By Candis Terry
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Abby kissed her friend Jackson goodbye when he headed off to war, and then she left town. Jackson never heard from her, not when he was in danger daily in Afghanistan, not when his brother Jared was killed in action, and not when his father died. He feels betrayed and angry by Abby’s disappearance from his life, but he has never forgotten her. Now, nearly seven years after she left, Abby is back in Sweet to prepare her parents' house for sale, and Jackson wants some answers. However, every meeting with Abby leads to another meeting and raises more questions for both of them. The only things they are certain of are the still-strong link their history forged between them and the still-explosive chemistry they share.
Reunited lovers and friends–to-lovers are two of my favorite tropes, and Candis Terry offers readers both in this book. While the story picks up at the point of reunion, Terry supplies enough details about Jackson and Abby’s past for readers to understand how rich and multi-layered the history between them is. I particularly liked that these characters are not frozen in time during the seven years that they are apart. They both try to create lives in which the other has no place, and they both make mistakes in choosing a marriage partner.
Abby tries on her parents’ values for size and marries a man who is fabulously wealthy and socially prominent, but it doesn’t take her long to discover that the things her parents covet leave her feeling empty when there is no real love or communication between her and her shallow husband who is more interested in image than in substance. Jackson marries a woman he loves, a good person with whom he has a child that they both adore, but he finds that loving and being in love are not the same thing. One of my favorite scenes shows him patiently allowing his three-year-old daughter to put hair accessories in his hair and makeup on him. Only a doting father who is totally secure in his masculinity would do that. I also really like that Abby and Jackson acknowledge their mistakes. While they each feel that the other contributed to their separation, neither tries to avoid his/her own responsibility. In other words, they have become grown-ups.
What separates Jackson and Abby is a misunderstanding of how the other feels that could have been cleared up with some honest communication. Usually such misunderstandings have me closing the book and muttering imprecations, but Abby and Jackson are young and they value the friendship that has been important to them for much of their lives. Both these factors make me willing to accept the misunderstanding as more than a weak plot point.
Terry has a gift for creating small towns that feel real. I liked her Sugar Shack series, but I think the Sweet series is even better. The widowed Jana Wilder and her sons are all characters with a high credibility quotient and strong appeal, and Joe and Jared, whose deaths occur before the series begins, have a real presence in the books and in the hearts of the surviving Wilders. I’m eager to see the remaining brothers, Jesse and Jake, earn their HEAs, and I am equally invested in seeing the hints of Jana’s romance developed.
If you are a fan of small-town romances with emotionally engaging stories and characters who will win your affection, I recommend Sweetest Mistake. The first book in the series, Anything But Sweet (Reno’s story) is also a good read, one with a rich vein of humor. Jesse’s story, Something Sweeter, will be released on June 24. It’s on my list for 2014.