12 March 2017

Learning to Love

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …

Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.

Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and in the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Choc Lit, 2016.

How acquired: Received for review from NetGalley.

My thoughts:  My second Sheryl Browne book (after THE REST OF MY LIFE) and I liked this one even more. Possibly because I more easily related to the heroine, a mother of three struggling to balance work, children and relationship, and trying to find her own identity by opening a “second-chance designer” dress shop. Her live in boyfriend (not husband, as the synopsis says), the father of her youngest child, has become a little distant and emotionally unsupportive, and then on date night he stands her up, leaving her sitting alone in a restaurant. And to top off that misery, when she finally gives up waiting and goes home, her house is on fire and her children are across the street with the new neighbor, surly taciturn David, and his unhappy son, Jake.

Of course once she starts getting to know David, he's not just surly and taciturn, he's actually a man overwhelmed with grief and guilt over the death of his wife, and unable to get through to and connect with eight year old Jake, who will barely speak to him. Both Andrea and David are wonderfully written characters, as are all of the kids, and Andrea's mother, Dee. There's a lot of witty and amusing dialogue as well.
Her red and gold hair tumbling carelessly around her shoulders and a smile so radiant, she could light up Blackpool on her own. 'You could give Julia Roberts a run for her money,' he said, feeling slightly off kilter.
'Do you know he's right, you could,' Dee gazed at her daughter and then turned to David with a heartfelt sigh. 'She'd make a wonderful prostitute.'

There's also a lot of internal monologuing, which I love. The narrative alternates between three viewpoints, mostly Andrea's and David's, but we also spend some time with Andrea's friend, Sally, who becomes a pretty integral character in her own right. The children, both Andrea's and David's, are also well defined and help drive the story forward rather than just being plot moppets.

The romance between Andrea and David builds up slowly and realistically. The attraction is there from the beginning, but of course neither is looking for a relationship. Andrea is already in one, anticipating a proposal any day while wondering why Jonathan has become a little distant and distracted. David is a widower, trying to put back together the pieces of his and Jake's shattered lives.

Occasionally I felt the editing was a little lacking, with a sentence here and there that stumbled along a bit awkwardly. But overall the story drew me in and I quickly became emotionally invested in the characters and their lives. A sweet and heartwarming story.  

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