by Reese Ryan
Series: Holly Grove Island #1
Publication Date: December 1, 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:
In this heartwarming second-chance romance, a woman returns home and discovers that, when it comes to finding love, there's no place like home.
When a romance gone wrong lands reporter Dakota Jones in the pages of the tabloids, her rising star crashes and burns. Instead of getting the weekend anchor job she'd been promised, she's promptly shown the door. Which leaves her one option: return home to lick her wounds, eat lemon meringue pie, and plot her comeback while actively avoiding the man who once broke her heart.
Dexter Roberts made a huge mistake when he walked away from Dakota, and he's regretted it ever since. So when Dakota returns to Holly Grove Island to regroup and decide what's next, Dex can't pass up the opportunity to win back the love of his life. Now he just needs to convince Dakota to give him a second chance.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »misogyny, MC’s mother died of cancer (off-page and before book starts), grief, distant parents, racism (especially over Blackness in media), MC’s parent has diabetes, parents attempting to live out their dreams through their children « Hide Spoiler
Dear world, please give me more Black small town romances like this! This is a thoroughly enjoyable second-chance romance with an insane amount of pining. Though it’s releasing during the usual holiday novel season, it’s actually more of a beach read, as it starts with the town’s Fourth of July festival.
Dakota is returning home to lick her wounds after getting fired from her job as an investigative journalist in NYC due to a scandal. Holly Grove Island doesn’t seem to have changed much from the small town she left seventeen years ago – though her ex-boyfriend is even hotter. Dex dumped her out of the blue when he returned home from college for winter break during her senior year of high school, and she’s never forgiven him for that, though she’s determined not to show how much it still hurts. That’s more of a challenge than she expected as she seems to keep running into him, and it gets even worse when she gets a job in marketing with the island’s new hotel… just as Dex is promoted to interim manager. But no matter how much chemistry they have, Dakota’s leaving again as soon as she can find a new job. Getting involved with him again would surely be a bad idea, right?
“If it weren’t for the small matter of hating Dexter Roberts’s guts, she’d be inclined to put him on a plate, sop him up with a warm biscuit, then wash him down with an ice-cold glass of sweet tea.”
I absolutely loved Dakota. When she returns home, she’s hurting from betrayal of her trust, but she’s desperate to hide that anything’s wrong from her family and friends. But at the same time that she’s talking about how wonderful NYC is and how hard she’s looking for a new journalism job, she’s also remembering how much she loves the small town she grew up in, and how much she misses her dad and her best friend. Dex was a sweetheart from the beginning. He broke up with her because he didn’t want her to give up her dreams of journalism school at NYU to follow him to his college, but he never stopped loving her. He’s sure that this is his opportunity to reconnect with her. Dakota and Dex have amazing chemistry, and while it’s also obvious the rear that Dakota still has feelings for him, she ignores them. After all, he already broke her heart once, and she’s set on finding another job and leaving again. But the more she sees of him, the more she remembers why she loved him (hello, jazz band scene), and oh, the pining is just perfect. From the moment they saw each other again, it was obvious they were meant to be together, and I loved watching then alternately attempt to fight it and lean in to it.
There’s a lot to unpack as well in terms of parental pressure and expectations for both Dex and Dakota. Both felt the need to live up their parents’ ideas of what their lives should be like, and that’s what forced them apart, and naturally, just as they’re getting back together, more bombshells threaten their relationship again. Dakota spends a lot of time wrestling with this in the book, especially as the parent involved was her mother who had since passed away from cancer. The way Dakota handled her outrage and grief and finally found a resolution was especially touching to me.
The side characters were amazing, especially Dakota’s best friend, Sin. I loved how even though Dakota dropped the ball on their relationship, when she asked her for help, Sin was there for her. Her matchmaking antics were pretty hilarious, too. And truly, this book had some absolutely hilarious zingers.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the next Holly Grove Island book!