Title: Doing It Over
Author: Catherine Bybee
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: April 2016
Length: 334 pages
Series?: Most Likely To #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
One small town. Three close friends. True love to last a lifetime.
Voted Most Likely to Succeed, Melanie Bartlett ended up anything but. The down-on-her-luck single mom wants a complete do-over—is that too much to ask? With her family long gone from River Bend, strong, independent Mel is as surprised as anyone to end up in the quaint small town she once called home. But with her friends, Jo and Zoe, by her side, and a comfortable room at Miss Gina’s quirky bed-and-breakfast, she just might have turned the corner on a new life.
Wyatt Gibson never liked the big city. River Bend suits the ruggedly handsome builder just fine. Wyatt knows he’s home, even if that means being charmed by the appearance of Melanie and her spunky, adorable daughter. Is Wyatt’s calm devotion—even amid a coming storm—enough to convince Mel she may have found a home to call her own, a family that never leaves, and a true love to last a lifetime?
Praise for Doing It Over
“The romance between fiercely independent Melanie and charming Wyatt heats up even as outsiders threaten to derail their newfound happiness. This novel will hook readers with its warm, inviting characters and the promise for similar future installments.” –Publishers Weekly
“This brand-new trilogy, Most Likely To, based on yearbook superlatives, kicks off with a novel that will encourage you to root for the incredibly likable Melanie. Her friends are hilarious and readers will swoon over Wyatt, who is charming and strong. Even Melanie’s daughter, Hope, is a hoot! This romance is jam-packed with animated characters, and Bybee displays her creative writing talent wonderfully.” –RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
Melanie Bartlett returns to her hometown of River Bend a week before her 10 year reunion, as she promised her two best friends when they graduated high school. The three were inseparable as teens but have grown apart over the years as usually happens. But Melanie is back in town and down on her luck, desperately needing for her car not to break down. But it does one furiously rainy night. After refusing the help of a stranger, he calls the Sheriff – none other than her best friend Jo.
As Melanie and her young daughter get settled back in at Jo’s and later Ms. Gina’s B&B, Melanie realizes Bakersfield was a distant memory in the rear view mirror. Voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school, Melanie is embarrassed about the circumstances of her life. The closer it comes to the reunion, the more Melanie and her daughter feel right at home with Melanie’s old friends and the townspeople. It could be the change that she’s needed for far too long.
A newcomer to the town, Wyatt, moved to River Bend to get out of the big city. He is very busy with his contract work even in a small town. When Melanie and her adventurous kid move into the B&B, Wyatt finds himself inexplicably drawn to the familial clan that bands together around Melanie, Jo, and Zoe. When a ghost from Melanie’s past resurfaces in town and threatens everything she’s built for herself and her daughter, things get dicey. Melanie’s nightmare is only just beginning, and Wyatt, Jo, Zoe and the gang must band together to figure it all out.
Melanie Bartlett – a down-on-her-luck single mom voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school is returning for her 10 year reunion
Hope Bartlett – Melanie’s seven year old daughter, she is sometimes bold and adventurous and very spunky
Jo Ward – only child of the sheriff, she choose to rebel as a teen and take his stead later in life
Zoe Brown – voted Most Likely to Never Leave River Bend has become a world famous chef and travels on a regular basis, leaving a relationship in RB behind
Luke Miller – Zoe’s high school sweetheart who stayed in River Bend, he works with his father at the local autoshop
Ms. Gina – the racy owner of the the local B&B, she took in the three girls as teens and gave them a safe space to hang out, she is known to smoke, laugh and cuss “like a sinner on Saturday”
Wyatt Gibson – a local contractor who moved out of the big city for the small town life, he avoided the career path of his prominent father
Zane – Zoe’s younger no-good brother destined to follow his father right into prison
Josie – the owner of the local bar R&B
After getting settled in at Jo’s home the first night in town, Melanie reflects on Sheriff Ward as she opens a bottle of wine, although he has been gone several years. I still feel like this as well even as an adult.
She found herself looking around waiting for Sheriff Ward to walk in the door and read her the riot act for drinking. Didn’t matter that she was twenty-eight now, well past the legal age to drink…your parent,s or even your friend’s parents who knew you before you could wear a bra, intimidated you into believing you were still ten.
