The best thing between Oliver Barrett and Mackenzie Williams is a fence. Ever since Oliver's new-neighbor gestures were met with unfriendly responses, he's decided to keep his distance. After all, he's in this seaside town to get his life on track again. That doesn't include working hard to get on Mackenzie's good side—no matter how intriguing she may be.
His intentions are put to the test, however, when his dog becomes infatuated with hers. The two crafty canines do their best to break down the barriers between the properties. And where the dogs go…well, the humans must follow! It doesn't take long for a powerful attraction to build between Oliver and Mackenzie. They soon discover that the worst of first impressions can lead to the best possible outcomes….
Oliver is trying to escape the memories of his soon-to-be ex-wife. Mackenzie’s just trying to finish recovering from her accident from hell. Both of them want desperately to be alone, but find themselves constantly in each other’s paths thanks to dogs, natural disasters, and sheer magnetic pull.
I’m not familiar with either of these characters from previous Mayberry books and reviews, but I’m very familiar with their challenges. Oliver’s on the path to forgetting, but never forgiving. His marriage was a farce and it’s all he can do to get as far away from his ex as possible. A trip to his aunt’s house on the coast seems like a safe bet until he meets Mackenzie and her dog, Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is immediately smitten with Oliver’s dog, Apple. So smitten he proceeds to engage in some questionable activities with Apple; leading to more sparks flying and a few heated words from Oliver to Mackenzie.
Mackenzie doesn’t want the attraction, and I immediately related to her drive for career success. To overcome her injuries in the hopes of achieving her former glory, the only problem is she’s meant for a few more set downs.
This book is about owning up to failures, romantic and not. Mackenzie and Oliver use each other as therapy and healing stones. The only thing they fail to see is how close those roles play emotionally. There are times when I was reading I didn’t see the story ending with a HEA. I almost didn’t believe there would be one, instead believing that this would end with a polite reflection on Oliver and Mackenzie’s companionship. Their emotional pain is definitely the rollercoaster part of the story.
I enjoyed both characters growth periods and Mayberry does a wonderful job of showing two people so different from one another learning to heal by helping each other. Add in a couple of naughty dogs and an unplanned pregnancy, and there’s definitely plenty to get behind. The unique voice set against the Australian backdrop is an enjoyable read that will require you to engage a bit of emotion. I couldn’t put the story down and easily avoided doing laundry for an afternoon.
My favorite scene: The first kiss, of course. I’m a sucker for those moments and this was a sweet, game changing one.
“Thanks for dinner,” he said.
“It was my pleasure. Sorry about the entertainment.”
“As I said, there’s nothing to be sorry about.”
He turned to go, but she caught his forearm. He glanced down as she transferred her grip to his hand. Her fingers were warm as they wrapped around his.
“More importantly, thank you for your kindness.” She rose on tiptoe and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “You’re a good passer of tissues.”
“Good night,” he said, because he wasn’t sure what else to say. She didn’t shut the door and turn off the light until he’d started down his own driveway. The house was cold and dark…he crouched in front of the fireplace… lit a match and watched the flames lick up the wood, trying to pretend that something hadn’t happened when Mackenzie’s hand closed around his and her lips brushed his skin.
But it had.
Overall, Mayberry has landed herself on my auto-read list. This is my second full on Mayberry story, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about other books. She knows how to craft characters that hold just enough reality to make me long for a happily ever after for them. This is what contemporary romance should be about… the damaged souls still finding love no matter the odds or the trials they face.
Reviewed by Landra