Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Series: Life in Icicle Falls #4
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
How to Change Your Life…
Can a book change your life? Yes, when it’s Simplicity, Muriel Sterling’s guide to plain living. In fact, it inspires Jen Heath to leave her stressful, overcommitted life in Seattle and move to Icicle Falls, where she rents a lovely little cottage on Juniper Ridge. And where she can enjoy simple pleasures—like joining the local book club—and complicated ones, like falling in love with her sexy landlord, Garrett Armstrong.
Her sister Toni is ready for a change, too. She’s got a teenage daughter who’s constantly texting her friends, a husband who’s more involved with his computer than he is with her, and a son who’s consumed by video games. Toni wants her family to grow closer—to return to a simpler way of life.
Other women in town, like Stacy Thomas, are also inspired to unload their excess stuff and some of the extra responsibilities they’ve taken on.
But as they all discover, sometimes life simply happens. It doesn’t always happen simply!
This is a sweet treat of a book, and not just because all the characters discuss their problems with regular applications of Sweet Dreams Chocolate from the local chocolatier.
Speaking of Sweet Dreams Chocolate, it is terrific to see how all the lovely people who starred in the previous books in the Icicle Falls series, (Better Than Chocolate, Merry Ex-Mas and What She Wants) are doing now that they have their own HEAs.
But the main characters of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge are Jen Heath, who rents the titular cottage, her sister Toni, and local resident Stacy. They are each, in their various ways, influenced by Muriel Sterling’s latest book, Simplicity. (We also know Muriel from Better Than Chocolate, and why she needed to get some simplicity in her life.)
Jen reads Muriel’s book, and decides that it is time she got some of her own simplicity back. Her life in Seattle has become so busy with the drudgery of two jobs to pay for a condo she can’t afford that she hates her life. So she buys into the siren song of Muriel’s book to the point where she rents a cottage in Muriel’s home town of Icicle Falls and puts her condo in Seattle on the market.
Jen is reaching for a simpler life where she has time to do things she enjoys and kindle some new friendships. She wants to find the joy that she used to have.
What she finds is a hunky landlord who is also a firefighter. She falls into insta-lust, but he thinks she’s a complete flake for turning her life over so irresponsibly. He’s already been in love with one irresistible but irresponsible ditz, and he’s not interested in doing it again, even though he adores the child that came out of his impulsive first marriage.
Jen creates a new life for herself, and hopes that her landlord will eventually get the stick out of his ass and see that the sparks they generate could lead to a real relationship. Garrett, in turn, tries to force himself into a relationship with someone steady and solid. It takes him a long time to realize that the heart wants what it wants, and that looking for the fun in life does not necessarily make Jen selfish, childish or even remotely flakey.
While Jen is getting her new life together, her sister Toni is searching for someplace where her family can not just get away from it all, but disconnect from the electronic gizmos that are always distracting them from each other. It turns out that the little Washington town that her sister moved to on a whim may be the perfect place to find her family again.
Icicle Falls resident Stacy just needs to declutter her life. It takes a cosmic push for her to realize that she doesn’t own her stuff, she has so much stuff that it owns her. It takes a lot of effort, and some whole new ways of thinking, for Stacy to find a channel for her love of finding beautiful things.
Icicle Falls sustains and supports them all.
Escape Rating B+: Like all of the Icicle Falls series, The Cottage on Juniper Ridge is primarily a story about the supportiveness of strong friendships. In this case, the friends are the members of the Icicle Falls Book Club, a group of women who share books, chocolate, and a chance to unwind in a place where everyone understands what the others are going through. It’s their once-a-month break for some “me time” with the BFFs who will be there for them, no matter what.
Jen Heath comes in from the outside, but her shared love of books and the general friendliness of the town is enough to get her adopted by this tight-knit bunch of marvelous women. They help each other through whatever needs to be shared and/or listened to. We all need a group like this in our lives, but it’s hard to find!
The tying element of Muriel’s book, Simplicity, resonates with each of them differently. They are all over-worked or over-committed, and the book makes them stop and think about ways they can de-stress their lives, just a bit.
While it is the story of Jen’s journey of self-discovery that drives the book, Stacy’s story had a tremendous amount of resonance. It’s not just that she has been letting her hunt for beautiful bargains fill her empty nest, but how many memories she has invested in what to other people looks like “stuff”. At the same time, it was great in Stacy’s story to see a long-term marriage that is happy, where the husband is supportive and generally terrific and the couple feels lucky to be together.
Where so many stories ignore women who have achieved their happily ever after, in The Cottage at Juniper Ridge we see a whole range of experiences, from Jen’s search for true love to Toni’s need to reconnect to Stacy’s search for her own purpose within the context of a continuingly happy marriage.
Icicle Falls continues to be a marvelous place to visit, filled with people you’d love to meet. I can’t wait for the next book!