Barefoot Season
Susan Mallery
Genre: Contemporary
Heat Level: Hot

Michelle Sanderson may appear to be a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she's still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner's suite occupied by the last person she wants to see.

Carly Williams and Michelle were once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn's cheerful veneer.

Single mother Carly has weathered rumors, lies and secrets for a lifetime, and is finally starting to move forward with love and life. But if the Blackberry Island Inn goes under, Carly and her daughter will go with it.

To save their livelihoods, Carly and Michelle will undertake a turbulent truce. It'll take more than a successful season to move beyond their devastating past, but with a little luck and a beautiful summer, they may just rediscover the friendship of a lifetime.


Michelle Sanderson is returning to Blackberry Island Inn in Puget Sound after ten years in the army. She had fled her beloved inn after being caught in bed with her best friend Carly Williams’s fiancé by Carly herself and the military seemed like a better alternative than facing Carly and Allan again. Michelle thought that after fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the inn would be a sanctuary where she could recover from her wounds, both physical and emotional. Michelle is disappointed when she finds that everything has changed. Carly is now managing the inn and Michelle’s mother, who is now deceased, renovated the inn and mismanaged the finances so poorly that the bank is about to foreclose. Michelle pleads with the bank manager and is given a chance to save the inn, on the condition she retains Carly as an employee. That means Michelle and Carly must put old grievances aside in order to keep the inn that means so much to each them.

Michelle and Carly have known each other since childhood and have always had a complex relationship. Carly is loving, but often insecure and wants everyone to like her. At first, I actually didn’t care much for her, but then seeing what a good mother she is and how much she loves the inn, I grew to like her more. I connected more with Michelle’s character right away, even though on the surface she isn’t always likeable. Michelle is blunt and quick to anger, but is clearly vulnerable beneath all the bluster. As the story unfolds, there are plenty of twists as more details are revealed about events in their past and how they went from being best friends to enemies. While they are trying to get along for business purposes, it’s hard to get over some of the events of the past, but they can’t forget the good times they had. Seeing them take tentative steps to rebuild their friendship is my favorite part of the book. It’s also interesting to see what it’s like for a war veteran to adjust to civilian life, especially when the vet is a woman.

While learning how to work together to keep the inn, they each find time to take a chance on love. Carly is a single mother of a nine-year-old girl and is best friends with the girl’s uncle, her ex-husband’s brother. They love each other, but there is no chemistry. However, there are plenty of sparks between Carly and Michelle’s army buddy Sam, which further complicates Carly and Michelle’s tentative truce. On the other hand, Michelle slowly builds a friendship and then the possibility of something more with her landlord Jared. Their story is romantic and enjoyable to read.

While there are a couple of short, but steamy love scenes in the book, this is more a novel about friendship, overcoming fears, and moving past old hurts to find happiness. While some of the things that occur in the book are unbelievable, such as the conditions the bank board has put on the inn’s mortgages, overall the story is sweet and uplifting. There are also discussion questions and a few recipes at the end. Also, something more unique is the reference and link to a website that gives readers access to additional recipes.

Reviewed by Christine