Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 302
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.
After reading and loving Sarah Hogle’s debut novel, You Deserve Each Other, I knew I had to pick up her newest book. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
In case you didn’t read the synopsis, this book follows Maybell, who has been working at the same hotel for years as a housekeeper. Maybell wants to be an event coordinator, but her ideas are constantly rejected by her boss, who seems determined to not let Maybell get ahead. After being told her Great-Aunt Violet has passed away and Maybell has inherited her Smoky Mountain estate, she quits her job on the spot and decides to use Violet’s inheritance to jumpstart her dreams. However, this proves to be difficult when Maybell realizes that she has joint-inheritance with Wesley, Violet’s groundskeeper and caretaker. Wesley has a very different version of the future of the estate, and his grumpy attitude just makes everything worst.
Sarah Hogle is the queen of writing quirky female characters. Most of the time when characters are quirky, I find them annoying. But somehow, she just makes them come off as charming. I won’t lie, I had my moments where I was a bit annoyed with Maybell, but by the end I absolutely loved her and her big personality. Maybell is a dreamer, and is always finding herself stuck in daydreams. Initially, this really threw me off, but as the book progressed I found them to be funny. Her personality is the complete opposite of Wesley’s, who is laid back and quiet. The characters don’t seem like they should work together, but the opposites attract trope was done beautifully here. It was so much fun to watch Maybell slowly piece together who Wesley was, and realize he is actually perfect for her. Wesley was so sweet, and the way he treated Maybell gave me literal butterflies.
As for the not-so-likable characters, we have Gemma, who takes the cake for my least favorite character in a romance ever. Gemma was so unlikable and selfish that I found it to be a bit unbelievable at times, but she served as a central point to the plot so I understood why the author wrote her that way. I am happy that Maybell got her closure with her, and thought that scene was very well done.
As for the romance itself, this was definitely a slow burn. I found the first half of the book to be quite slow, and was honestly setting myself up to be disappointed. But friends, the wait was definitely worth it. The enemies to friends did not feel forced at all, as Maybell slowly began to get Wesley to open up to her, and how she in turn opened up to him. This built a solid foundation for the romance to happen. Along with that, Sarah Hogle used this foundation to talk about the stigma of men losing their virginity at a young age, which was a subject I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a romance book before. I thought this was a really nice touch, and I liked how she normalized the anxiety that can come with sex.
While the romance was so cute, the real star of this book was the conversations surrounding mental health, particularly in men. Maybell experiences panic attacks for the first time in the course of this story, and the author describes how these episodes are different for everyone. Some people may show physical symptoms, while others may hide behind a façade of calmness. Wesley shares a lot about his mental health with Maybell, and we get to see how it directly affects their relationship. This makes up a big plot of the book, as the couple tries to navigate how they can best help one another when anxiety arises. Reading about a male main character with anxiety was so refreshing, because there is such a stigma that men are not allowed to seek help with their mental health.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book, even if I did like You Deserve Each Other better (which, is not a surprise because I LOVE that book.) It was the perfect blend of cute romance with great banter, but also commentary on mental health.
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