Blurb via HelenBrenna.com: He couldn't stay.
She couldn't leave.
Noah Bennett swore he'd never return to Mirabelle Island. Facing the love of his life after she married his older brother would've been too much to bear. But when Noah's injured as a photojournalist embedded with the military, the only safe place to go is home.
Although a few surprises await Noah on his return, one constant remains. Sophie Rousseau, now a widow with teenage twins, is an entrenched in island life as ever, and she'll do whatever it takes to get Noah off her island. Before the only man she's ever loved breaks her heart all over again.
This HSR is the first in a new series for Brenna, the Mirabelle Island series. Noah and Sophie have known each other all their lives, and became high school sweethearts, inseparable. But Noah can't stand being stuck on the island, and after her parents die, Sophie feels like she has to stay and take over the family inn, what she views as her heritage. So she gives up her dream and refuses to go.
In a moment of despondency shortly after Noah left, Sophie turned to his older brother. They slept together, and then got married. Sophie turned up pregnant with twins a few months later, but didn't know who the father was - Noah or his brother. Still, she had a good marriage until her husband died 13 years later. They never did any tests to determine paternity.
Noah comes home, a BKA after an injury suffered in Iraq. He's angry, suffering from PTSD, and unable to write. That's where the story begins.
This is a sweet, poignant story about reunited lovers who have a world of hurt and misunderstanding between them. Noah feels like Sophie got over him far too quickly by marrying his brother, and Sophie can't understand why Noah left without saying goodbye. Each had their reasons, but it obviously took the length of the book to get there.
I appreciated Ms Brenna highlighting the plight not only of the soldiers in Iraq, but of the journalists there, especially after the news today of well-known CBS journalist Cami McCormick, who was injured in an IED attack. The soldier traveling with her was killed, as was the case in Brenna's book. I think that the world just assumes that these people just pick up and move on with no lingering effects. The difficulties that Noah faced - both physical and emotional - were very real, and I'm sure, quite true.
I had a bit of a harder time with Sophie, I admit. I wasn't quite sure why she married Noah's brother before she knew she was pregnant. But getting over that, she seemed quite mired in her fear of leaving the island. Brenna explains the fear, but never really the underlying reason. It's an interesting thought, though. Thinking that someone who lives in such an isolated community could become so fearful of being in the city, even for an afternoon excursion.
I enjoyed the fact that Noah and Sophie both acted like grownups for the most part. Even when Sophie admitted that she wasn't sure of the twins' paternity, there was no implication on either side (as is so common) of the "I'm going to take the kids away from you." She simply let him have some time to get to know the kids. He simply respected his brother's place in their lives as the only father they'd ever known and just tried to get to know the kids.
I liked watching them share memories as well. And I liked that Noah resolved old hurtful issues with his father.
I did think that Sophie was too stubborn and immovable when it came to compromise or even thinking about solutions to solving the tourist issue that arose. The final resolution seemed so obvious to me, yet it took the entire cast half the book to come up with it.
So there were a few things that gave me pause, but overall I enjoyed this book. I liked Brenna's straightforward style of writing that seemed to compliment the midwestern characters. I'll pick up the next in the series, which comes out in October.