Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a quiet contemporary romance recently released by Katie O’Boyle. FINDING THE WAY BACK TO LOVE is a redemption story, in many respects, and features an unique cast.
About the book:
Gwen Forrester, Ph.D., 32, gifted psychotherapist and beautiful widow, is stuck in a rut, dating hotties on the fast track. What she really wants is a life partner who’ll help her raise a family and make a difference in her home town, Tompkins Falls. New in town, Officer Peter Shaughnessy, 30, has recovered from the gunshot wound he suffered in a drug bust in the city of Syracuse, but he’s still smarting from his ex-wife’s betrayal and, before that, the years of abuse from his alcoholic father.
It feels like fate to Gwen when her very-pregnant niece Haley trips the security system at Gwen’s lakeside home and Officer Shaughnessy takes the call. By joining forces to help Haley, Peter and Gwen discover they’re a good team. Long, exhilarating canoe trips convince them they’re on the same page with their life goals. Then a destructive squall lands them on the rocks, and a night of stormy passion reveals painful truths that drive them apart. Are they willing to go to any length to find their way back to love?
How about a little taste?
“Gwen Forrester?” Peter asked. At her nod, he stepped aside.
Her startled gaze shifted to Haley and softened with love. Her face lit up with delight when she spied the big belly. “Oh!”
The two rushed toward each other, embracing, laughing, crying, talking so low he could make out only a few words—“your mother?” and “boy we met at Christmas” and “when?”
“October, really?” Gwen stepped back. “Just two more months?” She caressed Haley’s face. “Have you had anything to eat today?”
“I’m starved.” Haley grinned.
“Ma’am?” Peter got no response. He might as well be invisible. “Ms. Forrester?” he said louder.
Gwen turned with a look of pure joy, cheeks flushed, eyes wide. She was a chic, older, ash-blond version of Haley. Even more beautiful.
Her dreamy gaze made him wonder if she was flirting with him. Get real, Shaughnessy. “If you won’t be pressing charges, my partner and I will clear out of here, Ms. Forrester.”
She held out her hand, tilted her head coquettishly, and told him, “It’s Gwen. And you are?”
“Officer Peter Shaughnessy.” Her handshake was firm and surprisingly strong for such a slender, feminine woman. He cleared his throat. “You’ll need to get those locks fixed right away, ma’am.”
“Gwen,” she reminded him with a flutter of thick, dark eyelashes.
“Gwen, my partner and I recommend that you put your vehicle in the garage tonight, close and lock the overhead door, deadbolt the kitchen door, and set the alarm. Call a locksmith first thing in the morning.”
Her only response was, “Haley and I will be having breakfast around nine. We’d love to have you join us, Officer.”
He opened his mouth to repeat the caution but closed it again. His partner had told him Tompkins Falls operated more like a small town than a city. This definitely wasn’t going by the Syracuse Police Department procedure book that he still had in his head.
Haley touched his arm and winked. “Come for breakfast, Officer. I need protection from the Inquisition. And Gwen makes a mean omelet.”
Gwen Forrester is a 32 y/o widow who is also a counselor and a recovering alcoholic. She lives in the small town of Tompkins Falls in the Finger Lakes area of upstate NY. Her family is mostly gone–only a brother and a niece (if you don’t count her crazy ex sister-in-law whom Gwen really doesn’t). Her niece, Haley, shows up unannounced and in the final trimester of pregnancy–all news to Gwen. Haley had broken into Gwen’s house after walking six miles from the bus station, and the responding officer, Peter Schaughnessy, is smitten with Gwen when she arrives at home. The feeling is mutual.
It’s been a long time since Gwen felt a real connection with a man. Her husband died six years ago, and she’s sought out men like Jeb in the past few years–sexy, playboy types who look great in person but are less-than-stellar in the relationship arena. Peter is wholly different from those guys, but there’s a mutant elephant in the room between them–Peter grew up with and abusive alcoholic father and he cannot, will not, tolerate alcoholism. He avoids dealing with them as much as possible, and is often openly hostile to those he cannot avoid.
This is the third book in a series, and though it’s fully readable as a standalone, there are many interwoven story arcs from the previous books, which all take place in Tompkins Falls. Being an addictions counselor and recovering alcoholic, Gwen has really tight connections to her community, and Peter, who is newly moved from Syracuse, enjoys this small-town life. Unfortunately eveyone he seems to meet is a recovering alcoholic/addict, and his own sister struggles with alcoholism–though Peter refuses to acknowledge this.
While Gwen helps Haley through the end stages of her pregnancy, she and Peter strike up a promising romance–until Peter is finally confronted with Gwen’s history of alcoholism. It’s not a pretty scene.
The book is a redemption tale, mainly, because it squarely faces the recovery of addicts, and the effect addiction has on children and their later relationships. The many players in this book all look at Peter’s intransigence on alcoholism as a disease as being a symptom of his own hellish abused childhood. Having suffered their own addicitons, they are eager to help Peter better understand the disease, and how to life with it, not ignore it. Peter never touches alcohol, but he’s still got anger issues that stem from his past–as a child of an alcoholic myself, I could relate.
I did enjoy the Americana aspects of this book. The small-town life is highly detailed and warm. Gwen and her AA friends are a family that rallies around each other–they assist with Haley’s pregnancy, and community efforts, and even building a holisitc wellness center to treat addictions and rehab therapies. Through time apart from Peter, Gwen is able to get a better handle on her life, and recognize more of her own missteps that led her down a path to alcoholism in the first place. There is a lot of growth of several characters within the book, notably Gwen, Peter and Haley. Their story is approachable and honest.
For my own self, I think I would have liked a bit faster pace. There are so many pit stops into AA–each character is working his/her recovery very hard. That was something special to see, but it got a little tedious considering how very many characters in the book are in AA. The attraction between Gwen and Peter moved at a bit faster rate than I would have suspected given their history of betrayal. The sexytimes are thin, in my opinion. I favor a bit more heat in my reads, and this was a more “God-centered” book than I’ve picked up in a long time. Still, the story is interesting and the characters very approachable.
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About the Author:
Born in the upstate-New York village known as the Birthplace of Women’s Rights, Katie O’Boyle loves the Finger Lakes in every season. That’s why she set her Lakeside Porches romance novels in Tompkins Falls on Chestnut Lake. To the outside world, she is a tech-savvy college professor. To friends and readers, she is the author of warm-hearted romance. She recently finished writing book four of the Lakeside Porches romance books and novellas and is planning book five.