Barefoot Season

Susan Mallery
April 2012, Women's Fiction
Mira, $14.95, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778313387

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Subtle

I read last year’s Already Home by Ms. Mallery and gave it a B+, so I was up for reading this year’s release, even though the last couple of books in her Fool’s Gold series haven’t worked for me. Sadly, this book was just an okay book for me as well. I just couldn’t make the leap of faith or suspend belief on some of the scenarios, especially the one involving the girlfriend’s rule.

Carly Williams and Michelle Sanderson were best friends all through school, but their senior year was fraught with tension and strain. Things came to a head after graduation and Michelle ran off to join the Army even though her father left Blackberry Inn in trust for her, and not her mother. Now she's back home after ten years. She has to contend with injuries from being shot in Afghanistan, her mother’s death and dealing with Carly. Right after she left, Carly started working at Blackberry Inn. Michelle is shocked at the changes that her mother and Carly made, but nothing prepares her for the fact that Carly and her daughter are living in her rooms. Impetuously, she fires Carly on the spot.

For Carly, there are three defining moments in her life: The day her mother left, the moment she found out her fiancé slept with her best friend - Michelle - and the day Michelle’s mother found her crying in the grocery store because she couldn’t afford to buy the food her doctor recommended she eat during her pregnancy. She has dreaded Michelle’s return. Blackberry Inn has been her home for the last ten years. She needs the job and the room and board. Plus, this is the only home that her daughter has known.

Michelle quickly realizes how vital Carly is to the business. Her mother ran up extensive debts, taking out two mortgages totaling nearly half a million dollars that are now delinquent. Michelle tells the savings and loan company holding the mortgage she can catch up on at least half of the arrears amount now, but is shocked to discover that they don’t have faith in her ability to run the Inn. They have a list of conditions and one is that Carly agrees to stay on for two years. Forced to work together, Carly and Michelle have to face what tore them apart so many years ago.

Not only is Michelle facing enormous debt but she is in denial about her PTSD. Her way of coping is to hit the bottle. She doesn’t believe in counselling, but serendipitously she finds a person who understands what she is going through. This individual comprehends that Michelle will only get help when she accepts that she has a problem.

The beginning of the book grabbed my attention, but toward the middle I found the book slow going. The plot is diluted by financial concerns, PTSD, and numerous betrayals.

Being categorized as Women’s Fiction, the romance is on the back burner and I was fine with that. Michelle experiences the most personal growth; however her epiphany, and then the resolution, seems too pat. Carly’s romance just seems to come out of left field. She makes a very impulsive decision when for years she has been all about decorum and restraint.

The strong points of the book are the interpersonal relationships. The interactions between Michelle and Carly’s daughter, Gabby are convincing and credible, as are those between Michelle and her love interest. The relationship between Michelle and Carly...not as cordial, but I guess that depends on whether you could forgive your best friend for having sex with your fiancé hours before the wedding.

This book reminded me more of a soap opera than anything based in reality. While I thought some aspects were handled well, many were not, resulting in my grade of C+. If you are a fan of Ms. Mallery’s writing then you might enjoy it more than I did.

-- Leigh Davis

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