The Return of Mrs. Jones, Jessica Gilmore's debut novel was really two-fold: 1) one of my very favorite authors, Jessica Hart, endorsed this book and 2) it has a very intriguing reunion theme. It's hard for Wendy to say no to reunion themes.
Lawrie and Jonas Jones married young - she an 18-year-old with white collar ambitions, he a 20-year-old surfer bum looking to prove Mommy and Daddy wrong. It was a romance that burned fast and hot, ultimately running out of fuel as Lawrie's ambitions and Jonas' unwillingness to compromise led them to divorce. Now Lawrie is back in their tiny Cornish town, her looking for a place to lick her wounds after her career implodes. It's not exactly where she thought she'd be at 30.
Jonas has made something of himself. He took his surfer dude lifestyle, parlayed it into a successful cafe business, and bought out his parents in the family's hotel business. Jonas has a booming business, but he never emotionally moved on after Lawrie left - and now she's back in town. Then circumstances arise that lead to Lawrie and Jonas working together, which naturally means a chance to reconnect and capture some of their old magic. But Lawrie has plans - plans that once again include leaving the seaside village and Jonas behind.
Reunion themes, especially ones involving imploded marriages, are very tricky things to navigate. With the added challenge of the shorter category word count, the author had her work cut out for her. But it really works here, mostly because what drove Lawrie and Jonas apart are things that could easily be "dealt with" thanks to their added years and maturity. They were really young when they got married, and as they "grew up," they grew apart. Lawrie envisioned her life one way, Jonas another - and being as young as they were, with the baggage that they have, fighting to stay together was a tall order.
It's believable conflict, especially when you have two characters that come from splintered backgrounds. Jonas with his distant and disapproving parents, Lawrie essentially abandoned by her mother. This leads to Jonas' unflinching drive to succeed at all costs, while throwing compromise out the window and Lawrie's ambitions for safety, security and always having "a plan."
The story resolves itself fairly well. Both characters "grow up," and unlike the old days, are willing to compromise to make their relationship work. A solid debut, a new category writer to watch. A nice story I zipped through while enjoying my own holiday.
Final Grade = B