by Meka James
Series: Love On Madison Island #1
Also in this series: Heat Of Love, Mechanics of Love
Publisher: Jazen Ink Press
Publication Date: March 20, 2021
Source: the author
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Her return could be a second chance to repair a first love...
Forty-three and jobless, Cynthia Marshall finds herself in the last place she'd expected, back home on Madison Island, GA. Her small hometown holds the ghosts of choices past. From the large Victorian she inherited from her beloved aunt, to unresolved family issues, and the boy turned man she left behind over two decades ago.
Starting a new career is hard enough but having to do so side by side with a person whose heart she broke is something she never accounted for.
Marcel Lewis is the owner of the only construction company on the island and is the key to making Cynthia's new dream a reality. He never quite got over the abrupt departure of the first woman he ever loved. Her return means he can finally get answers to the whys and what-ifs that have plagued him.
Years have passed, feelings have remained, but some wounds have yet to heal. The more time they spend together, the walls of the old house aren't the only ones tumbling down. But they can't construct a future without answering for decisions of the past.
Content warnings: View Spoiler » relative died of cancer (before book began), toxic family relationships (child was constantly told they were unwanted, ruined parents’ lives, etc), abortion, alcohol « Hide Spoiler
Second chance romance is one of my favorite tropes, so of course I jumped on this as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover and read the blurb. And it’s a really lovely story about two high school sweethearts finding each other – and love – again.
“I was here to get this new business venture off the ground and start anew. None of my plans entailed rekindling a long-dead romance with the first and, if I were being honest with myself, only real love of my life.”
Cynthia was fired after fifteen years at her job and has decided to come back to Madison Island and renovate her Aunt Drea’s house to become a bed and breakfast. Since it’s sat empty for three years, that’ll be quite the process. Luckily, her best friend Regina has a great recommendation for a contractor – but it’s her high school boyfriend, and first love, Marcel. Cynthia left years ago with no more than a letter, and Marcel hasn’t forgotten her. And now that she’s back for good, he’s not sure he can keep his hands off her – or if he really wants to. But there’s no way to move their new relationship forward without dealing with the way it ended before.
The book is relatively low angst, and what’s there revolves around the reasons Cynthia left the way she did. Cynthia felt trapped in the small town and she longed to get out and see the world. She was the reason for her parents’ teenage shotgun marriage, and after spending her childhood being constantly told that she ruined her parents’ lives, the last thing she wants is to be stuck near her family. Marcel, on the other hand, was content on the island and wanted the whole white-picket-fence life. When the book picks up, Cynthia and Marcel are both in their forties, and it’s so nice to see romances with an older couple. Sure, they have lots of additional baggage and still make mistakes, but not in the same way as a couple in their twenties would. While Cynthia never married or had kids, Marcel married and has two children, though he’s been divorced for longer than he was married.
Even after all this time, though, they’re both still Marcel still knows her very well, down to anticipating which floor plans she’d like. They both know they have to have a conversation about how and why Cynthia left so many years ago, but they both keep delaying it. Marcel still feels a lot of the old betrayal and rejection that led him to leave town and join the army, and Cynthia’s afraid of disappointing him more, so she keeps putting it off, never mind that that’s what led to her breaking up with him via letter years ago. Plus, Cynthia’s dealing with all her feelings of being back in Madison and dealing with her toxic family. But even with all that hanging over them, they can’t deny the attraction that still simmers between them. And when they’re not thinking about the past, they’re a really lovely couple.
“Irene, get your friend. I’m here for y’all and the house. I ain’t got time for no man. Especially not that man.” And especially not if it meant drudging up the past.
I loved Cynthia’s friend Regina, owner of the local bakery, who she’s staying with while the house is undergoing renovations. She was hilarious and obviously cared so much for Cynthia. Her friend Irene had less of a presence in the book, though the scenes and stories she was in were still hilarious. My favorite relationship, though, was Marcel and his ex-wife. They may not be married any longer, but they’re still raising two (mostly grown) kids together, and she obviously still cares about his happiness. I’m not a fan of other-women drama, and I was happy with how they all acted like adults. For better or worse (ha!) they’re family and they love each other.
“But this moment, as we stood together realizing that truth, I knew our relationship was strong, and like the house he was renovating for me, it had good bones. It just needed to have some walls knocked down. A few things rearranged for it to be the best it could be.”
There’s various permutations of second chance romances, with all the varying reasons of why the couple originally broke up, from a misunderstanding to external factors. One of my favorites is this one where, in hindsight, both characters needed to grow and change away from each other before they can get their HEA. Cynthia and Marcel wanted different things – seeing the world vs settling down – and either way one of them would’ve ended up resenting the other.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the next in the series!