they overcome the weight of family expectations and their own history to recapture what they once had?
“I had no idea how to deal with a love like that. I was a kid, and what I felt for her was so immense I thought I could drown in it.” It had scared him, too, when he bothered to let himself think about it that way. If he was honest, it still did.”
While Leyna may not like the idea of opening a restaurant with Jay, she loves running her grandpa’s restaurant and combining tradition with putting her own touch on it. She’s great at what she does, and it’s obvious from the start that she and Jay would be a great team, if only they could get along. Jay was a little harder for me to like. He has dyslexia and was extremely hard on himself about it, mostly in part thanks to his mother who disparaged him for it and then dumped him with his grandfather. It left him with a lot of self-confidence issues, and that caused some of their previous relationship issues. The chemistry between them was good, though as a note it’s fade-to-black sex. The small town setting was sweet, and the secondary characters were well done. There was also a bit of a mystery element to it that felt a little odd but did eventually work out.
“Every single relationship since Jay had been doomed by an inner voice that told her nobody stayed, devotion didn’t exist anymore, and now…not only was he back, but his presence pried open a part of her that she’d kept locked tight for half her life.”
I definitely have a thing for second chance childhood romance relationships. They both admit they were too young at the time and needed to grow up a bit more, that they weren’t ready for how serious their relationship was. My main issue with it, though, was with how badly Jay hurt Leyna. The way he dumped her left her extremely depressed and needing therapy, and even with that, the echos of it sabotaged all of her future relationships. I found it hard to forgive him for that, especially with the way he kept secrets from her again in regards to another job offer. It seemed like he didn’t understand how his lack of communication hurt Leyna before and was going to hurt her again. It dimmed the book’s HEA a bit for me.
Overall, this is a sweet second chances small town romance. While parts of it didn’t work for me, I’m sure there are other readers who’d be more forgiving of Jay.