Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Most Likely To #1
Published by Montlake Romance on April 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
Voted Most Likely to Succeed, Melanie Bartlett ended up anything but. The down-on-her-luck single mom wants a complete do-over—is that too much to ask? With her family long gone from River Bend, strong, independent Mel is as surprised as anyone to end up in the quaint small town she once called home. But with her friends, Jo and Zoe, by her side, and a comfortable room at Miss Gina’s quirky bed-and-breakfast, she just might have turned the corner on a new life.
Wyatt Gibson never liked the big city. River Bend suits the ruggedly handsome builder just fine. Wyatt knows he’s home, even if that means being charmed by the appearance of Melanie and her spunky, adorable daughter. Is Wyatt’s calm devotion—even amid a coming storm—enough to convince Mel she may have found a home to call her own, a family that never leaves, and a true love to last a lifetime?
They say that no good deed goes unpunished. I say that no bad ex fails to show up in a romance novel. Once they and their badness are introduced, the reader just knows that they are going to show up as soon as the hero or heroine finally starts getting their life together, just so that they can mess up their life all over again.
In Doing It Over, that dastardly ex added a suspense element that kept on giving chills right up to the very end of the story.
But the story doesn’t start with the evil ex (there should be a word, “evilex”) it starts with three sisters-of-the-heart and their small-town high school graduation. As they chew over the infuriating comments left in their yearbooks, they vow that, no matter what happens in their lives, they will all come back to tiny River Bend, Oregon, for their tenth high school reunion. (It feels like River Bend is just down the road from Thunder Point, and that’s a good thing!)
When Melanie Bartlett returns to River Bend for that reunion, all of those yearbook predictions have been turned on their heads. Jo, voted most likely to end up in jail, is now the local sheriff. Zoe, voted most likely to stay in River Bend, is a jet-setting, world-renowned chef who lives in Dallas, far, far from River Bend.
And Melanie, voted most likely to succeed, is a flat broke single-mother whose crappy car dies its final death less than 20 miles from River Bend. Mel has had only one success in her post-high school life, her seven year old daughter Hope. Who has not been happy cooped up in the car for several days on the road from Bakersfield to River Bend.
But when they all come home for that reunion, everyone’s life starts to look up. Jo has her BFFs back, and finally has someone she can tell the truth about her father’s death. Zoe finds herself drawn back to the life, and the man, she left behind in River Bend ten years ago.
And Melanie finds out that you can go home again. In River Bend, she has friends and a support network to help her raise Hope. She makes a job at Miss Gina’s very quirky Bed and Breakfast, and finds again that Gina is her surrogate mother, and is thrilled to be a surrogate granddaughter for little Hope.
She reaches out again. The man who tried to rescue her and her broken-down car turns out to be a man who will stand beside her, and who falls in love with her daughter every bit as much as he does with Melanie.
Of course, her nasty dastardly ex shows up just as Melanie is getting her life back on track. He says he just wants to take care of the daughter he once denied might even be his. And he wants a divorce – which surprises the hell out of Melanie, because she never married the bastard. Getting to the bottom of what smarmy, weaselly Nathan really wants gets the whole town behind Melanie and Hope. It’s a good thing that Melanie came back to River Bend, because she needs all the protection she can get!
Escape Rating A-: There are two completely opposite sayings about going home. One is the Thomas Wolfe version, “You can’t go home again.” The other is the Robert Frost version, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
Although the women all experience a bit of that first version, in that all the places they remember from their childhood all seem much smaller now, what Mel does is definitely that second version – she has to go home, and the town she called home takes her back in and calls her their own.
The irony in this story is that none of these women go home to their birth families. Mel’s parents divorced and left River Bend the minute she graduated high school. Jo’s parents are dead. Zoe’s dad is in prison and her mother is still codependent. So instead, the home that Mel goes back to is Miss Gina’s B-and-B. Miss Gina was always a surrogate mother, always the favorite “cool” aunt to these three girls who had no one but each other.
And the old lady is still “cool”. But she’s also ready to hand the reins of her B-and-B over to younger and more energetic hands – when the right hands come along in the person of Melanie.
We see enough of Melanie’s perspective to understand why she is extremely leery of Wyatt Gibson when his truck pulls up beside her very dead car on the road to River Bend. But once one of her friends vouches for Wyatt, Melanie finds it difficult to resist the attraction she’s been feeling ever since the tall, dark stranger offered her a rescue.
The great thing about this story is that while Wyatt offered her a rescue from her broken-down car, he doesn’t try to rescue her from her life. Melanie comes back to River Bend to stand on her own two feet. She’s grateful for the support, and can’t help falling in love when Wyatt rescues her fearless daughter from falling off a roof, but he doesn’t “save” her. He just makes the life she has saved brighter.
The suspense element in this story kept me guessing until the end. When slimy ex Nathan shows up, Melanie knows him more than well enough to recognize that the bastard is up to something. While it is mostly possible that he is just up to messing up Melanie’s life by threatening to take Hope, there’s too much smoke for that to be the only source of the fire. Nathan is so obviously playing a much bigger game, but Melanie doesn’t know enough about Nathan’s current life to figure out what he is really after and why he is after it.
Set a thief to catch a thief. Wyatt’s dad comes to the rescue. In order to ferret out the motives of a lawyer, get another (and better) lawyer. As the case unravels piece by piece, we find out just what a slime her ex really is, and what he was really after. And what is after him.
The solution to the mystery was a surprise until nearly the very end. And the way that the situation is finally brought to a close is a lovely bit of poetic justice. If you are looking for a new contemporary romance series to get lost in, Doing It Over, and River Bend are a terrific read.