Second Chance Charmer by Brighton Walsh is MUSTREAD for fans of contemporary romance. With juicy, romantic angst and quirky, small-town drama, this book should be at the top of your TBR list!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
Brighton Walsh is, hands-down, one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. She has such a dynamic catalogue of work, from her New Adult Reluctant Hearts series (following a group of six friends/three couples who fall in love and build lives together) to her taboo/forbidden romance Captive series. And don’t even get me started on the super sexy and smuttastic erotic romance Temperance Falls series that Brighton writes as one-half of London Hale. Basically, if Brighton writes it, I will read it.
This is why I was especially excited when Brighton announced that she has a new Southern-small town romance series in the works. Now, I love small-town romances! I enjoy how we get to see the development of a core romantic relationship coupled with family drama, all within the context of a broader community. Second Chance Charmer has all of these elements! The characters are wonderfully relatable; the plot is compelling, with the type of juicy angst we like and enough humor to balance out the drama. And even better, Brighton has done a wonderful job of worldbuilding in this first novel. Havenbrook, Mississippi is such a quirky little town, and a great setting for this Southern Heat series. I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of Havenbrook’s residents!
Willow Haven is having a rough day. On top of a cranky phone call from her overbearing father (the mayor of Havenbrook and her boss), Willow is running late to a meeting in Town Hall (Willow is never late!). But things are looking up! Willow has been working on a project to revitalize the downtown area and she’s about to meet with business partners who have purchased the old soda fountain. With this renovation, the downtown revitalization will be complete and will bring even more economic development and opportunity to Havenbrook–a real feather in Willow’s cap. This is until she finds out that one of the business partners is Finn Thomas, her ex-boyfriend.
Willow and Finn were high school sweethearts, despite that Finn came from the wrong side of the tracks and her father despised him. Willow loved Finn and the way he encouraged her to spread her wings and live her dreams. They were making plans together… which all came crashing down when Finn and his twin brother Drew mysteriously left town for California. Finn didn’t give Willow any warning… and it just happened to be a few days after they had sex for the first time. DAMN.
Now, ten years later, Finn waltzes back into town, still fine AF and ever the trouble-maker. That old soda fountain? Finn, Drew, and Nola (the third business partner) have plans to renovate it into a bar. Up until recently, Havenbrook was a dry town, so this will be the very first bar.
Willow won’t let Finn get the drop on her! Sure, they might have to work in close proximity to get the permits and other paperwork done. But Willow can keep things purely professional. Before she knows it, Finn will be leaving to go back to California. As for Finn, he’s never stopped loving Willow, but believes staying away for the last ten years has been the right thing to do. The more they get to know each other again, they realize that chemistry between them still sizzles! But why did Finn leave? And can the people Willow and Finn are now build enough trust to sustain a mature relationship?
Willow Haven in 100% my homegirl. At her heart, she is someone who loves her family and community and will do anything to see those things thrive. Willow is an innovator, a hard worker, and so generous. She has gumption and knows her worth. So if Finn could have walked away that easily ten years ago, then he should just stay away!
*SIGH* Finn… he and Willow have a lot in common. He’s a man who loves his family and friends too. When Nola calls and asks for help getting the bar started up, Finn (and Drew) invest not only money, but also time and physical energy. And Finn knows he’s made a massive mistake with Willow, but that doesn’t stop him from yearning:
He’d given this up—he’d been the one who’d walked away… It wasn’t fair of him now to demand things, to want to know everything that’d happened while he’d been gone. To want answers to all his questions—why was she here? Why was she working for her father? Why wasn’t she in Tennessee like they’d planned? But even knowing he didn’t have a right to those answers, it didn’t stop the burning in his gut, the suddenly overwhelming urge to know everything boiling up inside him…
…And as he stared at her, still stuck in her hometown, no apparent desire at all to have followed the dream she’d talked about for so long, he couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he’d left for. The whole point had been so she could achieve her best life without the stain of his name holding her back. But from where he stood now, it looked like she’d held herself back just fine without his help. He wanted to know why. Was desperate to find out what had snuffed out the bright, vibrant flame of the Willow he’d coerced out of her shell all those years ago. And she could shoot as many dirty looks his way as she wanted, but he wasn’t going to stop until he found out why his spirited Willowtree was back here again, under her daddy’s thumb. Living a life less than she deserved.
No, Finn definitely still wants his Willowtree. And despite her hurt and skepticism, Willow can’t deny the chance to have something for just for herself–no guilt and no responsibility. When Willow and Finn reach this consensus, it is *SO* sexy:
“There was never any denying it back then, and there certainly isn’t any denying it now.” He sucked in a breath, the ridge of his cock beneath her seeming to grow even harder. His eyes were molten as he stared at her, his fingers at her back clenched tight against her skin while the ones on her thigh were soft. Careful. Tentative. His voice, when he spoke, was low and deep. Raspy. Raw.
“Be sure, Willowtree.”
Sure? She wasn’t sure about a single thing other than the fact that if she didn’t feel his hands on her, if he didn’t use his fingers to make her come, she’d die. So with a subtle dip of her chin, she sealed their fate. He dropped his head to her shoulder on a groan and guided his fingers up her thigh until he met the damp fabric of her panties.
“Jesus, you’re wet. You want my fingers, sweetness, or do you want my tongue? Can’t say I haven’t been dreamin’ about tasting your pussy again. Every damn night.”
With each word that left his mouth, he kept his touch featherlight. Teasing her until she couldn’t take it anymore. Until every inch of her ached with want and she was desperate to feel his fingers on her with nothing separating them.
“Anything…” she panted. “Anything.”
YAS PLEASE! The sexy times are smoking HAWT… but, even though the physical side of Willow’s and Finn’s relationship on point, these two still have a lot of work to do if things can become more. What if Finn leaves again?!
Like I mention before, I really enjoy how the romantic angst between Willow and Finn is coupled with the Haven family drama. Watching Willow navigate being a daughter and sister help make her character so compelling. This is particularly the case when we see the relationship between Willow and her father. Dick Haven is a good old boy and a massive jerk. He’s completely dismissive of Willow’s hard work and nitpicks her mistakes. But Willow gets a lot of support from her mother, grandmother, and at least two out of her three sisters. (Mac and Nat are amazeballs and hilarious; Rory seems to come around by the end of the book.) Similarly, Finn has a great network in Drew, Nola, and Nash King. Havenbrook is chock-full of awesome secondary characters, who I look forward to getting to know in coming books (*cough*RoryNash*cough*).
So… Brighton definitely gives us a Willow/Finn HEA, but these two have to work for it, especially given the massive obstacle that is Dick Haven. Incidentally, I really hope future books will reveal more details about Dick Haven’s treatment of his daughters and (hopefully) provide opportunities to redeem himself. With that said, it’s lovely to see Willow and Finn get to know each other again, revisit the memories and haunts from their teenhood, and realize that they can be even stronger now. These two are going to be a Havenbrook power couple and I’m really hoping we’ll see more!
Second Chance Charmer is MUSTREAD for fans of contemporary romance, especially if you enjoy stories set in the South and/or small-towns. With summer just around the corner, this first book in the Southern Heat series should be at the top of your TBR list!
*Many thanks to the author for an advanced review copy.