Wyatt stepped out of his truck; shut the door without even taking the keys with him. River Bend was this side of Mayberry in terms of crime. The chances of someone jumping in his truck and taking off were nil.
The lemonade was from a powder and not nature’s fruit.
With vodka…it was perfect.
The Highs and Lows
- Truth About Small Towns. Small town life is very complex, but I feel Bybee captured it perfectly in this novel. There are intricacies that are often exaggerated or overlooked, and that was not the case here. Bybee zooms the lens on each character throughout the novel and scrutinizes their history. Although life was relatively pleasant for most of the gang, some of negatives of their lives (like Jo’s rebellious behavior, Melanie’s parent’s divorce, and Zoe’s steady relationship with Luke and her family history) are present. They aren’t stereotypical, they aren’t glazed over. There are more than one occasion that show how those things now affect the characters – and others around them. This is the kind of place where the sheriff takes rebellious teens – including his own – and hands them over to the high school track coach for doing their time. I appreciated that Bybee took the time to get it right and make small town life realistic and not develop the storyline into its own trope about small towns.
- The Gang. Melanie, Jo, and Zoe were high school besties. They formed a bond that has lasted through the years, no matter how far they go or how long between talks. Growing up, they all gravitated to Ms. Gina’s B&B. They also got dragged in by the Sheriff (Jo’s dad) to be on the track team. At Ms. Gina’s, the girls did odd jobs and were treated as equals. They could talk to Ms. Gina in a way they couldn’t to their own parents, and it was a safe haven for them. There were at Ms. Gina’s more than they were at home, and they became very familiar with her red cup of spiked lemonade, which she still has around. 🙂
- The Tension. There was incredible tension between Zoe and Luke Miller. I’m still not clear what really went down all those years ago, but I do know that Zoe left and she now travels the world and has a lucrative lifestyle in Dallas, Texas working as a famous chef while Luke stayed home and continued his familiar lifestyle. When Zoe pops back into town, the tension is real and evident. Other characters pick up on it.
- The Town & The Gang Adopting Wyatt. It is hard to be a newcomer in a small town, especially one as tight-knit as River Bend. However, Wyatt is a contributing member of society and a decent guy. He’s made the widows of the town very happy with his work, even accepting pot roasts and apple pies as payments. It’s a different way of life and Wyatt has embraced it – and the town has embraced him. I didn’t realize how seamlessly the gang had accepted him into their family, and I don’t even know when exactly it happened, but toward the end of the novel he was just like them. There was no exclusion or different treatment for being an outsider. He earned his way into their hearts and their lives, and they gladly welcomed him.
- Melanie. She is such a complex woman. For being so smart, I was surprised. She went off to college away from her family following her parent’s divorce – announced the night of her high school graduation (parents of the decade right there) – and she didn’t look back. When money became a struggle and she could no longer afford to go to school, she fell into the “playing house” situation with her overbearing, intimidating, bullying boyfriend. Shortly later, she was pregnant and working all the time. When the baby came, she was left alone to raise her. All the while, Melanie let her boyfriend tell everyone they were married to avoid the embarrassment. She has struggled so much over the years that she wants to hide it all. When she returns to River Bend, she is not very willing to be forthcoming with her friends, who didn’t like the situation when she shared it along the way. Her placation for all those years now comes to bite her in the butt. After all those years on her own, coming back home, without even spending too much time dwelling on it, Melanie has this new resolve to fight back that was never there before. Having the support of really good friends can do amazing things for a person.
- The Crazy Ex and Mr. Lewis. What good would a book be without a crazy ex involved? No joke, the guy is bad news all around and pretty sleazy at that. Some wild things happen – including a potential kidnapping, a fall almost off a cliff, and a mysterious mystery man who vanishes into thin air. Cue the FBI!
The characters and the town of River Bend truly make this book meaningful and memorable. I loved them all, even the sloppy, messy, ugly, sassy, and classy sides of them. I told a colleague today that I wanted to go live in River Bend. Knowing these characters, I would be warmly welcomed.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
My recommendation is to buy this one. It’s a feel-good to keep around for years of re-reads and characters to serve as role models to your kids and grandkids.
New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her two teenage sons in Southern California.
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