Author: Sloan Johnson
House Line: States Of Love/ North Carolina
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht
Publication Date: March 29, 2019
Length: 131 pages
Reviewed by Micheal
Dane has built his life around not relying on anyone but himself. When he travels from New York City to North Carolina at the request of his estranged, incarcerated father, he learns truths he’d rather not know… along with inheriting a share in his grandfather’s inn. But the place comes with complications, including a man he will have to walk away from—but can’t help falling for.
Brook has only known romance through notes left in a mailbox at the end of the beach. When he’s tasked with showing his boss’s gorgeous nephew what makes Sunset Beach and Bird Island special, he’s compelled to take Dane to his favorite place.
Dane never wanted the inn, but when it’s threatened, he steps up to defend it… and keep the man he’s coming to love by his side and in his life. But first they’ll have to clean up Dane’s uncle’s mess.
Sometimes, you can go home again. However, it rarely turns out the way you’d expect.
In Dane’s case, “home” is actually North Carolina where his father is from. Dane’s father was totally screwed over by not only his family, but also the justice system. Hoping to give his dad a fresh start that would allow him to reconnect with his family, Dane travels to North Carolina to scope things out. When he gets there, he becomes embroiled in some drama involving the family hotel and his shady uncle. He also meets Brooks, an employee of the hotel since he was a teenager.
Just as Dane’s father has been screwed over by Life, so has Dane himself. What starts as a sort of fact-finding trip turns out to be the balm to Dane’s spirit that he didn’t know he needed. Thanks to Brooks.
Brooks is a splendid counterpoint to Dane. He’s filled with positive energy and optimism. Very much yin to Dane’s yang. He spends his days working at the hotel that he he sees as kind of his life, and his nights on the beach at an old mailbox some unknown person erected.
The mailbox, strangely enough, plays a central role in the story. No one knows where it came from or who put it there. But people go this mailbox to leave messages for strangers to read. Oftentimes, these messages are about love or loss, or simple wishes. Sometimes the people that read the messages feel as if they’ve found a person who understands how they feel, and it helps them to feel not so alone. As if they’ve found a kindred spirit. Hence the books title.
With most romance books, there’s something called “The Black Moment”. It’s that moment when something catastrophic happens, usually along the lines of a misunderstanding between the two leads. They end up separating because of this but ultimately reconcile once they realize how dumb they were acting. Sure, there’s moment here, but it’s not contrived. Instead, it’s used to allow the lead characters to actually come together, to work together, to overcome their common obstacles. I found this refreshing because it wasn’t filled with over the top angst and it allowed the characters to show how strong they were together.
This may seem like a low-key story, but there are subtle nuances that brought the story to life for me. I’ve been in Dane’s shoes when it came to his relationship with his best friend Grady. I’ve given my all to a job only to have someone else come along and rip the rug out from under me, like Brooks. It’s these things that made the book more real for me because they were relatable.
And now, because of this book, I want to find a mailbox on a beach.
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