Title: Close to Home
Author: Lily Everett
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: February 2017
Length: 288 pages
Series?: Sanctuary Island #5
Genre: Contemporary Romance
The best journeys take us home….
When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.
Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?
Johnny is a hot mess after coming off his two-year undercover assignment with the ATF. He has PTSD-like tendencies and paranoia, seeing danger everywhere. He is on high alert and suspects anyone and everyone of anything. Upon returning home he finds a “Dear John” letter and divorce papers left by his wife of eight years.
Tessa has spent a year making a life for herself on Sanctuary Island and is happy with her physical, emotional, and mental transformation. She is no longer the weak, timid girl she was before, but Johnny is determined to convince her to come back home. Tessa never dreamed he’d come looking for her, let alone want her back, so they agree to work on their marriage in the meantime and see if it is salvageable.
Tessa – formerly Amish and timid girl whose found a new life
Johnny – an ATF officer and husband-protector of Tessa
Patty – the local bakery owner and Tessa’s boss and friend; she’s wise and friendly and reminds me of Patty from Gilmore Girls
Quinn – a local girl who hops from one thing to another, her parents and everyone around town consider her flighty and incapable of committing to anything; she sets her sights on Marcus
Marcus – the prodigal son returned to town working on restoring and opening his own bar, agrees to let Johnny board upstairs and tries fending off Quinn
“How did you get to be so wise, Miss Patty?”
A nostalgic smile flickered across the wrinkled visage. “My mother was a wonderful woman. Ahead of her time in many ways, and one of those ways was that she hated how many of her women friends didn’t enjoy sex. She told me that I deserved to someday have a ‘healthy marital relation,’ as she called it. I know she hoped I’d find it with a husband, but well, that’s another story.
The Highs and Lows
- Tessa. She is a different kind of character with an interesting and sad history. Her early life is what landed Tessa on Johnny’s property and led to their “marriage of convenience” of sorts. Johnny was able to protect her and that was the role he played in their marriage. Terri changed her name to Tessa, found solace on Sanctuary Island, and started developing her own life independent of her husband, his protection, and his lack of love. If Johnny can’t love her the way a man should love his wife, she’ll let him go so they can hopefully both find the love they deserve.
- Johnny. He has a hero complex. It’s why he rescued and married Tessa. He can’t accept that Tessa has moved forward with her life, discovered independence, and no longer needs him to protect her and look after her. He’s a little dumbfounded at what he finds in Sanctuary Island and that she is leading a life without him. What happened to his wife? He wants her back. He’s kept his feelings successfully hidden all these years. He can keep denying how he feels to Tessa and himself or risk losing her forever.
- Johnny’s Paranoia. Due to his work in the seedy underbelly, Johnny suspects everyone. Especially the new guy in town opening a bar. He wants a buddy at the ATF to do some digging on Marcus. Johnny keeps pushing his friend to help him out. He’s convinced Tessa is still in trouble and in danger.
- Setting. Sanctuary Island is so idyllic! The way it was described with being able to see certain aspects of town from different corners and Main Street reminded me of the little town of Cabot Cove (which is actually Mendocino, California) in Murder, She Wrote. I loved how Johnny observed the town and its goings on, and how the gentleman would sit out and play checkers and gossip. I enjoyed the cast of characters and the town very much. It helped “sell” Sanctuary Island and why Tessa chose to settle here.
- Plot. While the main story was about Johnny and Tessa working on their marriage – which was a great thing to see and I totally believe in and support equine therapy and there should be more of it in our country – Marcus and Quinn’s storyline also played a large part in this installment. The way Tessa would describe her loveless marriage and what she yearned for were heart-wrenching and understandable. It made her character so much more believable and relatable. When a ghost from Tessa’s past wreaks havoc on the town, Johnny’s paranoia is right on the money.
Overall this was a sweet rekindling romance set in a quaint and beautiful town. I enjoyed seeing aspects of Dr. Voss’s equine therapy and Tessa and Johnny working through their marriage and the roadblocks there. Quinn also showed growth as an individual and seems to be finding her way.
Lily Everett grew up in a small town in central Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although she’s lived many other places since, from college in Philadelphia to her first publishing job in New York City and her current home in Austin, Texas, she never forgot the beauty and warmth of her little hometown. She is thrilled to be writing the Sanctuary Island series full time because it allows her to combine her longstanding love of romance with the memories of her childhood home.
Lily’s alter ego is Louisa Edwards. Under that name, she is the author of the Recipe for Love series, sexy contemporary romances with hot chef heroes set in the high-stakes, fast-paced world of professional restaurants.