I don't usually read romance novellas (or romance in general, call me hard-hearted if you want to), but this is a sweet coming of age novel which makes you wish too could come back home.
I was really glad the romance didn't get too graphic, because that's just not my thing (some people are into that I understand, but it makes me turn the page).
I liked the idea of turning the farm into a brewery and wouldn't have minded seeing more of that.
In fact, I wouldn't have minded seeing more of several things (which would, of course, turn this into a novel instead of a novella...)
This celebration of returning to your roots and love for the land is a more realistic coming of age novel because in high school hardly anyone knows anything--and she finally "comes of age" when she comes back home. This sweet love triangle is really between her love for city versus country life. 4 stars - Ann M. Noser (Goodreads)
From the Author
Sally set her grandfather's ledger down. She sighed and looked at her watch. It's only 1:30, she thought. Trevor should be here by now. I emailed him directions and he was leaving as soon as he took his last exam. She peered down the lane but there wasn't a sign of anyone. Not even a squirrel. Tightly packed trees obstructed her view to the road, branches and leaves entwined.
It has been four years since she last said good-bye to the farm. Her grandfather was angry; she remembered their conversation as if it happened yesterday.
"You can't leave, I need you." Her grandfather crossed his arms across his broad chest. He towered over her petite five foot four frame but she stuck out her chin defensively.
"I want to do something, go somewhere. I'm tired of being in this small town." She raised her voice. "You don't know how much I hate this place, Grandpa. People judge me by the Rayton name, comparing me to all the other Rayton girls."
He shrugged. "What's wrong with that? You should be proud of being a Rayton." He stared off into the distance for a moment before shaking his head. He narrowed his eyes. "Are you ashamed of being a Rayton, girl?"
"Of course not! I just don't want to be compared to my sister." She exhaled. "It's not my fault she up and ran away from home when she was fifteen. I'm not her, Grandpa. You know I love you but I need to step out on my own, to make a name for myself."
He hugged her hard. "You're more like me than the rest of the family put together. I love you," he whispered gruffly. He held her at arm's length to look into her eyes. "You promise me you'll return."
She sniffed and nodded. She'd never seen such emotion from him before. Her life-long friend, Jack, had been right, Grandpa understood.
A twig snapped, bringing her back to the present. Must be an animal.
It was a warm spring day and the air was heavy with humidity. Sally fanned herself with her right hand. I've gotta get out of here. Without looking back, she bounded down the steps and walked down the lane. With every step, she filled her lungs with air. Her head started to clear.
The trees gave shade and a slight breeze tickled her pale skin. Her blonde ponytail swung back and forth. She was dressed in a hot pink tank top and white jean cut offs. She looked up at the mammoth trees, many planted over seventy-five years ago. Oak, maple and birch leaves winked in the sunlight. She stopped and touched the trunk of her tree.
Yes, it was her tree and she even carved her initials at the bottom. She bent down and traced the jagged S and R. A few inches below were the initials J and S. Jack. Jack, her best friend, lived next door. "Wonder how he's doing," she murmured.
A whistle pierced her thoughts. She froze. Who's that? She whirled around and listened. Footsteps coming closer. Someone was in the lane. But who? It wasn't Trevor as he was coming by car.
"Sally," a male voice called out.
She peeked her head around the elm tree and her mouth dropped open. Jack Smith. Gone was the rail-thin boy she knew all her life. He sure looked good, she thought. Strong muscular arms peeked out from his blue t-shirt and rock-solid thighs flexed through his khaki shorts as he closed the distance between them. His brown curly hair damp with sweat clung to his forehead and the nape of his neck, his green eyes twinkled with that same mischievous look he always had and his lips were full. Kiss him. Wait what? I can't kiss Jack. He's my best friend. He hugged her and flung her into the air. Sally laughed in his strong arms.
"What are you doing here, Jack?" She was breathless and excited at the same time. She hadn't laughed since she got the telephone call Grandpa had died. She wrapped her arms around his tan neck and really looked at him.
"When did you get back?" He asked. Jack set her down. He frowned. "I was sorry to hear about your grandpa. He was a good man." He took a half a step back.
That sobered her up fast. She nodded as tears clouded her vision. She wiped them away with an angry swipe. "Yesterday afternoon," was all she managed before the grief and guilt gripped her like a tidal wave. She started to shake and without asking, Jack pulled her into his embrace.
"Shhh, it's okay Sally." He held her tight. "We both know how much you loved him."
She beheld him, blurry-eyed.
"I wasn't here, though. I should've been, Jack." She bit her lip to quell the shaking.
"It's not your fault, Sally. I told him a thousand times not to go chasing after the coyotes. But you know your grandpa; he's more stubborn than you."
She smiled and dried her eyes.
"There's that Rayton smile I know and love." Jack winked.
She pushed playfully against his chest. Wow, solid muscle. When did he get so strong and muscular?
A car honked. Sally and Jack jumped. Sally put a hand to her racing heart and turned to see Trevor in his black Corolla, gesturing for them to get out of the way. She felt herself blush.
"Who's that?" Jack asked her. She detected an edginess to Jack's voice that wasn't there before.
"My boyfriend, Trevor." She stepped back so he could park in front of the house. Jack grabbed her elbow. She looked into Jack's stormy eyes, as her stomach pitched. She ran to the nearest tree and emptied her stomach.