Irene Hannon has written a romance novel that doesn't entirely fit the formula and it is a breath of fresh ocean air! The setting of Hope Harbor is idyllic and fits the story so well that it couldn't be set anywhere else and be as good.
So for the formula:
Boy Meets Girl: Eric meets BJ when he runs into her bumper while talking on his cell phone. He doesn't make a good first impression for this architect/contractor who is relatively new to his hometown. When he finds that she's remodeling his father's home to make it a B&B, he further instills her poor first impression when he questions her workers.
Boy Gets Girl: This part of the formula doesn't happen the way it does in most romance novels. BJ takes her time to get to know Eric, keeping him at arms length until he takes the time to let her know she can trust him. He's a big city lawyer and wants to go back to the Partner Track lawyering instead of living in a small town doing small town law, however, he wants BJ too. She has been the big city architect and wants nothing to do with the big city.
Here's where the story deviates even further--Boy doesn't lose girl, because he truly doesn't have girl to begin with. They know something is sparking between them, but BJ is reluctant to let it go further. Where Eric gains BJ's trust is in a project she has going with a charity group she volunteers for. What BJ wants to do is start a program where younger people are matched with some of the elders of the town to help them stay in their own homes longer. When she sees where Luis, one of her workers, lives, she sees him as a perfect companion for Eleanor. She needs Eric to do some legal work for the companion partnership to prove to the board of the charity that this is a viable program.
What Eric finds in working with BJ is something he never thought he'd find. One thing, she used his artistic talent to paint backdrops for the fundraising play. When Eric finds that he has missed painting, he begins to paint a canvas and gets wrapped up in it, just like he gets wrapped up in his legal work.
There are many quaint expressions of small town life--Charley's fish taco truck is open when Charley takes a notion to open it. The rest of the time, he's an artist. Most people know one another's business and are friends with everyone else in town. The town bakers do not know how to make anything lo-cal, especially Eleanor and her fudge cake. The town is rich in humanity, humor, and character.
While Irene did let the reader know which boy and which girl were going to pair up, she did it in such a winsome way that it doesn't feel forced. She used her talents well in writing Sea Rose Lane and I hope that she gets rewarded for the fine craftsmanship she put into the book.
Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a fish taco--if Charley's is open.
My thanks to Revell Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.