What would you change if you had to start your life—and love life—over again?
When Emma Harris wakes up from a coma she learns that her fiancé and her BFF have fallen in love, she’s lost her job, and the life she knew is gone. Overwhelmed but grateful to be alive she starts over from scratch. Not as easy as it sounds, of course. But she’s never been a quitter, even if she wishes she could quit rehab, where her hot but evil physical therapist, Simon, puts her through the wringer.
Eager for a new beginning, Emma opens a doggy day care. Unfortunately, the only space she can afford is owned by her childhood nemesis Ali Pratt. But hey, she’s been through worse, right? She tries to roll with the punches, but a friend drops his grandpa off at the doggy day care in desperation then on top of that, she and Ali bring the term ‘frenemies’ to a whole new level. And then another grandparent shows up. And another.
In the midst of all that, Emma realizes she’s accidentally fallen for Evil PT. But the most horrifying thing of all is that Ali just might have turned into the best friend she’s ever had. And as Emma grows from the pain of her past and takes on her new path, she comes to realize that life isn’t what you’re given, it’s what you make of it.
I've really enjoyed the Wildstone series, in which each book is a standalone, women's fiction story with a strong romance thread. In Love for Beginners, we get journeys that focus not only on the primary romantic couple but a secondary one also. But that's not all Shalvis explores. Her complex characters have tentative friendships, evolving family situations, and new beginnings to navigate as well. Emma, Simon, and Alison all have individual journeys to travel with significant emotional growth to achieve before each of them can claim the happiness they deserve. They're very different characters, each with unique emotional baggage to overcome and I found myself connecting with each of them. Shalvis brings them to life so clearly.
I enjoy how Shalvis explores all aspects of her characters' lives in this book. She creates authentic, flawed characters who pull me into their lives, working their way into my emotions. I care about them, ache with them, cheer for them, and laugh and cry with them. I love the combination of strength and vulnerability she infuses in them. And it's not only the human characters who captured my heart. Hog, Emma's emotional support dog is a huge snuggle-bug, often mistaken for a bear, with sensitive feelings and a fear of just about everything who, quite frankly, needs an emotional support human of his own. Believe me when I tell you that he and Emma are perfectly matched. I defy anyone who reads this book not to fall head over heels in love with him, exactly as I did.
As in many Shalvis books, the supporting cast surrounding Emma and Simon (and Alison) bring humor, conflict, poignant emotion, and unexpected wisdom to the story. I especially enjoyed Simon's father Dale. As a former caregiver to a family member who was a stroke survivor, I appreciated the balance of humor and affection (even amidst feelings of helplessness and frustration) that the author achieved with Dale's unexpected actions and Simon's reactions. For me, it brought a deeper sense of humanity to their characters and their changing father-son relationship.
If you enjoy a well-paced story that takes you on a journey, evokes a number of emotions, and gives you a happy ending (actually multiple happy endings) you can cheer for, add Love for Beginners to your summer reading list.