Allison Carter came to Dare Island to make a home and live her dream of teach. She comes from a wealthy family that doesn’t understand her choices in life and believe she’s just going through a phase. But while her parents keep pressuring her to come back and marry a doctor, her love for the island and her students grows, and her plans to stay cement. One of her students is Josh Fletcher, a 16-year-old full of promise but lacking in enthusiasm. When she goes to his father to talk about Josh’s problems, the least she expects is to find someone like Matt Fletcher. The guy is tall, dark and hunky, and the attraction instantaneous.
When Matt sees Allison he pegs her for the rich, spoiled girl she appears to be. He has a bad history with girls like her because when he was 20, he fell for one, got her pregnant and married her, just to have the woman abandon him and their baby. So he’s been seething for 16 years (I know, the dude can hold a grudge!). However, he can’t stop thinking about Allison, and soon he realizes she’s a great woman. But he has more in his plate than an unwanted attraction. His brother just came back from the war with his 9-year-old daughter in tow. A daughter no one knew he had —not even Luke—. Worse, he has to go back to Afghanistan and the kid, who recently lost her mother and discovered a secret father and family, is going to stay with Matt and his parents. Life is very chaotic at casa Fletcher.
Of course, hormones are strong in romance, and Matt and Allison begin an affair. It’s supposed to be a fling, because she knows he doesn’t want to get attached and that he’s a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of man; and he’s convinced she won’t stay on the island. As you can see there are a lot of complications for these two.
This is a small town contemporary drama. It has that community feel to it, but it’s not a light read, and the focus isn’t just the romance but the overall storyline that comes from the family conflict at the core of the series. This is the type of contemporary romance I enjoy the most, but it’s been a while since I’ve actually read one because outside of category romance, there’s no real drama. Contemporary romance series, especially small town stories, seem to be all about cute, light romantic entanglements between a series of characters that have varying degrees of issues but never true angst. Nothing wrong with those, but the market is currently saturated. As a result, this book feels like a breath of fresh air even though there’s nothing truly new about it.
One of the things I most appreciate about the story is that the town felt real. The locals were weary of outsiders, the economy was bad, there were bullies and kids with no expectations in life resigned to follow in their parents’ footsteps and become fishermen. This is a real struggling community, not a fairy tale small town where everybody loves and accepts you.
The characters were interesting and appealing. The romance filled with chemistry and very hot. I loved Allison because she was young, yet confident, positive and optimistic. She’s one of those perky and sunny heroines, but without the annoying personality. On the other hand, Matt was jaded and tired, much older than her and with different experiences. I wasn’t always happy with him, especially because he was shortsighted and immature at times. Someone his age shouldn’t get away with being a commitment-phobe, ladies’ man hero. I expected more from him and I was disappointed by some of his actions. However, I liked him and the way he dealt with his non-romantic problems was honest and made me root for him.
This book had many secondary characters, but the little girl was probably the most relevant. Her story was heartbreaking and all the parts involving her were my favorites. Her story is in no way resolved, in fact, the book’s ending is left wide open. But I’m not so much annoyed by it as I’m curious and eager to know what happens. There’s some degree of sequel bait, but all the storylines are so well developed and integrated into the book, that it didn’t feel forced.
Carolina Home is a wonderful contemporary drama, with great characters, a touching romance and the beginning of a fantastic series. My only complaint is that we have a long wait to find out what happens next, not to mention how much until we know how it all ends. If you like contemporary romance, you have to read this book.
Review by Brie
Meet the Fletchers of Dare Island
Steady Matt, the son who stayed
Ambitious Meg, the daughter who never looked back
And rebel Luke, the Marine who thought he'd never return...
Home to the Fletcher family for generations, Dare Island is a fishing village rocked by changing times-its traditions slipping away like the sands of the North Carolina coast. Single dad and fishing boat captain Matt Fletcher deferred his own dreams to support his innkeeper parents and build a future for his sixteen-year-old son. Matt has learned to weather life's storms by steering a steady emotional course...and keeping a commitment-free approach to love.
Newcomer Allison Carter came to Dare Island to escape the emotional demands of her wealthy family. The young teacher aims to build a life here, to make a lasting place for herself. She doesn't want to be another in the long line of Women Who Once Dated Matt Fletcher. It's both tempting and dangerous to believe she can be something more.
Then Matt's brother Luke makes a sudden return home, with a child of his own-and a request that will change all their lives. With a child's welfare at stake, Matt must turn to Allison to teach him to let go of the past, open his eyes...and follow his heart.
Berkley. July 3, 2012