Riley Callahan’s plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend are ruined when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.
Watching the love of his life falling for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.
But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.
Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances he’s adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. He has nightmares and mood swings, and his unwavering independence keeps him from accepting help from anyone, including her. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up the money needed to save it.
As the weeks wear on with the two in such close proximity, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into unchartered territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his corded arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?
I started reading Denise Hunter with her Chapel Springs series. I was introduced to Hunter's writing in The Wishing Season, and I really enjoyed her novels. Even though contemporary romance isn't usually the genre that I pick up, I feel drawn to her characters. Hunter has a great ability to create characters that jump off the page and tension that keeps me drawn to the page. With her last book in the Summer Harbor series Just a Kiss, Hunter didn't let me down.
Hunter does a good job at inviting me into the character's lives. From the first chapter, I am thrown into Paige and Riley's lives. Through their internal struggles and personal dilemmas, I feel empathy for both of them. Hunter writes so well that I feel like I'm one of Paige's friends who is listening to her tell her love story. I watch as Paige and Riley interact, then watch as they both fight back and forth between being together versus fighting against each other.
The plot in Just a Kiss centers around PTSD and the idea of belonging. Both Paige and Riley have to learn to accept their place in life and roll with the punches. Paige, first, has to learn how to accept God as her father figure and truly hunt for her belonging in God's family. On the other hand, Riley has to accept that he no longer has a leg, but he still belongs in his family, even though he doesn't feel like he does. In this up and coming ideal of PTSD, Hunter digs deep into the concept and how it affects our homeward bound soldiers. The story was enjoyable, and I had a hard time putting it down. The story moved at the right pace; I didn't feel that it was rushed or slow at all.
Again, I love returning to the coastal town of Summer Harbor in Maine. In the first two books in the series, Hunter invited me into the restaurant and the coffee shop. Now, in this edition, I get to travel back to those places and visit the pet shelter. I was glad to see returning secondary characters like Aunt Trudy, who has her own personal struggle throughout all three books. She helped shape the Callahan boys, which I am grateful for.
I believe fans of a mature audience would enjoy this book. Even the male who might want to avoid romance novels, but there is important issues for the young male to learn that Riley learns. God made us to choose certain paths in our lives, and we have to be responsible for our own decisions.
With attention to detail, Denise Hunter's Just a Kiss will grip your heart as you watch Paige struggle with the idea of family and Riley understanding to cope with PTSD. With a well-paced novel, Hunter draws you into the familiar setting to visit the Callahan's and remind you why you enjoy watching this family grow and expand. I recommend this book for everyone, not just fans of contemporary romance.
I received a complimentary copy of Denise Hunter's Just a Kiss from Thomas Nelson publishes and the opinions stated are all my own.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
What is your favorite Summer Harbor novel? Just a Kiss, The Goodbye Bride, or Falling Like Snowflakes? Why?